Apollo's Creed at Beatrice & Woodsley 38 South Broadway 303-777-3505
When Dylan Holcomb moved to Colorado last October, he landed a job behind the bar at Beatrice & Woodsley, a stylish restaurant in the Baker neighborhood. Before Denver, he tended bar in a string of cities that included Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Tallahassee, Florida and New Orleans. When Holcomb settled into his new digs and started putting together recipes for new cocktails, he incorporated an ingredient that he'd never seen on a drink menu in any bar in his 15 years in the business: Greek yogurt.
"I love plain Greek yogurt and honey," Holcomb says. His love of that combination led him to think about how he could work such a unique ingredient into a drink. He combined a teaspoon of it with lemon juice, apple-flavored vodka, ginger liqueur and a honey-chamomile syrup and called the concoction Apollo's Creed.
"My boss was a little bit skeptical about Greek yogurt in a cocktail," he adds. "I had never seen it in a cocktail, and neither had he. It was a pleasant surprise, because once we put it on the menu, it started outselling every other cocktail." In fact, Beatrice & Woodsley sells twice as many Apollo's Creeds as any other drink on the menu.
"At Beatrice & Woodsley, we like to use more esoteric ingredients, and we like to have a little more of a playful style," says Holcomb, who often spends hours walking around grocery stores in search of new flavors.
"The way honey and yogurt play off each other is excellent," Holcomb says. "You've got that creamy richness and tartness of the yogurt, which really balances with the honey and lemon. And, of course, ginger and honey always go well with each other." The result, he says, is a well-balanced cocktail.
As he was experimenting with recipes, Holcomb noticed that yogurt tended to thicken the drink in much the same way that an egg white would. But he didn't want to use eggs; he wanted to do something different. "Egg white always takes flavor away from a drink," he explains. "The yogurt gives you that consistency but adds a little kick of flavor as well."
Holcomb wants his drinks be unique and surprising, not strange or pretentious. "I want the impression to be that the cocktail is fun, that it's delicious," he says. "Drinking is supposed to be fun. I've always believed that the sign of a great cocktail is that two or three days later you start thinking about it again."
"I try to incorporate fun into drinking," he says. "I believe that right now the style and the approach to cocktails and mixology has left fun behind -- it's a little too serious. It went the way of mustaches and funny hats and sweater vests and all that."
Holcomb's cocktail is not just a success in terms of numbers of drinks sold per night. "The feedback is that the cocktail is amazing," he says. "I hear a lot of the time that it's the best drink a guest has ever had, which I find flattering and shocking. It's crisp, it's refreshing, it's not heavy at all, as they anticipated. No one's ever seen Greek yogurt in a cocktail before."
All those years of experience have given Holcomb a perspective about what works -- and what doesn't -- in a cocktail. Three years spent tending bars on Bourbon Street, in New Orleans taught him a lot. "My intention while working down there was to really hone my speed and efficiency," he says, "which I think is very important when you're making cocktails at any level."
From early on, Holcomb saw that mixology would be a skill that he could develop over time. "I took it upon myself to move around the country and hone my skill sets in different environments," he explains. That journey took him all over the country, from high-volume nightclubs to places such as Founding Farmers restaurant in Washington D.C., which won a James Beard award for its cocktail menu.
And that experience is paying off in Denver, behind the bar at Beatrice & Woodsley, as Holcomb crafts cocktails with a skilled hand.
"A good drink tells a story," Holcomb says. "This drink tells a beautiful story -- it's a playful story about unique flavor combinations."
Apollo's Creed .75 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice 1 ounce honey-chamomile syrup .75 ounce Absolut Oriental Apple vodka 1 ounce Smirnoff pear vodka .5 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur 1 teaspoon plain Greek yogurt
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Shake and strain all ingredients into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.