Marilyn Odesser-Torpey 2015-11-19 03:24:11
These beverages go beyond the Bloody Mary Savory cocktails are hitting the sweet spot for a growing number of Americans nationwide. And, while not so long ago, savory flavors were usually relegated to a restaurant’s riff on a Bloody Mary, bartenders are now muddling, mixing, and infusing herbs, vegetables, and spices to create a wide variety of signature combinations to please consumers’ increasingly sophisticated palates. At Gram & Dun gastro pub in Kansas City, Missouri, for example, The Smoking Dun—a mixture of Templeton Rye, Rothman &Winter Orchard Cherry Liqueur, hickory smoked ice, rosemary simple syrup, and lemon juice— outsells other cocktails on the menu by more than double, using so much hickory-smoked ice for the drink that the bartender has to make it in containers the size of trashcans. “The hickory ice gives the drink a big, meaty flavor that reminds you of sitting out back grilling in the summer, says Scott Tipton, beverage director for Bread & Butter Concepts, the restaurant’s parent company. On the menu for four years, The Smoking Dun has a loyal following. Another savory offering that has been getting a lot of attention at Gram & Dun is the Fowl & Fodder, a spicy, savory drink that combines The Botanist Gin with sriracha, basil oil, ginger syrup, and lime. Gin, Tipton says, is particularly versatile for savory cocktails because different varieties have anywhere from three or four to 15 or even 20 different botanicals in them, which play well with different herbal notes. Tipton says he is seeing a growing demand from guests for savory cocktails. “There seems to be a paradigm shift every few years: For a while it was citrusy, refreshing drinks like the Cosmo,” he says. “Now guests want something different and the savory world really opens up that game.” It also opens up more opportunities for pairing with food. The Smoking Dun, for example, goes very well with a barbecue sandwich, Tipton says. The Porkchop, a mixture of Old Forester Bourbon, Dijon syrup, fresh thyme, citrus, and unfiltered apple cider, is a favorite at Yardbird Southern Table & Bar in Miami Beach, Florida, and its location in The Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. “The inspiration for this and some of our other savory cocktails comes from actual ingredients used in our culinary preparations,” says Shari Grunspan, communications manager for 50 Eggs, the company that owns and operated Yardbird. “All of these ingredients in this cocktail go really well with pork.” Grunspan notes that the restaurants’ mixologists are taking a cue from wine pairings. “You usually don’t want a wine that is sweeter than the meal you’re eating,” she explains. “With many foods, a savory cocktail is more refreshing than a super-sweet fruit drink.” She explains that the hint of smoky flavor from the Old Forester Bourbon gets a bit of a tang from the citrus, while the Dijon syrup rounds it out. The thyme gives the cocktail a fresh, herbaceous, somewhat floral element and keeps the drink from becoming too savory. The play on sweet and savory can also be found in the Yardbird Old Fashioned, which combines baconinfused Buffalo Trace Bourbon with Angostura Bitters and maple syrup. “We try to attend to our more adventurous guests as well as to those who prefer traditional cocktails,” Grunspan says. At Grace Restaurant in Portland, Maine, owner Anne Verrill also likes to keep a balance of sweet and savory on her cocktail menu. “I think the age of super-sugary drinks might be coming to a close,” Verrill says. “More and more guests want to know what the liquor tastes like instead of masking it with sweetness.” The restaurant’s signature State of Grace cocktail is a play on the Dirty Martini, made with Tito’s vodka and “Chef Flood’s House Brine” (a blend of vinegar, sugar, and secret spices), garnished with a “dilly bean” (a pickled haricot vert). Red bell pepper adds its distinctive flavor to another Grace specialty, the El Corazon, which also contains honey, lime, and cilantro. The Fallen Angel, yet another savory standout, is a pour of house-infused, beetcucumber- tarragon vodka. Verrill says introducing these savory and herbal elements in cocktails is a highly visible way to reflect the availability of seasonal and local produce. Also a proponent of fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients, Irene Moretti, bar chef (a title that reflects her experience and interaction with the food menu) at Tavola Restaurant + Bar at the Springfield Country Club in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, came up with a Savory Watermelon Cooler for summer. The drink includes Beefeater Gin, pineapple sage puree, crushed black pepper shrub, and club soda. “I find that savory cocktails can provide deeper, more complex flavors than sweeter ones,” Moretti explains. “With the Watermelon Cooler, for example, you have the sweet taste from the