Balancing a cocktail's sweet and sour components is often like threading a needle: too much sugar turns your taste buds into a swamp of sweetness; too much lemon juice can dry them right out. Stoic & Genuine's Ginger Crane ($12) hits that balance like a cat on a fence post, resulting in a great mix of frosty sweetness and wintry depth.
And it all started at a wedding.
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In 2011, when Stoic & Genuine co-owner Jennifer Jasinski got married, guests at the wedding were served granita, an Italian dessert made by freezing flavored water or juice, then scraping the top of the frozen liquid to produce a mound of slushy flakes, very much like sorbet. Jasinski, also the co-owner of Bistro Vendome, Rioja and Euclid Hall, had the idea to someday incorporate that dessert in a cocktail list.
When Stoic & Genuine opened earlier this year, bar manager Jessica Cann brought to life that idea of the "slushy" cocktail. She combined Bulleit bourbon, Pimm's, ginger liqueur, lemon juice and sugar with a cranberry-apple granita to make the Ginger Crane.
All granitas start in Stoic & Genuine's kitchen. For the granita used in the Ginger Crane, Jasinski juices fresh cranberries and Pink Lady apples, freezing the scarlet-colored liquid in a shallow metal pan. And that's where Cann steps in.
"Chef Jen comes up with the granita flavors," she says. "Then we go through the ideas collectively with the staff. Everybody comes up with ideas of what we think would be good in cocktails."
"You think about all the fall things," she says of the inspiration for the Ginger Crane. "Thanksgiving, the holidays. Memories that stick with you."
Cranberries and apples certainly evoke autumn, but so do other ingredients in Cann's cocktail, such as a ginger liqueur (think gingerbread) and Pimm's, a dark-brown British liqueur, full of the aroma of herbs and botanicals.
While each granita drink is different (there are three of them currently on the menu), they are most often served deconstructed -- the granita alone in a cocktail glass, with a separate beaker on the side containing all other liquid ingredients. When you order one, you get to add the booze to the granita, making your own cocktail.
"It's something fresh, something different," Cann says of her granita drinks. "I don't think anyone else is doing a granita program in Denver, or anywhere that I know of. It's a different take on a cocktail that you're not seeing anyplace else." And they're selling well. "We go through a ridiculous amount of granita per week," she adds. "It's working out very well for us. It's a fun little program we've got going."
Unique to icy cocktails such as the Ginger Crane is that the flavor can shift over time, as the ice melts. "When you first take a sip of it," Cann explains, "it's going to be boozy and cocktail-heavy. As the granita melts, you get more of the cranberry flavor."
The shaved-ice concept isn't limited to cocktails. "We're also using the granita for oysters," Cann says. "You can get oysters topped with a sherry or cucumber granita." Oysters also pair well with a horseradish-tomato granita, "which you can use instead of cocktail sauce," Cann says.
Granita cocktails will continue to be a cornerstone of Cann's cocktail menu. "We try to feature a lot of them," she says. "They're like an adult slushy, and who doesn't like a boozy slushy?"
Ginger Crane 1 ounce Bulleit bourbon .5 ounce Pimm's .5 ounce Stirring's ginger liqueur .5 ounce lemon juice .5 ounce simple syrup
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Pour over two ounces of granita (you're on your own for that).