PUNCH is an independent, online magazine in collaboration with Ten Speed Press. They’re in the business of narrative journalism—written and visual—on wine, spirits and cocktails, and the culture that surrounds them.
Whatever your reason for visiting Wyoming, whether it’s to play out cowboy fantasies roping cattle, hike Grand Teton National Park or you’re Kanye West in town to record an album in secret, it’s pretty easy to get sloshed relatively quickly after you touch down at the Jackson Hole airport.
“You can ask any of my friends, winter or summer,” says David DeFazio, “there’s gonna be a sloshie in their cup holder when they land.” DeFazio, co-founder of Wyoming Whiskey, has been a permanent Jackson Hole resident since 1996. He first recalls seeing sloshies, essentially your standard-issue frozen Daiquiri, served in a variety of unnatural colors and flavors, at Creekside Market six summers ago.
A sloshie might just sound like a typical boozy frozen drink to somebody who lives in any of the other 49 states—and that’s not incorrect. What’s remarkable is the insane fervor with which Wyoming residents, especially those in Jackson Hole, have embraced it. Originally appearing strictly at liquor stores and food marts, they are now available pretty much everywhere, from rowdy après-ski joints like Mangy Moose to craft distilleries like Wyoming Whiskey and Jackson Hole Still Works to the luxury hotel Caldera House and Dornan’s Chuckwagon grill, an old-fashioned “cowboy” range buffet where you can pair them with your $35 prime rib dinner.
The statewide sloshie takeover happened rapidly. “No one really talked about them when they first appeared,” recalls Katie Carmichael, manager and resident sloshie-maker at Creekside Market in Jackson Hole. She started working a high school summer job there in 2008; the sloshie arrived in 2012 when the store acquired a liquor license. It didn’t take long for locals to claim the drink as theirs. Today, Creekside Market has two silver Grindmaster-Cecilware dispensers—$5,000 machines that can churn out seven gallons of slush per hour. One rotates a seasonal offering like Freaky Tiki or Tropic Thunder, while the other perpetually provides The Hound, a frozen Greyhound made with Nikolai Vodka and fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. Carmichael claims that, thanks to the approximate 28 gallons of The Hound she makes per day, Creekside Market is the biggest buyer of grapefruit in the entire state.
As for the name? How the drink ended up being called a “sloshie” remains a subject of debate. Jessa Talermo, head of product development at The Liquor Store of Jackson Hole (known locally as TLS), believes it just sort of… happened. “What else are you gonna call them?” she asks. While many credit TLS as the drink’s inventor, owner Stephan Abrams claims a place formerly known as Liquor Down South was actually the first spot in Jackson Hole to sell them during the summer of 2012. But they didn’t come up with the moniker.
“I came up with the name,” claims local restaurateur Gavin Fine. “It was like a slushie, an alcoholic slushie, then it turned into sloshie.” Fine asserts that he popularized the term “sloshie” after first seeing them in New Orleans during JazzFest. Wanting to improve on what he calls “those horrible Margarita machines in cheesy bars,” he decided to offer sloshies at his restaurants, like Bodega, a “gourmet” gas station with an in-house sausage maker and fine wine selection where you can also fill up your tank. Since 2014, they’ve sold sloshies with names like Wu-Tang Cran and Lil Wayne’s Purple Drank.
TLS, meanwhile, has five machines offering sloshies with similarly punny names like Marg America Great Again and a Moscow Mule flavor called Putin on the Ritz. Prices go from $6.99 for a 16-ounce cup all the way up to $22.99 for a 64-ounce serve, dispensed by staff into sealed milk jugs. Other shops are more cavalier with what they’ll allow. In fact, most sloshie vendors in environmentally-conscious Jackson Hole let customers self-fill their own YETI insulated mug. The same is true in sloshie-slinging locales outside of town, like Poplar Wine and Spirits in Casper and Libations in Cody, the latter of which is noted for their Halloween season Drunken Punkin sloshie.
One explanation for the meteoric rise of the sloshie is that they’re easy to consume in public, and Wyoming has a history of being a drinking-and-driving Thunderdome of a state. Having a cold one in your car was actually legal until 2002, and passengers could legally drink until 2007. Even today, many locals don’t measure driving distance in minutes, but in the number of drinks they can consume on the way to a destination.
Since the typical way a sloshie is sold is in a clear plastic cup with a lid in which the checkout person has put “tamper-resistant” tape over the straw hole to make it a sealed container, it rarely draws the attention of local authorities. Still, at Creekside Market, push-pinned into the wall near a sign that reads “No Sampling,” is a small flyer advertising the services of the city’s top DUI attorney, Dick Stout (“Dick got me off”), just in case.
More likely, however, is that the sloshie became a sensation in Jackson Hole because it’s a place whose residents famously refuse to grow up—where trust fund kids put off law school to become ski bums and corporate executives cash out early to mountain climb. DeFazio, for one, agrees with that theory.
“Jackson Hole is the home of Peter Pan,” he says. “And sloshies hearken back to youth when you were allowed to drink slushies. They give you a reason to now drink them as an adult, [which] almost feels like cheating.”
“The Gimlet is an interesting drink because it doesn’t have a platonic ideal,” said bar owner Toby Cecchini, one of the judges.
Cecchini knows more than your average barkeep about the cocktail. He’s had a house Gimlet on the menu at Brooklyn’s Long Island Bar ever since he opened in 2013, and has experimented with the cocktail for longer than that. “Bartenders will make you something like a Rickey when you order one,” he said. “Those who know it requires a lime cordial would be hard pressed to tell you what that is.”
