The Hawthorne at LoHi SteakBar
When he worked at a tequila bar, Stephen Malling enjoyed pairing tequila with blood-orange juice. But LoHi SteakBar, where he’s been running the bar for nearly a year, leans more toward whiskey than tequila. And that’s just fine with Malling. “I wanted to have a prominent whiskey cocktail that could appeal to everyone that liked whiskey,” he says, “but also to those that didn’t like whiskey.” Sticking with the blood-orange theme, he matched a high-proof rye whiskey with ginger liqueur, lemon juice, ginger beer and a syrup he made with sugar, blood-orange peel and vinegar, naming he drink the Hawthorne after the diner in the movie Pulp Fiction. “We were trying to hit that sweet spot between approachability and being able to taste the whiskey,” he adds. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job with this.”
Here’s what he combined to hit that sweet spot:
1.5 ounces Knob Creek rye whiskey
.75 ounce Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur
.75 ounce blood orange-ginger shrub
.25 ounce lemon juice
.25 ounce Rocky Mountain Soda Company’s Golden Ginger Beer
Malling knew he’d have to base his recipe on a strong whiskey to hold up to the ginger. “I like the Knob Creek rye because it’s 100-proof,” he says, “and that it would come out really well in a cocktail.” Malling likes the peppery flavors of rye whiskey. “Some bourbons can be just a little bit too sweet for me, just from their corn content.” Ryes, he explains, display vanilla and baking spice flavors, with dried fruit flavors that develop as the whiskey ages.
Malling added ginger to the Hawthorne in two ways: with Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur, made in Brooklyn, and with a vinegar-based syrup called a shrub. Of Barrow's, he says, “If you drink it by itself, it’s going to make you take a deep breath real quick, because it has such prominent ginger profile. The name says it all — it’s an intense ginger liqueur.”
For the shrub, Malling combined the peels of about ten pounds of blood oranges and mixed them with slices of ginger and white sugar, letting it all macerate for a day. “It gets all nice and goopy,” Malling explains. “You get a bunch of liquid out of that.”
He juiced what was left of the blood oranges, adding the juice to the syrup along with an equal amount of apple-cider vinegar, then strained out the ginger and orange peels. “Blood oranges are less tart then regular oranges,” he continues, “So apple-cider vinegar adds a little more depth, a little bit more character that goes really well with the blood-orange flavor.”
After pouring all the ingredients into a shaker tin with ice, Malling adds about a quarter-ounce of ginger beer, then shakes the ingredients, straining them into a glass with no ice. After sampling several brands of ginger beer, Malling settled on Rocky Mountain Soda Company’s Golden Ginger Beer, made in Denver with water, evaporated cane sugar, ginger, natural lime extract and pepper. “The ginger beer lightens up the cocktail a little bit,” he explains. “It adds a little bit of effervescence and a texture that I wanted. It adds a little bit more of that ginger flavor without sweetening it up too much.”
“It’s such a cool combination of flavors,” the bartender explains. “This is definitely our most popular cocktail.”
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.