While I have my "go-to" cocktails, I often want to break out of my cocktail rut. And when I do, I have go-to bars where I know the mixologists can work magic. I'll tell the bartender the spirit I want to imbibe, answer a few questions about the degree of sweet or bitterness I'd prefer, and then the bartender pulls the proverbial cocktail rabbit out of a hat. Randy Layman and Amanda Olig at Vesta Dipping Grill are the Penn & Teller of cocktologists, Sean Kenyon at Steuben's is a veritable Houdini, and the bartenders at Colt & Gray rival Siegfried and Roy. And Salt, the transformed Tom's Tavern spot that chef Bradford Heap opened last fall on Boulder's Pearl Street, has conjured up a new "cocktail element" menu that can make magic for the masses. You get a grease pencil with the menu, and you circle a spirit (tequila, rum, vodka, gin, bourbon or scotch), a flavor (anything from chipotle to tamarind to vanilla) and a style of cocktail (Sour, Rickey, Sling, Fizz, Collins or Daisy). While this gimmick doesn't have all the elements of mystery that leaving everything up to a bartender does, it's still a fun trick. I chose the Gin Lavender Collins ($4), a combination of Plymouth Gin, lavender flavoring, lemon juice and club soda that did wonders, blending the botanical flavors in the gin with the lavender. Evan Faber, Salt's beverage director, said the idea for the menu came to him while he was ordering coffee; he decided to let his patrons choose a style of drink, like a cappuccino or a latte, and then add whatever else they liked (think mocha or caramel). And like magic, a great new idea in cocktails was born. Voila!
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