Cecchini makes a lime cordial from scratch for his Long Island Gimlet. For much of the Gimlet’s history, however, the cordial in question has been Rose’s lime juice, a ubiquitous product found in almost every supermarket and tucked away, gathering dust, in the back of countless home bars. Rose’s is the ball and chain the Gimlet has been dragging around for decades. In fact, the cocktail and cordial are so inextricably linked in people’s minds that a good many Gimlet fanciers will insist that the drink isn’t a Gimlet without Rose’s.
Of the 14 Gimlets sampled at the PUNCH offices, a couple of the recipes included Rose’s, while the others eschewed it completely. That is a fair illustration of the cocktail community’s split disposition toward it. Many cocktail bartenders view Rose’s—which contains high fructose corn syrup, preservatives and dyes—as typifying the sort of fake, manufactured product they’ve railed against as they sought to bring classic cocktails back to respectability. Others are more charitable, giving Rose’s its historical due. Whatever its faults, the item—which has been made commercially since 1868—has long played a role of some kind in the building of a Gimlet. The first known printed recipe for the drink, in Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails (1922), by Harry MacElhone, calls for equal parts gin and Rose’s. And the influential Savoy Cocktail Book, published eight years later, does the same. In the ensuing years, the portion of Rose’s asked for has lessened, but it was always there.
PUNCH’s Gimlet panel—which also included St. John Frizell of Brooklyn’s Fort Defiance; Tristan Willey, most recently of Long Island Bar; PUNCH’s Gimlet-loving assistant editor Chloe Frechette; and myself—were not admirers of Rose’s.
Frizell, like many bar professionals, suspects Rose’s was once a good and fairly natural product but has been debased over the years as it has changed ownership and become more mass-produced. (It is currently owned by Dr. Pepper Snapple.) “When a product changes as much as Rose’s has over the years, it’s no longer a required ingredient in the only cocktail it’s known for,” declared Frizell.
So, if Rose’s doesn’t make a Gimlet in today’s world, what does? “I think we can all agree that a Gimlet is not a Gimlet without lime cordial,” offered Cecchini. The gathered circle seemed to concur. However, when Willey was coming up in the bartending trade, he was taught when fielding a Gimlet order to basically follow a Daiquiri spec (rum, sugar, lime juice), but use gin. And, as the tasting bore out, that is still what you’ll get in most quality bars when you ask for the cocktail.
Gin wasn’t up for negotiation. Though the vodka Gimlet enjoyed a vogue in the last century, the judges were uninterested in the variation. As to which gin, the panel was not discriminating. “The drink is open to any gin,” said Cecchini, “but it varies widely based on the gin.” He added that, “The gin shouldn’t come out full force. It should be one element in the drink.” An ideal Gimlet, for him, had to boast a good deal of lime aromatics when the glass was lifted to the nose. Frechette agreed, saying, “It’s that first sip where you should get the full lime and gin in your face.”
While it was agreed that most Gimlets are served up—and customers expected them to come that way—historically, there was nothing to dictate that the cocktail couldn’t be served on the rocks. Indeed, early recipes state the drink “can be iced if desired.”
Perhaps to make up for the lack of a rock-solid modern template for the drinks, the recipes varied considerably in preparation and ingredients, with all participants finding their own way around the lime-cordial conundrum. Some split the citrus element between Rose’s and fresh lime juice. A few came with recipes for homemade cordial. One instructed the mix be shaken with the hull of the lime. Some brought in outlier ingredients, such as a dash of absinthe or a touch of salt.
The winning drinks were divided between two types: those that required a freshly made lime cordial, and those that answered the cordial question through the combined use of lime juice and simple syrup. No drink using Rose’s won out.
Tom Macy of Clover Club in Brooklyn delivered the winning formula with a simple construction: two ounces of Tanqueray gin, three-quarters of an ounce of simple syrup and half an ounce of fresh lime juice. The method was notas simple: After muddling two lime wedges in the syrup, the gin and lime juice were added and the entire mixture shaken and fine-strained. (Frizell quipped that it was a “gin Caipirinha.”) The panelists found the drink well-balanced and “Gimlet-y.”
Coming in second was Cecchini’s own Long Island Gimlet, with two ounces of Citadelle Gin, one ounce of lime cordial and three-quarters of an ounce of fresh lime juice. His lime cordial has a touch of ginger in it that gave the mixture a bit of heat, which, according to the panel, was a subtle enough twist that it did not detract from the drink’s standing as a Gimlet. Rather, they found that it had good body and was dependably delicious sip after sip.
Third place went to Sarah Morrissey of Frechette, in Manhattan. Hers was the simplest construction of all, blending two ounces of Tanqueray, three-quarters of an ounce of simple syrup (1 1/2:1) and one ounce of fine-strained lime juice. The panel found it “well-knit.”
Despite the simplicity of Morrissey’s recipe, Frizell still maintained a Gimlet could not just be a gin Daiquiri. “It’s got to have something more to it,” he said. Perhaps that something more is a good bartender.
For most drinkers, classic cocktails serve as craving benchmarks. When it’s sweater weather and you’ve got whiskey on the brain? Make it a Manhattan. When you’re roasting in the midsummer sun and in desperate need of refreshment? Send Margaritas. The trouble is, our benchmarks tend to clock in above the mark where they can reasonably be dubbed sessionable. The good news is they can easily be altered to bring down the ABV while still preserving the flavor profiles that made these drinks classics in the first place.
