"I've always been a huge fan of Manhattans. That was kind of the base for it." That's Dustin Lawlor, head bartender at the Kitchen in downtown Denver, talking about Lux & Ivy, his latest whiskey cocktail. He's also a huge fan of punk rock band the Cramps, using the names of the husband and wife duo who fronted the band for the name of the drink.
See Also: Behind The Scenes At The Kitchen Denver
Lawlor's recipe starts with Bulleit rye whiskey. "I like that rye in cocktails," he says. "It's soft. It doesn't go over the top." To this he adds Strega, Cynar and Vya. He stirs all ingredients over ice, then strains them into a cocktail glass.
His play on a Manhattan calls for reducing the amount of sweet vermouth (represented here by California-made Vya) and making up the difference with two Italian liqueurs that add interesting herbal notes.
"Strega is something that I like a lot," Lawlor says. "There are just so many different flavors in Strega that aren't in vermouth. The liqueur (which derives its name from the Italian word for "witch") has been made in Italy since 1860, and is usually compared to Galliano or yellow Chartreuse. Saffron gives Strega it's yellow color and is only one of its 70 herbal ingredients, which also include mint, fennel and juniper. The actual recipe is known by only a few of the liqueur's producers. "It's one of those things where what's in it is kind of a secret," Lawlor adds.
"People always ask me what I can make with Cynar," Lawlor says of this bitter Italian liqueur made from a mash of 13 herbs and plants -- predominantly artichoke. "So here's something I can point to on the menu that has Cynar in it."
Lawlor, who has worked at The Kitchen since they opened at 16th and Wazee in March 2011, enjoys making simple, unpretentious cocktails. "I don't use six ingredients when four ingredients work," he says. "I try to treat cocktails the same way we treat our food," he continues, "which is simple, and not overly complicated. We use the freshest ingredients whenever possible."
"I hope they're getting something that's more complex than they are expecting," he explains, "something that leaves them warm and ready to head on to the next place and try something else new."
Lux & Ivy 1.5 ounces Bulleit rye whiskey .75 ounce Vaya sweet vermouth .5 ounce Strega .5 ounce Cynar Stir all ingredients over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange peel.