More and more bars, pubs and restaurants are focusing on their cocktail lists with the result that a customer has a huge range of options from which to choose. I like the trend of many smaller restaurants specializing in one particular type of spirit – Bourbon, Scotch, Rum and Tequila. It allows us to try different brands without committing to an entire bottle.
Some of my favorite recent cocktails have been at San Francisco’s Range and Hard Water, and at Boston’s Ribelle and Number 9 Park. The cocktail lists at these restaurants are creative and really show the great palate and skill of each bar’s mixologist.
At Range “The Remedy” is a great way to start an evening. This layered, spicy cocktail is based on Diplomatico Rum; Venezuelan rum that is often made in pot stills and aged in oak to induce more rich flavors. The rum is enhanced by combining it with ginger, sugar, lime, and, to give it a bit of a kick, chili. The key to this drink’s success is that it combines a refreshing component with a bit of heat on the finish. The result is a sensation of flavors that evolve on palate and makes you actually think about what you are tasting. Well done!
Hard Water focuses on Bourbon and offers flights for customers so that you can actually try several styles of this American whiskey in one sitting. As for cocktails, I’d recommend starting with “The Presbyterian.” This is a mix of 101 Wild Turkey Bourbon with ginger, lemon and soda. It is light, crisp and at the same time has real depth from the Bourbon and ginger mix. Adding the lemon here surprisingly gives this cocktail an extra bit of dimension that sets it apart from just being a simple mixed drink.
At Ribelle in Brookline, Massachusetts Hustle & Cuss is a cocktail that combines Amontillado Sherry, Browns Bourbon, a shot of espresso – called Ristretto – and honey shrub syrup. This may sound like a list of things that you might never combine, but it really works and shows incredible craft and daring. The Amontillado has a nutty slightly citrus flavor that is and enhanced by the dried fruit caramel notes of the Browns. The ristertto adds depth and richness, while the honey shrub keeps everything from becoming bitter. Definitely this is a drink to try!
Number 9 Park is one of Boston’s top restaurants. Wine director Cat Silirie is one of the best in the business and the list is fantastic. But the cocktail list here, managed by Bar Director Ted Kilpatrick, is what I love. There are actually two lists: one that is at the bar, the other that you need to ask for.
Every cocktail at No 9 Park shows creativity and craft, but the one that will stop you cold is “La Vie du Canard.” This is a drink made with Foie Gras and Bourbon. Yes, you read correctly, Foie Gras. It may not sound appetizing and certainly there is real debate about using this duck liver, given the way the birds are treated, but surprisingly it really works here. The drink is rich, but the addition of the Italian aperitif, Cocchi Americano and bitters such as Cynar make it lively and slightly spicy. This is a drink you sip slowly and think about long after the glass is empty.