For a sour or daisy formula, like the Daiquiri or Margarita, respectively, the easy way to lower ABV is to, in bartender parlance, split the base, substituting a lower-proof ingredient for half of the base spirit. In the case of the Margarita, consider cutting the tequila in half (at least) and subbing in savory manzanilla sherry—an ingredient that fits right in with the sweet-sour-salty Margarita flavor matrix—to make up the balance.
Meanwhile, in an all-booze drink like the Manhattan—two ounces of whiskey, one ounce of sweet vermouth and bitters—you can start by inverting the 2:1 ratio so that the spirit becomes the supporting player. To maintain balance, you’ll then want to split your new base of vermouth with a drier ingredient that provides the kind of punchy, savory notes found in whiskey. Try using amontillado sherry, or even splitting the vermouth between sweet and dry. The trick here is to follow the same logic as you would for batching a drink and adjust the ingredient ratios to taste.
Here are five classics rebuilt as session cocktails that are just as crave-able as their forebears.
Few can claim mastery of the Pearl Diver quite like author and tiki historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry. After all, when he embarked on his decade-long quest to resurrect the Don the Beachcomber original, the drink’s very existence, let alone the recipe, was known only to a small handful of collectors.
“It wasn’t on anyone’s radar at all,” explains Berry of the drink, an unusual blend of citrus, rum and spiced butter syrup, famously served in a distinctive ribbed glass that now bears the same name. It was the glass, in fact, that initially drew Berry in. A self-proclaimed “thrift store junkie,” he first encountered it on an illustrated Don the Beachcomber menu he chanced upon at a yard sale nearly 30 years ago. Realizing he’d never seen the glass “in the wild” (nor online even with the advent of eBay), Berry became intent on uncovering the mystery behind the drink that it held.
But the years to come would present a series of challenges and false starts. “All the Don the Beachcomber recipes were very valuable trade secrets that nobody ever published, including Donn [Beach],” says Berry, who had made countless encounters with Beachcomber diaspora across Los Angeles throughout the ‘90s. He’d managed to track down Ray Buhen, an original Don the Beachcomber bartender and founder of the iconic Tiki Ti, but it offered little headway. “Nobody would tell me anything” remembers Berry. “They still kept those secrets close to their chest.”
His lucky break came in the form of a handwritten recipe taken from a notebook belonging to Dick Santiago, an original Beachcomber Maitre d’. Written in code, a measure taken to prevent employees from pilfering the prized recipes during the initial tiki craze, the notebook had been gifted to Berry by Santiago’s daughter, Jennifer, after her father’s death. “It took a solid two years from the time I got the recipe to decode it,” recalls Berry. (He also used the book to decode other original formulas from the Zombie to the Nui Nui, in addition to the Pearl Diver.)
While much of the recipe was relatively straightforward—Puerto Rican rum, Jamaican rum, Demerara 96-proof rum (no longer in production), plus both orange and lime juices and falernum—there was one component that stumped Berry for years: “It said ‘three-quarters ounce mix’” says Berry, who asked himself, “What the hell is that?”
Mastering the Pearl Diver
Jeff "Beachbum" Berry's Pearl Diver recipe calls on a blend of three types of rum.
Hamilton 86-proof rum stands in for the no-longer extant 96-proof demerara rum included in the original recipe.
The semi-solid nature of the butter mix requires blending to fully incorporate.
It took Berry several attempts to find the right amount of ice to break up the mix without over diluting the drink.
A medium-mesh strainer captures the right amount of solids to provide a velvety mouthfeel.
Berry's Pearl Diver is as close to the original as anyone has gotten since tiki’s midcentury heyday.
Through additional research, Berry came to understand that the mix in question contained some combination of honey, butter and two proprietary components known simply as #2 and #4. But it would take a conversation with Bob Esmino, a veteran tiki bartender, to learn that #4 was actually cinnamon syrup and #2 was something akin to spiced rum.
With that information, Berry finally set about trying to recreate the cocktail. “I bought a whole bunch of spiced rums to try and reverse engineer the flavor profile,” recalls Berry. After a number of trials, he ultimately settled on a mix of honey, butter, cinnamon and vanilla syrups and allspice dram, yielding a sweetened compound butter, now better known as Don’s Gardenia Mix.
But there was still a problem: Berry had to figure out how to incorporate the semi-solid “mix” into the cocktail. “You can’t shake the drink,” explains Berry. “It’s not going to dissolve… it’s not going to permeate the drink, so obviously it was a blender drink.” After eight or nine tries, each using different amounts of crushed ice, Berry settled on a final measure of three-quarters of a cup, which offered enough ice to break up the mix without over diluting the drink.
After straining the cocktail through a medium mesh kitchen strainer, rather than a fine mesh bar strainer (to ensure a “velvety mouthfeel”), Berry, in 2006, was finally able to taste a genuine Pearl Diver—or, as close as anyone had gotten to the recipe since tiki’s midcentury heyday. “I feel some sense of ownership of this drink just because it took me many, many years to get right,” he says.
When Cocktail Kingdom began manufacturing a commercial version of that long lost Pearl Diver glass in 2014, just in time for the opening of Berry’s bar, Latitude 29, it was simply the cherry on top. Or, as he puts it, “the orchid on top.”
For decades—even centuries—“pink gin” meant one thing: gin tinted with a few dashes of bitters. It was a simple drink, favored by the English and gin lovers. But pink gin means something different now.
