With the recent restaurant boom in our city, I thought it was high time I paid some new (and old) friends a visit to see what tasty concoctions they are serving up. From drinking vinegars and new spirit infusions to amped-up classics, I’ve been thrilled to see beverages moving their way up on the list of importance at our new eateries.
Decisions, decisions. The hardest part of my meal here is deciding whether I want to dress up a drinking vinegar with one of my favorite spirits, try a new craft brew (they have 40 on draft) or pick one of their hand-crafted specialty cocktails.
I’ll start with the drinking vinegars and sum it up in two words: absolutely fabulous. I’ve tinkered with shrubs in cocktails (vinegar + fruit syrup) but had never experienced drinking vinegar as a nonalcoholic beverage before my first trip here. The showstoppers of the bunch are the cucumber-lime and strawberry-basil. Drinking vinegars are a great option outside of the standard soda fountain colas, providing both health benefits and a tasty, refreshing treat. My personal choice? The cucumber-lime with a shot of Fernet Branca. I have it on good authority that it is delightful with a shot of Pimm’s No. 1 as well.
Don’t miss out on their rotating draft selection. Their list is chock-full of great brews to please every palate. If you’re in the mood for a cocktail, try the Caprese Cocktail, which is exactly what it sounds like: a salad in a glass. Made with vodka, tomato water, basil, white balsamic syrup and rimmed with celery salt to tie it all together, it is a great, light-bodied and refreshing option in lieu of a Bloody Mary.
We saw the signs for months and waited in great anticipation for this new spot to open across the way from Whole Foods. A couple of weeks ago, the doors finally opened to the public, and we got a chance to see what was inside. Both their bar and kitchen are geared toward the local food movement, using products that are locally made or created at an organic and sustainable practice.
My first drink of choice was the Fascinator, made with sweet tea-infused gin, Pimm’s No. 1, strawberries, cucumber and orange. The cocktail was delightful, fun and well-crafted. Using Corsair Gin out of Nashville as their base for their sweet tea infusion, it was tasty enough to sip on its own. I gave the bartenders free reign over my next drink and got a beautifully boozy cocktail made with Rittenhouse Rye Whisky, Carpano Antica, Benedictine, absinthe and bitters. A cross between a Sazerac and a Vieux Carré, it felt like a throwback to New Orleans and made me feel right at home.
Aside from the drinks, the company at the bar was fantastic. I happened to make a visit during the afternoon, when the bar was quieter, and got to see some of their training program in action. Other than getting to have a couple of wonderful cocktails, it was such a delight to see care and skill going into the training of their bar staff. I’ll definitely be back to try the Manhattan-style Rag & Bone I have heard so much about.
What are some of your new favorite drinks around town? What other types of beverage programs do you think that we are still missing? I’d love to know what you think. Cheers!
Laura Kelton is a recent graduate of UTC and currently runs the bar program at Easy Bistro & Bar. Feel free to reach out to her by email with any questions, comments or requests. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.