Beast + Bottle 719 East 17th Avenue 303-623-3223
The staff at Beast + Bottle regularly visits local farms and breweries to taste fresh products, which eventually find their way on to the farm-to-table restaurant's dinner and drink menus. One of those farms supplies watercress, which fell into the hands of beverage manager Jon Feuersanger, who liked its bitter, grassy taste. Related to wasabi, radishes and mustard, the zesty watercress plant loves to be around water; in fact, it's often cultivated hydroponically. Feuersanger found out that water isn't the only liquid it likes to be around -- it also pairs well with rum.
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For a farm-to-table restaurant, the origin of meat and produce is a big deal. "It's very significant," Feuersanger says. The watercress he's using is currently being grown in local greenhouses. A bag of fresh watercress is dropped off at the restaurant twice weekly. "We get it from Anderson Acres," he continues. "Right now, we're getting a bunch of fresh herbs from them, and this is one of my favorites. The watercress keeps getting better and better."
Feuersanger combines that fresh watercress with rum, spiced pear liqueur, ginger syrup, lemon juice and a house-made cinnamon-sugar syrup to make drink he calls Rum Like Hell ($12).
"I remember when I first tasted it in early fall," Feuersanger says of St. George spiced pear liqueur. "I had to put it into one of our cocktails. It has a cinnamon-y, really warm, winter pear flavor. I just wanted to find a way to incorporate it into a cocktail. When I first tasted it, I knew I had to have it. It's so good."
But Rum Like Hell is, of course, a rum drink.
Feuersanger uses Mount Gay silver rum, made from fermented molasses and aged a minimum of two years in used whiskey barrels. It's produced in Barbados, which is generally considered to be the birthplace of rum. It's smooth and sweet and, at 80 proof, perfect for mixing.
"That's pretty much the backbone," Feuersanger says. "It's one of our go-to rums around here. It has some sweetness and also a nice balance of alcohol. It's not too hot, not too sweet -- it's right down the middle."
To balance the pepperiness of the watercress, Feuersanger makes two different syrups: one is flavored with ginger, the other with sugar and cinnamon. For the first, Feuersanger peels ginger and blends it until it renders its juices. To that juice he adds sugar and heats them both until a syrup is formed. His cinnamon syrup calls for demerara sugar which, as an unrefined sugar, is golden brown in color and very flavorful. Feuersanger simmers it with water, takes it off the heat, and adds a stick of cinnamon while it's still hot to infuse the flavors into the syrup.
"I love adding a little bit of the heat of ginger in a tasteful amount," he says. "It' s nice way to add spice to a cocktail. I think it really brings out the spice in the pear liqueur."
In a shaker glass, he adds a few sprigs of watercress, the syrups, lemon juice and all the booze, then shakes it all vigorously with ice. Shaking helps to break up the watercress and integrate its flavors into the rest of the liquids.
"It kind of walks a couple of different lines," Feuersanger says of his recipe, "because you definitely get a nice amount of fresh citrus, and a little bit of ginger spice. I really feel that the spiced pear shines through."
When the ingredients are shaken and strained into a tall glass filled with ice, they are topped with several dashes of crimson-colored Peychaud's bitters, which bleed down into the heart of the drink.
"The bitters add another layer on top of the cocktail to kind of round out some of that acid and sweetness, Feuersanger says. "Then you definitely get a nice touch of bitter, pepperiness from the watercress. It just finishes so nice."
"Since I took over the beverage program, I've got a lot of ambitious ideas," Feuersanger says, who has been heading up the bar program at Beast + Bottle for the past five months. He landed there after spending the last year and a half at Second Home in Cherry Creek.
"I like to look at what we have coming in seasonally, especially working with chef Paul Reilly," he says, "because he's got an up-to-date list of all the products coming in from local farmers. I'm already starting to think about spring cocktails and all the produce we're going to be getting, which I'm really excited about."
Feuersanger recommends pairing the cocktail with a salad called Local Lettuces ($8) on Beast + Bottle's dinner menu, which includes the Anderson Farms watercress, dried cherries, candied pumpkin seeds, goat cheese and a white balsamic dressing.
Rum Like Hell 1.5 ounces Mount Gay silver rum 1 ounce St. George Spiced Pear liqueur 1 ounce ginger syrup .5 ounce fresh lime juice .5 ounce cinnamon-demerara syrup 5 sprigs of watercress
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SHOW ME HOW
Shake all ingredients, including the watercress and strain into a tall glass with ice. Top with a few dashes of Peychaud bitters. Garnish with a sprig of watercress and a Maraschino cherry.