A weird new breed of gin produced to be pink (sans bitters) was kicked off by small craft brands like Pinkster, which launched in the U.K. in 2013, and Wölffer Estate Pink Gin, made by a winery on Long Island. Recently, however, the big boys have been climbing on the bandwagon, including Greenall’s (Wild Berry Gin), Gordon’s (Premium Pink Distilled Gin) and Beefeater (Pink). These new gins get their color from every red and purple thing under the sun, including grapefruit, rose petals, hibiscus, blackberries, rhubarb, red currents, food coloring and, most commonly, strawberries and raspberries.
Drinkers have responded to gin’s rosy new look. Sales of Pinkster have doubled each year since it launched, while Wölffer Estate’s sales have increased from 1,200 bottles in 2016 to 30,000 this year. As of January, Gordon’s Premium Pink represents six percent of all of Gordon’s sales. Spain, long a lover a gin, has lapped it up. In February, Sophie Gallois, managing director of The Gin Hub—the name Pernod Ricard has given to the gin arm of its portfolio, which includes Beefeater, Plymouth and Seagram’s Extra Dry Gin—told the trade journal, The Spirits Business, that “In Spain… the pink gin trend accounts for 40 percent of all value growth within the total gin category.”
All that pink liquid shining in highballs on roof bars and patios reminds one of another blushing alcohol trend that swept the planet over the last decade. Could it be that gin makers are just whoring after the rosé audience—not to mention its chilly offspring, the frosé crowd?
“Yeah, totally,” says Roman Roth, winemaker at Wölffer Estate on Long Island, when asked if the craze for pink gin is an offshoot of the public’s undying thirst for rosé. “I’m still surprised when I see someone opening a rosé in January in the middle of a snowstorm.”
Roth’s original intention was to produce a traditional gin, distilling the estate’s rosé and infusing it only with juniper grown on the property. It was going to be called The Purist. But then he attended a gin conference, where he encountered 500 different gins, each wilder in concept than the next.
“I felt my idea was too boring,” he admits. He went back to the drawing board, adding more botanicals. Finally, owner Marc Wölffer requested a case of pink-colored gin, tinted by exposure to red grape skins. “He wanted 12 bottles of pink gin for himself,” says Roth. When Roth clapped his eyes on the vibrantly colored result, he halted production and started over, making all the gin pink. (Oddly enough, Pinkster’s color was also a bit of an accident. Its creator, Stephen Marsh, looking to make a gin-based liqueur, tried out every other fruit before finding that raspberries married best with gin.)
Wölffer Estate Pink Gin is unusual in that it tastes like, well, gin. The color adds only optics, not flavor. Even more unusual among the new crop of pink gins is The Bitter Truth, which is an actual pink gin—that is, gin flavored with aromatic bitters. The German company put it out in 2010, after tasting some old bottles from Plymouth, which used to bottle a classic pink gin. The flood of non-bittered gins has put The Bitter Truth in an odd position vis-à-vis the consumer.
“People, if they read ‘pink gin,’ they expect what is coming to the market at the moment—gin flavored with berries,” says Alexander Hauck, co-founder of The Bitter Truth. “They are surprised when they taste our gin.”
Hauck doesn’t put much stock in the idea that pink gin drinkers are just rosé lovers leaping from glass to glass. Instead, he likens the gin producers’ motivations to those of the bourbon industry, which has put out dozens of flavored whiskeys in recent years. “The reason why they come up with gin with fruity flavors is to approach new customers,” he says, “young people who are not gin drinkers yet.”
Alex Smith, an owner at Whitechapel, a gin-focused San Francisco bar, agrees. He’s worried, however, that gin might be on its way to getting the tarted-up treatment that vodka and bourbon have gone through, with more and more whimsically flavored expressions, sporting equally whimsical names (“Unicorn Tears,” et al.), crowding out the genuine item. “If gins start going the way of vodkas, and cupcake and whipped cream gins start coming out, I can assure you we will avoid them,” he says. “I’m really hoping it doesn’t come to that.”
Conversely, James Bolt, owner of The Gin Joint in Charleston, South Carolina, thinks that pink gins might find a home in the nation’s gin bars. “They are a great beginner or entryway,” he says. “They add a different skew to the normal gin categories—London dry, genever, Old Tom, Plymouth, new wave—that all bars stock.” So far, he’s put a Martini-esque cocktail using Wölffer Estate Pink Gin on his menu.
Regardless of what bartenders think, there may be no holding back the coming pink wave. Will Holt, co-founder of Pinkster, has taken a page from the rosé playbook, insisting that pink gin has the potential to be a 24-7-365 thing.
“Rosé wine has a tendency to be billed as a summer drink,” he says. “Pink gin, on the other hand, can be enjoyed all year round.”
Even gin’s longtime pal, tonic water, is getting in on the game. Fever Tree is introducing a new product called Aromatic Tonic Water, made with bitters derived with angostura bark. Its color? Pink.
Jeannie Talierco can look at the backbar at Hank’s Saloon, in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, and know who’s been in recently. “I know exactly who’s been here, because I do the liquor,” she says. If the Jose Cuervo is low, Richie’s been around. If the levels of other particular bottles are sinking, it means Joe, Smitty or David have been by. “There are about 15 people here who are my original customers.”
She speaks of her regulars with obvious affection in a hoarse Brooklyn accent, and knows everyone at the bar by name, including a guy actually named Fast Eddie, who’s been coming in on Sundays since 1969. The customers, who wear everything from T-shirts to full suits, seem to sense that she is as lacking in pretension as they are, and it puts them at ease.
