Your Name Here
4450 West 38th Avenue
The scene is always the same. A guest at a bar gives a bartender poetic license to concoct a drink that he thinks the guest will like. It could be a shot, or something more refined, but it always ends like this: the guest asks what it’s called and the bartender just shrugs his shoulders. The thing is, the drink doesn’t have a name. The bartender was just winging it, experimenting with combinations. Jumping into the breach, either the bartender or the guest will suggest that, if it’s good, it should be named after the guest.
This scenario played out recently at Brazen, when bartender Mikey Honeck wasn’t working. Yes, he tends bar there, but at the time, he was on the opposite side of the bar, enjoying a cocktail. With some time on his hands and an adventurous guest on a nearby barstool, the two started riffing on combinations of whisky and amaro. Weeks later, What they came up with came to be called Your Name Here ($12), one of the drinks on Brazen’s current cocktail menu.
“I was very fortunate to be on the other side of my bar for once, enjoying a cocktail with one of our guests,” Honeck says. “We talked about his interest in mixing different whiskies.” Honeck recalls that the guest was interested in a type of spirit called amaro (which means “bitter” in Italian). Amari are dark brown-colored herbal liqueurs, commonly consumed as digestifs. Fernet Branca is one example; Jagermeister is another. But there are more refined specimens available, and those are what Honeck slings behind the bar at Brazen.
When the guest left, Honeck played around with amaro-whiskey combinations. “As the week went on,”Honeck explains, “we just kept working with it and trying different combinations.” Weeks later, the guest came back to the bar, this time with a friend. Honeck took the opportunity to try out some variations of the recipe.
“They sat down at our community table, which has ten seats,” Honeck recalls. “The table was full, and the cocktail just kind of caught on like wildfire. Everybody started drinking it and wanted to know what it was called.”
A friendly cocktail-naming quarrel broke out at the table. “It became like a competition,” Honeck recalls. “Everybody kept ordering it after their own name, wanting it to be named after them.” Honeck, in the role of bartender-diplomat, decreed that the drink be named after the original guest, so the cocktail’s first name was Adam. To keep everyone happy (and not to slight Adam) Honeck slipped the drink onto the cocktail menu with the very egalitarian name Your Name Here. That way, it could be everyone’s drink.
The recipe Honeck settled on contained Rittenhouse rye whiskey, Amaro Nonino, Yellow Chartreuse and a few dashes of orange bitters.
“Rittenhouse is a quality rye whisky — high in proof,” Honeck says. “Its versatility in cocktail recipes is fantastic.” At 100 proof, it’s a lot stronger than most bourbons, which are bottled at 80 proof. It’s also made of rye, and is therefore drier and spicier than bourbon, whis is made largely from corn.
Amaro Nonino is an Italian amaro from Friuli, in Northern Italy. “It falls into the lighter category of amaro,” Honeck says. He's right: it’s not as syrupy as Jagermeister, or as dark. It’s one of the more elegant amari. It’s base is actually grappa, to which botanicals such as gentian root, saffron, licorice, rhubarb and (many) others are added.
The third ingredient, Yellow Chartreuse, is, like Amaro Nonino, another blend of herbs and roots — 130 of them. Unlike Nonino, Chartreuse is from France, where it’s been made since 1737. “Short of that,” Honeck says, “we don’t know too much about it.” The Chartreuse recipe dates back to 1605 and to this day is a closely guarded trade secret, known only to two people at any given time.
“In theory it’s a Negroni-style cocktail,” Honeck says. Like a Negroni, Your Name Here has three base spirits, all added in equal parts. “It’s got something to play on the nose, something sweet, something bitter, something to just bind it all together,” he explains.
Honeck recommends pairing your drink with Brazen’s harissa pork loin ($31), served with Moroccan lemon cous-cous and cauliflower ragout, or the Brussels sprouts ($8), which come with candied bacon, garlic, Parmesan and lemon zest. “The Brussels sprouts are bright and acidic,” Honeck says, “and the brown-sugar candied bacon balances well with the caramel and sugary notes that are in the cocktail.”
Originally from Pittsburgh, Honeck has worked behind the bar in Denver at Tabletop and Acorn. His bartending philosophy results in guest-centered drinks. “You want to try to hit points that everybody is going to enjoy,” he explains. “You can’t assume that everyone is going to enjoy what you enjoy. Overall, it’s about trying to tailor cocktails to the guest and trying to make sure that they are happy.”
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SHOW ME HOW
Your Name Here
1 ounce Rittenhouse rye whiskey
1 ounce Yellow Chartreuse
1 ounce Amaro Nonino
2 dashes Fee Brothers orange bitters
Pour all ingredients into a shaker glass with ice and stir. Pour the mixture into a chilled double Old Fashioned glass.
Garnish with an orange peel.