fruit to begin and a rich peppery taste on the back end.” Moretti has a garden at the restaurant from which she harvests many of the ingredients for her cocktails. Her menu changes four times a year. Other summer specialties at Tavola included a Basil Thyme Tonic with Basil Hayden Bourbon, lemon thyme syrup, and tonic; Cucumber Lemonade with Absolut Citron Vodka, cucumber puree, dill weed, and lemonade; and Spicy Cucumber and Mango Margaritas. A fun drink she features in the fall is the Paloma, with sage, grapefruit, and jalapeño. Spring might bring a pineapple and jalapeno margarita-type cocktail, and winter a blackberry and crushed red pepper mojito-style drink. “Some guests are hesitant to move away from the sweet cocktails they’ve always known and venture into savory territory,” she says. “But once they’ve tasted one of our savory cocktails, they’re enthusiastic about what we’re going to make next.” Huitlacoche, a corn fungus that is a delicacy South of the Border and is often called the Mexican truffle, brings rich, concentrated sweet corn flavor and dramatic black color to the Fred C. Dobbs cocktail at 4th & Swift Restaurant in Atlanta. A little huitlacoche goes a long way, so wine director and bar manager Chris Gianaras uses only about a quarter-ounce of the potent ingredient. Gianaras also uses a judicious hand with the other boldly f lavored elements of the cocktail, achieving a smoky (Fidencio Mezcal and charred bell pepper simple syrup), slightly spicy (Ancho Reyes and Bittermen’s Hellfire Shrub), herbaceous (Green Chartreuse), and refreshing (lime) creation. “To keep the heat and spice levels under control, we spray the inside of the glass with the Ancho Reyes and add only a couple of dashes of the Hellfire Shrub,” he said. “The result is a cocktail that has a lot of flavor, but is also a good complement to food.” Aside from the fun of working with a wide range of flavors, Gianaras likes formulating savory cocktails because they create excitement among the servers. “They like to get behind things that are unique and interesting,” he says. Both servers and customers have been getting behind the The Fred C. Dobbs cocktail, so Gianaras plans on keeping it around for another season. Vinegars and shrubs–infused vinegars and vinegar-based syrups—are not new. In New Orleans, they can be found in recipe books from as far back as the 1860s and 1870s. But they are definitely making a comeback today, says Paul Gustings, head bartender at The Empire Bar at Broussard’s restaurant in New Orleans. In fact, Gustings combines two types of vinegar—champagne and rice wine—with Hayman’s Royal Dock Navy Strength Gin, Chartreuse Verte, Suze Saveur d’Autrefois, Swedish Punsch, and black pepper to create a multi-dimensional cocktail called La Jalousie. “The first thing that hits you is the smell of vinegar, so that’s initially what you think is going to be the predominant flavor,” he explains. “But then you get the sweetness and tartness of the Swedish Punsch and the Suze Saveur d’Autrefois, followed by an aftertaste of the herbal Chartreuse Verte and gin.” Gustings explains that shrubs are easy to make and can be infused with a multitude of herbal flavors such as basil, thyme, and mint. He notes that while white wine vinegar can be used, he prefers just plain white vinegar to be the basis of his shrubs. He cautions that the vinegars and shrubs can be overpowering, so they should be used with a light touch. But not all of Gustings’ savory cocktails are vinegar- based. For instance, Her Kiss, which is made to pair with spicy foods, is made with bourbon, Louisiana hot sauce, chocolate mole bitters, and agave syrup. A winter feature might be smoky lapsang souchong tea with rhubarb syrup and port, served hot or cold. Like any culinary recipe, it’s critical that any savory ingredient that finds its way into a cocktail has a purpose beyond simple novelty. “They should be simple and make sense,” he says. “You don’t want to infuse lychee with star anise and basil just because you can.” Cocktail book author Warren Bobrow, whose latest release is Bitters and Shrub Syrup Cocktails, agrees with Gustings that shrubs are becoming a featured ingredient more often, and that they are an excellent carrier for other flavors, but he says the trend of savory cocktails on the menu is still in its early stages. Bobrow hopes that some of the bar staff’s excitement about the drinks will rub off on the guests and that they will begin to wean themselves off of sweet drinks and begin experimenting more with other flavors. “There are some great bar professionals out there who think like chefs and build flavors rather than just throwing them together,” he says. “Once guests taste savory, they’ll be coming back to the bar to ask what cocktail would go best with a particular food they are planning to order, just as they would ask a sommelier about wine.”
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