Editor's note: Tastemakers has sold out! If you can't get in tonight, you can still make these drinks at home . . .
Minnesota’s in the middle of a microdistilling boom of local gins and to celebrate Mpls.St.Paul Magazine is filling the Ritz Theater tonight with gin makers, gin lovers, and of course the newest gin cocktails. It’s going to be a blast.
As with any party, we had help pulling it off. Many thanks to Prairie Organics for allowing us to throw this party, and many thanks to our guest bartenders who poured their creativity into these drinks. What’s that? You say you want to have these cocktails in your own personal backyard? Cheers!
The Chowen Ave Garage Party
Erik Eastman, the founder of the flavor company and bitters-kit-maker Easy & Oskey, is making a cocktail with Prairie Organic Gin. “I love gin,” Eastman says. “My favorite cocktail is the martini, this is a natural fit for me. I’m rigid about my martinis, I like dry gin, lots of vermouth, and orange bitters.” Orange bitters he makes particularly for martinis, using his own bitters kit and infusing the aromatics into gin.
“Not every gin goes in every application, and Prairie is a really good gin for mixing. I call Prairie the gateway for non-gin drinkers because it’s so accessible, so versatile, and plays well with a lot of different things. Right now I’m really liking adding dry fino sherry to a martini because it just adds this instant age component. My cocktail is essentially everything I like."
1.5 oz Prairie Organic Gin
.75 oz La Ina Fino Sherry
.75 oz Cocci Americano
.25 oz Orange Curacao
1/4 tsp. Easy & Oskey Cherry Vanilla bitters
In a mixing glass with clean ice, combine all ingredients. Stir thoroughly to chill and dilute, approximately 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.
Variation: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake, and pour contents into a highball glass, including ice. Top with sparkling water and a lemon wedge.
Why did she pick a Negroni? Trish Gavin, part of the startup team of bartenders at downtown Minneapolis’s new Brasserie Zentral and eventually to be involved with the restaurant’s bar, Foreign Legion, says a Negroni was a no-brainer: “It’s the drink of this summer, as far as I’m concerned,” Gavin says. “Last summer was all about barrel-aged Negronis, Negronis on-tap. This year I think will be the year of people taking Negronis in different directions and seeing what they can do without detracting from the original. I definitely put it in my three favorite cocktails, there’s a lot to work with.”
Gavin decided to go with Vikre’s most classic gin, their Juniper. “It’s subtle, when I’m building a drink I like it to be painting on a canvas, not Saran Wrap, something you can layer and create new flavors with, and the Vikre Juniper is good for that.” Gavin decided to go with an ultra-local drink with Bittercube Bitters, with its local ties to Nick Kosevich at Eat Street Social, and then Salers Gentiane liqueur imported by Haus Alpenz in Edina. The drink’s elements are all clear or close to it, which results in a drink that looks like a Martini, but tastes like a Negroni—a neat trick.
1.5 oz Vikre Juniper Gin
.75 oz Salers Gentiane
.5 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
1 eyedropper of Bittercube Orange Bitters
lemon twist, for garnish
Break Dance on Broken Glass
“You realize why everyone is going nuts for this, right?” Shawn Jones of Coup d’Etat asked me. Uh, no. I didn’t. Turns out all the bartenders are getting ready for the Bombay Sapphire competition in August, the local Oscars of bartending, and so we inadvertently turned Tastemakers into the Golden Globes.
“For me, the best cocktails come from a combination of the bar and the kitchen,” Jones explains, “This gin event is exactly along those lines, but even more so because of the chance to work with local distillers. I am so excited all these distillers are here and working, and I’m so happy I got Norseman gin; it’s just terrific. It’s delicate, fine, but the flavors I added are pretty powerful, and Norseman stands up to them. A meatier gin like Tanqueray would work, but it won’t be as delicate. The Imbue vermouth is imporant, it’s just gorgeous, and doesn’t really add the flavor of vermouth, it just makes the other ingredients shine, it makes lemon taste more lemon, cucumber taste more cucumber.”
Jones’ Norseman cocktail is meant to be drank like a martini, ice cold in a martini glass.
2 oz Norseman gin
.75 oz lemon juice
.5 oz cucumber simple syrup
.5 oz Imbue Bittersweet Vermouth
sprig of fresh thyme, for garnish
Gin & Botanical & Tonic
Marin has quietly established itself as the home of the biggest gin selection in the Twin Cities (40-some gins are available at Marin right now), and they’ve done this not least because head bartender Chad Larson has a thing for gin and tonics.
“They’re just one of the the best summer drinks,” says Larson, who features eight G&Ts on his cocktail menu, each typically a combination of his own tonic base with fresh aromatics designed to showcase a particular gin. “I was really happy I ended up with Far North’s Solveig," Larson says. “It’s pretty, it’s a little more floral than most gins, when I put it with the cardamom it became even more floral, it turns into a distinctively pretty gin and tonic.”
2 oz. Far North Solveig Gin
.75 oz Tonic Syrup (recipe below)
3 cardamom pods
In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups pure cane sugar and 4 cups water to a boil until the sugar dissolves. Turn heat down to low. Add 3 Tbsp. cinchona bark, one stalk roughly chopped lemongrass, 4 Tbsp. powdered citric acid (look in the bulk section of well-stocked grocery stores), and the zest and juice of three limes. Stir well and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the powders are dissolved and the syrup is thin and runny. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out the large chunks through a colander, then filter through a cheesecloth or coffee filter to refine. This step can take a while (and many filters) as the bark is a very fine powder, so be patient. Funnel the syrup into sterilized glass bottles, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.