Talierco—who feels enough of a connection to the bar that she got a Hank’s tattoo three years ago—has been tending bar at the corner of Third and Atlantic Avenues so long that the name of the bar has changed while she has remained in place. This dark-as-night, graffitied-as-all-hell dive was once known as the Doray—the name a conflation of its owners, Dottie and Ray. It was for many years the chosen watering hole of the Mohawk Indian iron workers who lived in the area, and is the last vestige of that community, which was vividly captured in Joseph Mitchell’s 1949 New York magazine story, “Mohawks in High Steel.” When Ray sold the bar in 2004 to Dave Shereem, the son of the owner of nearby sports bar, O’Keefe’s (another bar where Talierco has worked), the Doray was rechristened Hank’s, after Hank Williams.
Soon it, too, will be gone, surrendering its old bones to the Great God Gentrification come November. Until then, Talierco will be there, lovingly referring to her clientele as “loonies” and thoughtfully placing a napkin over their beers when they go outside for a smoke. “We have a nice class of people come in here,” she says, enumerating Hank’s virtues. “It’s a decent day bar. It’s a good night bar. This is a very good bar.”Just ask Fast Eddie.
Number of bars worked at:
Roughly a dozen.
Average number of drinks made per night:
"God. Now I'm going to count them. A lot."
Drinks made most often:
"A lot of PBRs. A lot of whiskey. Stoli, Tito's, Johnnie Walker Black."
Years in the industry: 25
Years at current bar: 20
Favorite drink: "I don't drink at all really. A beer here. A glass of wine there."
How did you find your way behind the bar? “I was an assistant librarian at Pan Am building. My children were young. I wanted to take care of my kids. So I decided to go out there and waitress. I went to a tavern in Manhattan where I knew people and they said, ‘No, get behind the bar…’ One day I walked in here out of the blue looking for my friend. It was the Doray then. Dottie, the owner, says, ‘Come here, you. I want you to work for me.’ It was a bad area way back then. It was terrible. I gave it a try. I walked in, Ray said, ‘You want to work in my joint? Okay, I’m going home. There’s the register. Do what you want to do.’ He called me at 5 o’clock and said, ‘You want to stay here?’ I said, ‘Okay.'”
What do you think makes for a good bartender? “A lot of discipline. Do not drink behind the bar. I just trained a young lady, 24-year-old girl. A good head on her shoulders. I said, ‘Don’t drink behind the bar.’ She said, ‘Oh, I drink behind the other bars.’ It’s not only bartending. You deal with the people. You have money. You have deliveries. You have people walking in off the banana boat, even in the daytime.”
What advice would you give a bartender just entering the field? “Don’t do it. I had a girl here, she was adorable. I said to her, don’t stay here. Go get your education. You’re too smart. You know what she is now? A professor. I got the chills. She’s a mother of two. I’m glad I did that.”
Has bartending changed over the course of your career? “Years ago, the drinks were cheaper. People had less money. It was very family oriented in here, with Dottie and Ray. I miss them so much. Everything was family. We used to go a dinner-dance at El Caribe in Mill Basin. It was like going to a wedding without the bride and groom. They paid for 50 couples—customers, whatever. It was amazing.”
What’s the most unusual encounter you’ve had with a customer? “I miss my iron workers. They were really the best people. This was nothing but iron workers here when I first started. They mostly lived on State Street because there used to be furnished apartments over there. A 50-year-old guy came in on Monday; he told me a couple of them passed away. I get very emotional. I’ve lost about 63 customers. They got sick, older, numerous things. My favorites were Leila and Artie. I used to call her Mama. Blond hair. She thought she was Marilyn. She dressed for every event. They were so good. We used to have couches and customers used to sit there and sleep. There was Michael. He was an old-timer who’d been here for years. He passed. He had his own table. No one was allowed to sit there except the cat woman. She used to feed the cats. She was the only one allowed at his table. He was a piece of work. We had a public phone, where the jukebox was. He would always answer it. That was his job. Later, we had the phone rewired. He came to me and said, ‘You took away my job!’”
Imagine a place where bar patios never close. Where Friday happy hour is always al fresco. Where la dolce vita is a perpetual state of mind. Perhaps America’s closest counterpart to the Veneto’s social beach scene and luxurious, lazy afternoons, Los Angeles is a city whose currency is bound up with its endless summer vibes.
Aperitivo in Italy has its own distinct melody, a quiet rhythm that has been established and whittled into an almost sacred sunset ritual over the course of a century. It’s the murmur of late afternoon conversation, the unscrewing of an Aperol cap, the fizz of prosecco and the contented sighs that coincide with a day’s work done.
If Italy is the spiritual home of the spritz, L.A. has built its own altar to Italian life, beginning with a fervent devotion to the Aperol Spritz and its incumbent pleasures. At the likes of Bar Clacson, an industrial-modern oasis in the middle of Downtown, happy hour sees Spritzes lined up and built by the dozen. Matching the Italian affinity for aperitivo snacks, Clacson also specializes in abundant meat and cheese boards, prosciutto pops (black pepper grissini swaddled in silky slices of Italian ham) and salty bites like mixed olives, marinated zamarano cheese and roasted almonds. As the sun wanes, a mix of neighborhood regulars and curious Westsiders flow through the airy space balancing Spritzes while they roll bocce balls down the sandy lane that lines the side of the bar.
A neighborhood whose nightlife options are ever-expanding, Downtown hotels are gaining a reputation as the Eastside’s answer to happy hour meet-up spots. At the new NoMad hotel, housed in the former Bank of Italy, the luxurious rooftop takes the post-work drink hour to new heights. With a full bar and impeccable poolside service, summer Fridays can start with cold Champagne, classic Aperol Spritzes, crispy fried chicken and stunning views. The newly refurbished Hotel Figueroa’s rooftop restaurant, Veranda, pairs wood-fired food with warm-weather cocktails for a rustic California take on aperitivo hour: the Aperol Spritz meets grilled shellfish and suckling pig flatbreads.
