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Butter Beer, Orange Soda and Bitters, Plus Vodka's Return

May 31, 2011 By: Jack Robertiello


Ever heard of Butter Beer? Of course you have; it’s Harry Potter’s drink of choice. I’m sure other drink makers have created non-alcohol versions for the pre-teen set, but in Princeton, N.J., Mattias Hagglund of Elements restaurant is offering his own adult version, using real butter, Full Sail Saison, Plantation rum, citrus and sugar. Hagglund makes a butter syrup by whipping butter, xanthum gum and sugar, shakes it with the rum, simple syrup, lemon and lime juices, then stirs in the all-malt brew. Butter usually gets featured as an ingredient in the winter months, although Hot Buttered Rums acn be difficult to find away from the ski slopes. Hagglund’s use of butter in a cool drink brings to mind the reality that there are no standards that can’t be adjusted, whether it’s putting unusual ingredients into standard recipes or introducing drinking styles that don’t quite make sense to a more traditional-thinking drinker.

Tad Carducci of the Tippling Bros. pointed this out to me recently when discussing Averna, which he represents for importer Domaine Select. In the United States, dark amaros such as Averna are more likely to be featured on fall and winter seasonal menus as modifying ingredients in strong and stirred drinks. But in southern Italy, it’s common to mix the potable bitter with orange juice and soda as a summer sipper. To make believers of Americans, Carducci serves a drink made with Fanta Orange soda, Averna, fresh lemon juice and muddled strawnberries called the Top Cat, a selection that sounds custom-made for a late afternoon poolside.

Of course, seasonal impulses are more important then ever, and some regional favorites are starting to travel. Check out the accompanying video of suburban Washington, D.C.’s Bayou Bakery – chef, operating partner and Louisiana native David Guas has added an authentic Southern Snow ice shaver to serve up New Orleans-style “Sno Balls” — don’t call them Sno Cones — that then are sauced with his boozy syrups, such as Mint Julep and Milk Punch, and topped with condensed milk. This is definitely a sultry season idea that has legs.

And for all the scorn vodka has received from some quarters of the mixology world in the past few years, efforts toVodka pour turn the talk around seem to be bearing some fruit. Simon Ford of Pernod-Ricard recently hosted many of New York’s best-known bartenders on a day-and-night-long outing to revive ABSOLUT's image; last year, an event with Chicago Chef Grant Achatz highlighted the basic appeal of vodka. For the first time in a while, newly opened venues are trumpeting their vodka connection, and bars are giving classics, such as the Bloody Mary, some love. In Chicago, the newly opened Tzar Ultra Lounge boasts 150 vodka brands in a transparent vault kept at 27˚F and features a vodka-centric cocktail list. Seven of the 13 new cocktails listed on the new menu at Colterra in Denver include vodka, such as the Spring Harvestini made with Crop Cucmber vodka, Lillet Blanc and fresh lime; and the Moscow Mule, made with Ultimat vodka, lime, Domaine de Canton and St-Germain. At Flavor del Mar in San Diego, guests now look forward to the weekly Bloody Monday promotion: a Bloody Mary and grilled cheese for $15. Varieties include a Mexican Mary (garnished with jalapenos and roasted red peppers), an Asian Mary (green onions and sweet chile sauce) and a European Mary (made with Scotch whisky).


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