Some of the best menu evolutions, like with poverty cooking, come from necessity. In NYC, Frankies 17 has undergone a dramatic makeover, shifting the concept from Italian to Spanish and become Francesca. Good enough, but drinks, too, needed changing, but without a full liquor license, that left the hands of bar manager Damon Boelte a bit tied.
No problem; sherry has pushed its way onto the cocktail scene as a legitimate ingredient, and so the four (known by their numbers) drinks on the opening menu use them and other Spanish ingredients to the hilt.
No. 1 - Is comprised of Fino sherry, sweet vermouth, cinnamon syrup and whiskey barrel aged bitters
No. 2 - Fino sherry again with the Italian wine-based amaro Cardamaro, lemon, Orgeat and Angostura bitters
No. 3 - Shifts the sherry to East India style with dry vermouth, orange bitters and seltzer
No. 4 - Goes with Oloroso, lime, elderflower syrup and Cava
Like tying drinks to the ethnic cuisine of a restaurant, employing regional ingredients in crafting cocktails that can stand out in the crowd increases in importance as beverage programs become more important.
At the Pinewood Tippling Room in Decatur, Georgia, drinks employ flavors uniquely regional; in the Day That I Die, buckwheat honey syrup and roasted Georgia pecan tincture provide a distinct local touch when mixed with Bulleit Rye Whiskey, fresh lemon and ginger syrup. Others, like the Decatur Discretionary, tie the interest in white whiskey among craft cocktailers with local traditions – what could be more Georgia than bonded corn whiskey, in this case mixed with Luxardo Maraschino, orange bitters, and gomme syrup. Then there’s the Picaresque Morning - Four Roses Yellow Label Bourbon, pecan and pinenut orgeat and grated nutmeg. Less regional but showing how far the trend has spread is the Pinewood’s draft cocktail, the Pinewood Old Fashioned: Old Overholt Rye, oleo saccharum, bitters and orange expression.
Summer cocktails are starting to pop up, and at the Double A Chicago, Paul Tanguay and Tad Carducci of the Tippling Bros have put together a new line-up of summer cocktails, some created with amaro and other bitters as important ingredients. “You can take a heavy, herbal bitter ingredient and spin it into a refreshing, almost grapefruit direction if you work with it in the right way,” says Carducci.
There’s the Gillion (Fidencio mezcal, Luxardo Amaro Abano, Cinzano Rosso, honey and lemon), and Spaghetti Western (London dry gin, Campari, Cointreau, maraschino and blood orange. It’s not all bitter – there’s Actual Facts (Old Overholt Rye, bianco vermouth, Mexican cinnamon syrup, lemon, Angostura orange bitters and egg white). And our friend sherry appears again – the Blackberry Cobbler includes Cazadores blanco tequila, dry amontillado sherry, walnut liqueur, blackberry, lemon, pineapple and Peychaud Bitters. The key component in all these drinks is an awareness that there are as many drinks as there are moods, ingredients and inspirations.