Down the block, Terroni rings in each evening with an excellent happy hour that hews more closely to Italian tradition. Aperol Spritzes, fried calamari and paper cones piled with cheese- and ragu-stuffed arancini are marched out of the kitchen and spread beneath a wild red chandelier designed to look like the Autodrome Nazionale Monza, the home of the Italian Grand Prix.
But the Venice of America is where the summer Friday attitude—and a deep commitment to golden hour activities—aptly pervades every sun-soaked establishment, often extending it from brunch through nightfall. Inside a lagoon-blue stucco building along Abbott-Kinney lives Neighbor, where Aperol Spritzes are ordered all day long, paired with ultra-fluffy buttermilk pancakes, a dry-aged burger or delicate, lemony diver scallops. Further down the beach’s most iconic boulevard is Rose Café, a favorite Venice haunt from the ‘70s that has been updated for Instagram. The restaurant’s iconic bloom mural remains, and it’s slowly ingratiated itself among locals and destination diners alike. Farmers market salads, housemade pastries, pizzas and a smattering of other very California dishes are accompanied by sparkling sangria, icy cold brews and Aperol Spritzes from brunch onwards.
From Eastside to Westside, L.A. has intuitively embraced the easygoing attitude of la dolce vita and the orange-hued cocktail that’s become its signifier. It’s likely that no matter where golden hour kicks off—poolside bar, hotel rooftop, neighborhood watering hole—a brigade of sunset-colored spritzes will be paraded out and into the hands of thirsty Angelinos, eager to be transported.
The scene: There’s a lot going on here, from a market and coffee counter to an all-day crowd that goes from long lunch into cocktail hour into full-on dinner service. Come at any hour and you’ll see what the Venice lifestyle is about.
Go for: What are you in the mood for? Aperol Spritzes are always on offer. An ideal spot for brunch or a late afternoon cocktail meeting.
Only a few states, cities or regions across the country can lay claim to an original cocktail all their own. Washington, D.C. has the Rickey; New Orleans has its very own cottage industry of homegrown classics, from the Ramos Gin Fizz to the Sazerac; and, of course, New York has the Manhattan. But there’s also a canon more esoteric drinks that have grown up over the past several decades to become local obsessions, from Maryland’s Orange Crush to the seemingly misguided dive-bar drink known in the Upper Midwest as the “Beertini.”
Anyone who’s spent time in West Texas between May and September has experienced the relentless desert sun, offset ever-so-briefly by a bone-dry, tumbleweed-stirring breeze. This is not the kind of heat quenched by mere H2O. Enter Ranch Water.
Though the exact birthplace of the tequila-based refresher is unknown, this unofficial drink of West Texas dive bars and house parties carries some Texas-sized fables. “There’s a rumor that it was concocted by a wild-haired rancher in Fort Davis in the 1960s,” says Phillip Moellering, Manager and Food & Beverage Director of the Gage Hotel in Marathon, Texas. “Allegedly, the spirit of the drink had him following the West Texas stars all the way from Fort Davis to Marathon by foot, where he was found asleep under a piñon tree.” [Read more]
Phil Lewis’ right side is bigger than his left. It’s a common physical trait among the staff at Harborside Bar & Grill in West Ocean City, Maryland, the undisputed birthplace of the Orange Crush.
The key to a Crush is actually its namesake action—the swift yanking of an industrial press juicer that flattens fresh orange halves, sending frothy OJ plummeting into a pint glass filled with ice, vodka and triple sec. Harborsiders repeat this same motion thousands upon thousands of times each season, reps that lead to Popeye-like dominant-arm definition. “We’re all disproportional,” jokes Lewis, who’s tended bar at Harborside for 12 years. A squirt of lemon-lime soda finishes off the Old Line State’s unofficial cocktail, a concoction that’s crept from its laidback beach town beginnings to become a coastal phenomenon. [Read more]
At first glance, the “Beertini” is the ultimate dad joke—something that a sitcom father would facetiously claim as his favorite drink after overhearing someone order an Appletini. His flannel-shirt-wearing buddies would all chuckle and eye-roll as they clinked their mugs together, happy with their classic, no-fuss beer selection.
In certain pockets of the Midwest, though, the combination of beer and olives known as the Beertini (also called the Minnesota, North Dakota or Wisconsin Martini, depending on where you’re located) is not only very real, but is deeply engrained in barroom culture. [Read more]
For the uninitiated, an Alabama Slammer might sound more like a pro wrestler from Birmingham, or a new dance craze à la The Dougie or The Cupid Shuffle. But no.
Typically comprised of Southern Comfort, sloe gin, amaretto and orange juice, the Alabama Slammer is a sunset-colored rallying cry of a cocktail. It is adolescent liquor cabinet raid turned recipe. “The Alabama Slammer is like a day on the beach in Alabama: sunburnt, hazy… and underwhelming,” said Reeves Jordan, a University of Alabama-Huntsville graduate. [Read more]
For the past 93 years, Detroit’s Bayview Yacht Club has been the launch pad for the Bayview-Mac, a 200-plus mile freshwater sprint, beginning in Port Huron and ending at teeny Mackinac Island. There, more than 200 boats from the Great Lakes race annually, many of them world-renowned. So it stands to reason that anyone in the racing circuit will know Bayview Yacht Club. But they’ll also know Jerome Adams.
