To celebrate National Cocktail Day — March 24 — we spoke with a couple of local cocktail connoisseurs, as well as the 2022 U.S. Bartender of the Year, about the art of mixology, what’s hip, and their favorite spring recipes.
Johnny Adair, Bar Manager, Farow
Johnny Adair puts a few drops of bitters into a customer’s upturned palm and instructs her to rub her hands together before she takes a whiff.
“Watching you make drinks is a joy,” the customer tells Adair as she takes in the loamy musk of green peanuts.
Adair, bar manager at Niwot’s Farow, has made the bitters for a drink he’s submitted to the Catoctin Creek Mixology Contest. It’s a variation on a whiskey-based vieux carré, with a bonus creamy foam on top.
His drink menu, like Farow’s food, follows the seasons. Adair’s take on an espresso martini is perfect for changing weather.
2 oz Nimbus Costa Rican cold brew 1.5 oz Brandy or cognac
.75 oz chocolate-infused Averna
.75 oz heavy cream
.5 oz demerara syrup
Combine everything in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until the tins are frosty. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Dust with Venus Hawaij spice.
Chocolate infused Averna:
1 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate
8 oz Averna
Combine the two ingredients and infuse at room temp for two days. Strain and store at room temperature.
1 cup demerara sugar or sugar in the raw
1 cup water
Bring ingredients to a boil until sugar dissolves. Pour into a heat proof jar. Refrigerate.
Amy Caccamo, Lead Bartender, Gemini
Amy Caccamo leads the bar team at Gemini, where her cocktails provide a backdrop for Spanish-style tapas.
“It sounds lame, but TikTok and Instagram are what drive trends,” Caccamo says, like the infamous negroni sbagliato that gained popularity several months ago after a video of British actor Emma D’Arcy calling the drink her favorite went viral.
Caccamo likes to keep things simple.
“I’m a sucker for classics,” she says. “One of my favorite drinks is a caipirinha. … I like a classic gin and tonic, but I make my own tonic. So I’m a sucker for the classics — just make them yours.”
Here’s Caccamo’s spring caipirinha.
1 oz cachaça
1 oz fino sherry
1 oz basil pineapple syrup (Make a simple syrup, like Adair’s demerara, and add basil leaves and some muddled pineapple to the mix as it cools. Strain before using.)
Half a lime
Muddle lime in the bottom of the glass. Mix in cachaça, fino and syrup. Shake it and “dirty dump” all contents.
Jessi Pollak, 2022 U.S. Bartender of the Year
When she’s not winning national bartending competitions, Jessi Pollak is the bar manager at Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis.
Pollak had a different experience from Caccamo: “I was sure the negroni sbagliato was going to take off after that House of the Dragon TikTok thing, but it hasn’t really happened,” she says. She sees people enjoying espresso martinis, dirty martinis, spicy margaritas and old fashioneds.
“The most exciting trend, to me,” she says, “is low- and no-ABV cocktails showing up on menus all over the country.”
Her submission is a zero-ABV sipper.
1 oz Seedlip Grove 42 (or use a London Dry Gin)
.75 oz Raspberry Honey Syrup
.5 oz Lemon Juice
2 oz club soda
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with 2 oz club soda and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a lemon peel.
To make Raspberry honey syrup:
1 cup clean raspberries
1 cup raw local honey
1 cup water
Combine all ingredients in a pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir until raspberries easily fall apart, then cut heat and allow to cool. Once cool, strain.