Collin Griffith wanted to pair a savory drink with a spicy dish on OAK at Fourteenth’s Valentine’s Day menu, so he turned to what he had on hand.
“They had a ton of duck fat that they rendered when duck was on the menu,” explains Griffith, who acts as beverage director for both OAK (1400 Pearl St., Boulder) and its sister to the west on Walnut, Corrida.
Griffith mixed up Dueling Hongos, a mushroom-infused, fat-washed cocktail that balances savory, sweet and earthy flavors. The concoction is a feat of mixology honed over more than a decade slinging drinks, starting in 2010 when Griffith was “doing high-volume turn-and-burn stuff” at Boulder Theater.
“I didn’t ever want to do anything other than bar stuff,” Griffith says. “And I was in love with OAK from its inception.”
Griffith has devoted a sizable chunk of his career to working with restaurateurs Bryan Dayton and Steve Redzikowski, whose Half Eaten Cookie Hospitality is the parent company for OAK and Corrida in Boulder, plus Brider and Melted in Denver.
The longevity of that relationship is what’s put Griffith in the driver’s seat of OAK’s drink program, fashioning inventive cocktails like Dueling Hongos.
Fat-washing cocktails became popular in the late aughts at New York’s Please Don’t Tell (PDT), ground zero for the craft cocktail renaissance. And PDT’s Benton’s Old Fashioned was the breakout star: a traditional bourbon Old-Fashioned laced with maple syrup and infused with the flavor of hickory-smoked Benton’s bacon from Tennessee.
“What we’ve learned as a bar community is that you can really use anything that has fat,” Griffith says. “So oils, peanut, animal proteins, whatever it may be, to not only impart some of the flavor from that fat, but then also add this silky textural feel to the spirit.”
Here, Griffith breaks down Dueling Hongos, plus two other cocktails you’ll find on OAK’s menu in the coming months.
This cocktail is made with Sol Tarasco Hongos, an artisanal sugarcane charanda.
“Think aged rum when you’re thinking about [charanda],” Griffith explains.
To fat-wash the cocktail, Griffith mixes the duck fat with the charanda, freezes the concoction, then strains the fat off with a cheesecloth, leaving behind the flavor of the fat.
The charanda is infused with blue indigo and oyster mushrooms — the same fungi made popular by HBO’s post-apocalyptic, mushroom-zombie show The Last of Us.
“Then, to add some body and spice, we incorporated Laws rye whiskey and Amaro Montenegro to give us a little bit of sugar, a little bit of roundness and a little bit of bitterness,” Griffith says. These two components are tossed in a 5-liter barrel “to add a little more character and kind of tie it all together” before adding demerara sugar and chocolate bitters from Cocktail Punk.
The result is a savory, decadent drink with a silky mouthfeel.
Dueling Hongos will be on OAK’s spring menu, launching at the end of March, “for at least four to six months, if not longer,” Griffith says.
License to Grill
Bartender Eli Korac came up with this cocktail, infusing barbecue flavors in mezcal.
“One of the biggest things that I’ve been working on is trying to get everybody really excited to contribute in some way,” Griffith says.
Before leaving OAK to pursue new ventures in Portland, Chef John Bissel whipped up a barbecued pork chop dish that spawned the idea for “License to Grill.”
“We’re actually taking the barbecue spice rub that they use on the pork chop and we’re cooking that down with pineapple juice and adding a little bit of citric acid to create a syrup.”
Keep an eye out for this cocktail on OAK’s spring menu as well.
Griffith is “reworking” the classic OAK Martini: “We’re going to use a barrel-aged base of Lily Rosé with elderflower liqueur mixed with either gin or vodka from Woody Creek and rhubarb bitters” for an elegant, spring-sipping martini.
“We try to avoid [allergens] as much as we can,” Griffith says of OAK’s approach to menu-making, so the bar team is working on libations with an oat-milk orgeat, a syrup traditionally made from almonds, sugar, and either rose or orange flower water. Oat-milk would replace almonds in the orgeat.
“It’s going to be like a banana meringue,” Griffith says, with blended scotch. Expect this one to be reminiscent of a tiki drink.