The story goes something like this: Fifty years ago, Adams, originally from Georgia, got a job at the club as a dishwasher, quickly graduating to porter before landing a spot behind the nautical mahogany bar overlooking the freighters in the Detroit River. This is where, on a slow afternoon in February, 1968—an undeniably odd time to break out a blender—Adams served the first Hummer, a whirred-up combination of white rum, Kahlua, vanilla ice cream and a couple of ice cubes. It is now, without contest, Michigan’s state drink. [Read more]
For generations a ritual has governed a not un-casual night out for diners and drinkers across the state of Wisconsin: head out to the local supper club—described as a “a two- or three-hour dining event,” by one local—put in for a table, order a drink at the bar. That drink will probably be an Old-Fashioned, the base spirit will probably be brandy, and unless something’s gone terribly awry, it’ll taste nothing like an Old-Fashioned served in any other part of the country.
Unlike the Old-Fashioned of classic cocktail fame—boozy, bitter and comparatively dry—the Old-Fashioned in Wisconsin is a lighter, sweeter affair. It keeps the standard’s trifecta of brown spirit, sugar and bitters, and adds to it muddled orange and cherry. It’s then finished with soda, typically 7Up if its ordered “sweet,” something like Squirt if it’s ordered “sour” or a combination of 7Up and seltzer if it’s ordered as a “press,” which some claim is short for Presbyterian, a classic cocktail that calls for mixing seltzer and ginger ale. Some drinkers will also ask for an olive to be plopped in as a garnish. [Read more]
The cashier shot a brief but doting glance at the two bottles of Four Queens whiskey I’d set down in front of him.
“Doing some boilo, are we?”
I nodded a I-am-down nod. He smiled a no-you-ain’t smile.
“Make sure you don’t blow yourself up.”
I’ve learned many truths about boilo, the homespun potion that lubricates the holidays in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal country, but none more prominent than this: Everyone loves talking about its propensity to explode. Heating up a vat of alcohol over an open flame, after all, is not exactly the safest kitchen project. But here in Schuylkill County, the heart of the Boilo Belt, residents half-jokingly offer their own “you’ll shoot your eye out” to those who might not know better. The counter guy at this wine and spirits shop had correctly identified me as one of them. [Read more]
New Mexico is held in the popular imagination for its pueblos and green Hatch chiles and scorching deserts, for Georgia O’Keeffe and Breaking Bad. But journey to the Land of Enchantment’s northernmost region and you’ll find the ski world’s most famous cocktail, the Tree Martini.
Ernst Hermann Bloch, a German who worked for U.S. intelligence during World War II interrogating captured Nazi brass, was an avid skier while growing up in St. Moritz. After the war, he moved to New Mexico with new wife, Rhoda, taking the Americanized name “Ernie Blake” (his military code name). In 1953, Blake purchased 80 acres of land in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, 20 miles north of Taos, and started his resort, Ski Valley, setting up shop in a trailer at the base of the mountain and building lifts with a mule named Lightning.
“[He] hand hewed the ski area and its precipitous terrain,” explained the Denver Post, “crafting a premiere ski school and adding flourishes like tucking beakers of martinis behind trees on the mountain.” [Read more]
The bright pink building that is Gene’s Curbside Daiquiris appears almost otherworldly situated on Elysian Fields, a street named after the ancient Greek concept of the paradise heroes venture to in the afterlife. Squinting and hazy, I swing open the door to a blow of ear-piercing squeals from stainless-steel Daiquiri machines that foreshadow the ringing, premeditated hangover I know is coming. It’s a little after 10 a.m. on a Saturday and I’m still gaining my composure after last night’s adventures.
Overwhelmed by where to start, Gene’s employee Kelly Gaus guides me through the frozen offerings: “You can taste as many as you like before deciding.” I take this to heart. Soon, an electric rainbow of paper soufflé cups are strewn, crumpled across the counter. Jungle juice, Tropical Passion, Peach 190, Blue Hawaii… these flavors and colors do not exist in nature. I want them all. [Read more]
Who was the first to add ice cream to an alcoholic beverage? While there might not be a definitive ice cream cocktail Patient Zero, we do know that by the late 19th century ice cream and alcohol were already well-acquainted bedfellows.
Despite its patriotic moniker, this recipe doesn't read particularly American: the juice of one lime, brandy, a dash of Jamaican rum and a large tablespoon of ice cream, shaken "exceedingly well" and strained into "a fancy glass."
Built upon a sweet split of crème de noyaux and crème de cacao that produces a pleasantly rosy hue, the Squirrel might be the rare cream-based cocktail that was originally made with ice cream in lieu of heavy cream.
The German-born barman William Schmidt’s 1892 The Flowing Bowl includes ice cream in more than 20 recipes, both as an edible garnish and an actual ingredient. Examples of the latter approach include the Reverie, which features vanilla ice cream shaken with brandy, maraschino liqueur and Curaçao, and The Glorious Fourth, where a large tablespoonful of the same commingles with brandy and Jamaican rum.
By the 1920s and 1930s the combinations were typically more straightforward. Here’s How!, a drinks manual first published in 1927, offers recipes built around gin and vanilla ice cream, like the White Cargo, which also curiously calls on white wine, and the Silver Stallion Fizz, both of which also make it into Harry Craddock’s contemporaneous Savoy Cocktail Book. Their inclusion in the latter, a seminal cocktail text, suggests the relevance of ice cream cocktails amid a formative stretch of drinking history.
