Friday, April 13, 2012

Fun Behind Bars with Dy Mixes

Some Like it Hot!~

The hottest trends in beverage alcohol reflect the hottest trends in the kitchen. As the bar and the kitchen become ever-closer entwined, it is no surprise that the National Restaurant Association's annual report gives strong indicators that this trend continues through the current year (and I predict, beyond). Bartenders are reaching into the back of the house for ingredients and techniques that enhance the uniqueness and quality of our work.

According to the National Restaurant Association (, the single hottest trend in beverage alcohol today is the use of artisinal and micro-distilled spirits. A micro-distilled spirit is what it sounds like: small batch spirit, slowly sold in small quantities, similar to the micro-brewery. Artisinal spirits are slightly different. They are made in larger quantities, but are still smaller than the industrial spirit production of say, a giant like Bacardi USA. Great care is given to the selection of base ingredients, and to the fermentation and distillation processes. All effort is made to produce a spirit of the finest possible quality.

In Milwaukee, this movement is being served by Guy Rehorst, whose Great Lakes Distillery is quietly producing high-quality spirits that are making big noise at national competitions. The Distillery's vodkas (Citrus Honey and Classic), gin, and Pumpkin seasonal spirit are all award-winners. The newest champion is Kinnickinnick Whiskey. "KK" as it is affectionately shorthanded, won the coveted gold medal at this year's San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Other spirits, including up-and-comer Roaring Dan's Rum, have yet to achieve the accolades of their siblings, but it seems that exceptional quality runs in the family.

Another smoking-hot trend, noted by the National Restaurant Association, is the culinary cocktail. Behind the bar, we call it a craft cocktail, and it is a natural fit for these locally-produced, small-batch spirits. Locally-sourced ingredients are a big part of this movement, and although Rehorst's products don't suffer from travelling great distances, we are ever mindful of impact of shipping on the environment. Keeping close to home reduces the carbon footprint of the cocktail, and the flavors of Kinnickinnic Whiskey are particularly suited to this style of mixology, according to the Beverage Testing Institute's tasting notes:
"Minutely hazy light amber color. Light grainy, husky aromas are suggestive of buttery nut brittle, brown spices and chocolate oatmeal cereal with a silky, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a hint of mocha, mossy stone and pink pepper on the zesty finish. A nice choice for craft cocktails

Growing herbs on-premise is a similar practice that supports "clean" cocktails. Growing the herbs ourselves guarantees that they are fresh and free from pesticides. We can source our own mint for Mojitos, Chamomile for Tea-tinis, and Lavender for Lavender Lemondrops. For a slightly adventurous twist on a cocktail you know and love, try the Orange Basil Mojito.

Orange Basil Mojito
1.5 oz. Light Rum
2 Orange Wedges
6-8 Fresh Basil Leaves, plus 2 for garnish
1 tsp. Fine Baking Sugar
Ginger Ale and Club Soda

Fill your glass most of the way with ice. Muddle the Orange Wedges, Basil Leaves and Sugar, and put atop the ice. Add the Rum and fill the glass with equal parts Ginger Ale and Club Soda. Spank the remaining Basil Leaves (lay them in the palm of one hand and slap them with the other to release their fragrance) and float them atop the drink. Enjoy!

More From Dy at her Blog: Fun Behind Bars

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