It wouldn’t be a complete truth if we said that the very best drinks have remained static over the years. In the case of cocktails, people have been trying and testing different combinations dating all the way back to the 1800’s! As a matter of fact way back in the day, it was considered absolutely revolutionary to mix some bourbon whiskey with sugar, bitters and a small orange garnish. For those who are familiar with cocktails, this is the exact recipe of what is called the Old Fashioned - a cocktail that is considered to be the most balanced (and best) of the bunch.
However, ever since the inception of such a drink, more and more people have taken to the idea of mixing these drinks in different ways, which soon gave to the rise of cocktails. That said, you won’t really find an original drink out there with absolutely no roots; this is what makes cocktails so special. You’ll find everyone giving their own personal twist, a tribute to the one that came before that enhances in different ways.
Shawn Heale, who is an acting bartender and owner of Garageland in Spokane, says that these are the blueprints that work. That they are classics for that very reason, and cocktails have grown to what it is today simply working on already existing drinks.
In this case we will be looking at Shawn’s twist on the familiar, alongside a few other local bartenders in the area as we explore some of the more rooted tastes in the cocktail world.
Avant Grant’s Havana Hangover from Boots Bakery & Lounge
A twist on the classic Old Fashioned
Think of the powerful bite of the old-fashioned, only imagine the hints of a different flavor (about half and half), going down so much more smoothly than you could have realized. This is what the Havana Hangover is, and the inspiration definitely came from the Old Fashioned.
As a matter of fact, the collection of ingredients and the way it’s mixed is technically still how the Old Fashioned works, which is just a testament to how balanced the drink is. In this case however, the bitters came from Avant’s own creation, a tincture made from tobacco (from a cigar to be exact). The mix is basically Cuba incarnate - which happens to be cigars and rum.
Grant doesn’t completely replace the normal Angostura tincture however, because that would lose the signature flavor of the Old Fashioned. Instead half the dashes come from his homemade bitters, while the bourbon is replaced by high-proof rum. It’s a wonderful homage to the old fashioned cocktailwith its own special taste.
Shawn Heale’s Server on Acid from Garageland
A twist on the Surfer on Acid
Many cocktail aficionados would likely scoff at the inspiration from this drink - which is basically considered a lowbrow drink concocted in the early 90’s by Eric Tecosky called the Surfer on Acid Cocktail. As a matter of fact even the original creator has gone on record calling it a lowbrow drink; consisting of coconut rum, Jägermeister and pineapple juice.
Shawn Heale believes that there are no bad drinks (only bad bartenders), which is why he went on to remix this so-called lowbrow club drink and give it his own special twist. He did this by first replacing the main ingredient (Jägermeister) with a drink called Fernet Branca. This is also known widely as “the bartender’s handshake”, which gives the whole spin on the ‘Server on Acid’ title.
For the rest of the ingredients, he kept them as they are and instead added his own personal touch. This includes making use of Bittermens Tiki bitters, as well as passionfruit syrup (BG Reynolds). The result is a fantastic drink that pays tribute to the so-called lowbrow club drink.
Patty Tully’s Baby Tea from Baby Bar
A twist on Long Island Iced Tea
When you speak with bar-goers about a drink that tends to make them drunk the most often, it’s no surprise to hear the Long Island Iced Teaas one of the culprits. Its notorious ability to make people drunk in record time is something that Tully is certainly not a big fan of.
As a matter of fact, this drink was banned in her bar because it was much more important to have drinks for taste rather than simply drink to get the effect of drunkenness straight away. However, this didn’t mean that she gave up on the drink completely. In fact, she worked to turn this alcohol bomb into something more palatable.
The ingredients she’s keeping from long island iced tea includes the tequila, rum, vodka and gin but their amount has been lessened to about an ounce each. Alongside the lemon in Long Island Iced Tea, she’s also adding some tamarind syrup as well as some orange juice to the mix. Lastly, instead of the cola normally associated with the drink, it’s soda water.
The result is a classy return to form that is equal parts tart as well as refreshing - but it still has part of the punch that made Long Island Iced Tea so famous.
Cabby Barnard’s Rosebud from Bon Bon
A twist on the Last Word
The Last Word is considered to be a bit of a strange drink because the liqueurs listed can be rather intimidating - but you still end up with a result that is actually quite approachable as far as cocktails go. Crafted all the way in the 1930’s, its makeup is relatively simple. It includes gin, Green chartreuse, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice all in equal parts.
Barnard’s Rosebud is clever in many different ways - one of which being the name. Rosebud is the last word uttered in the movie Citizen Kane, giving it a classy feel from the name alone, especially if you consider that it’s a twist on the Last Word. There is very little changed with regards to this drink, only that it begins with a rosewater rinse and the gin is replaced by a citrus infused aquavit. It’s finally garnished by a locally grown bing cherry to complete the drink.
To conclude, it can be overwhelming to think about mixology and the kinds of cocktails one can make. But these bartenders prove that you don’t have to look too far to find inspiration. Sometimes all you need is the blueprint ofclassic cocktail recipesto create your own unique twist.