This same period saw Wisconsinites establish their lasting dominance in the stateside ice cream cocktail arena. In 1884, a Racine-based inventor named James Tufts patented a device called the Lightning Shaker, a crank-operated mixer designed to produce milkshakes. Associated promotional material released by his company offers a simple recipe by which to test out his hardware: milk, ice and flavored syrup, with port as an optional addition.
In 1922, a Polish-American engineer named Stephen Poplawski, also based in Racine, received a patent for a comparable milkshake-making prototype, this one electric-powered. A few years later, a third Racine businessman, Frederick Osius, would acquire Poplawski’s IP, eventually introducing a prototype known as the Cyclone Drink Mixer. Two of his employees, Louis Hamilton and Chester Beach, lent their last names to his manufacturing business: Hamilton Beach, the first company to popularize what we now know as the blender.
“[It] was three things coming together at once,” says Wisconsin native Robert Simonson, the New York Times drinks columnist and PUNCH contributing editor. “One, you have a state that loves to drink. Wisconsin has a great thirst. Two, it’s America’s dairy land. If they can find a way to shove milk, cheese or ice cream into something else, they will do it. Third, the blender was invented there. It’s only natural that ice cream drinks are going to come out of that.”
Supper clubs, a nostalgic style of family-friendly restaurant native to Wisconsin, are particularly integral to the preservation and proliferation of ice cream cocktails, residents are quick to disclose. “Supper club culture is about lingering, socializing and generally enjoying life,” says Lori Fredrich, a food and drink writer for OnMilwaukee.com. “The idea of an after-dinner ice cream cocktail is pretty much a no-brainer.”
Though ice cream cocktails are prepared and enjoyed throughout the state, Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s most populous city, boasts a number of landmark destinations. The bar At Random, which has been around since 1964, began serving them in big numbers sometime in the ‘80s, according to co-owner Shirley Zeller. “I don’t know where they started,” she says. “But they don’t make them like we do.” Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge, which opened in 1938, serves somewhere around 50 massive 16-ounce varieties, barroom soundtracked by the constant whirring of half a dozen blenders.
Bryant’s specializes in classic cream-based drinks with ice cream swapped in, like the Grasshopper, Brandy Alexander or Golden Cadillac. But they also offer contemporary drinks, with names like the Persian Ice, the Cherry Benjamin, and the peanut butter-and-chocolate E.T. But the bar is perhaps best-known as the purported birthplace of the Pink Squirrel, a combination of crème de cacao, crème de noyaux and vanilla ice cream. John Dye, Bryant’s current proprietor, doesn’t actually use the cacao in his, believing his locally made Cedar Crest ice cream already delivers the requisite flavor.
Beloved as they may be in the Upper Midwest, not everyone is crazy about the ice cream cocktail category. When PDT founder Jim Meehan was a student at the University of Wisconsin, he spent years mixing them up at Paul’s Club, an iconic bar in hard-drinking Madison. The place didn’t have a functioning blender, so every ice cream drink was hand-stirred with a wooden spoon, a wrist-wrenching process writer and beverage director Brian Bartels, a native Wisconsite and fellow Paul’s alum, describes as “an absolute motherfucker.”
These days, Meehan might add a little ice cream to a Piña Colada to improve its consistency, but that’s about it. “Ice cream drinks stress me out,” he says. “It’s a massive sugar, calorie and fat delivery vehicle that just compounds the deleterious effects of the alcohol.”
You’re not going to find much support for that take on ice cream cocktails within Wisconsin’s borders, though. “Sometimes people don’t finish them,” says Dye, the owner of Bryant’s. “And sometimes people have three.”
Facing a decline in demand, dairy farmers across the country have turned their attention to a different “liquid capital,” namely, beer. In The New York Times, Joshua Bernstein outlines the latest chapter in the intertwined narratives of America’s dairy farmers, many of whom are opening tap rooms, and craft brewers. [The New York Times]
Cuvée des Vignes d’Antan, a “borderline mythical, quasi black-market wine,” has been in production for nearly a century in Beaumont, France, where it’s made from outlawed French-American hybrid vines. Eric J. Wallace on the group of rebellious winemakers striving to save the historic wine from archaic laws. [Atlas Obscura]
On May 11th, 1971, Mariano Martinez dispensed the first ever mass-producible frozen margarita from a repurposed soft-serve ice cream machine in Dallas, Texas. In Smithsonian Magazine, Franz Lidz explores the origins of the innovation that would forever change the drinking landscape of the United States. [Smithsonian Magazine]
Once a corny date-spot locale, the modern wine bar is undergoing a transformation, dictated in part by their kitchens. From the Four Horsemen in New York to Canard in Portland, Oregon, Anna Roth investigates the role chefs are playing in the renewed relevance of the wine bar. [Eater]
In Yamhill County, Oregon—the state’s most lucrative corner of wine country—the growing presence of pot farms has sparked an ugly war between neighbors, as winemakers claim that the newcomers are tainting the terroir. Natalie O’Neill on the burgeoning conflict between traditional vintners and marijuana entrepreneurs. [The Outline]
Using DNA analysis, the initiative VitusGen, which began in 2011 with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, aims to map the genome of American wine grapes, pinpointing the areas that determine flavor, aroma, pest resistance and more. The end goal? To redeem indigenous American grapes to the point where they rival even the most coveted European counterparts. [Smithsonian Magazine]
In 1906, inflamed by fake news of assaults on white women, a white mob stormed The Vendome Lounge in Atlanta, a black-owned establishment, killing between 25 and 40 people. Wayne Curtis on the real story of the bar that found itself at the center of a deadly riot. [The Daily Beast]