Cocktail menus can be a challenge for craft distilleries. There needs to be a balance between something delicious to entice customers through the doors of the tasting room and unique enough to stick in a drunken memory, with enough variation to appeal to as many tastes as possible, while also helping do the work of selling a few bottles.
As Abbott & Wallace Distilling in Longmont, also known as Longtucky Spirits in some circles, rolls out their spring cocktail menu, truly unique offerings are interspersed with enough classics to tease anyone’s palate. With multiple fat-washed spirits, milk-clarified cocktails and some clever twists on classics, it’s clear that bar manager Chase Riley and the rest of the staff have put a lot of love into the bar menu.
Riley helped develop cocktails for previous seasonal menus at the distillery, he says, but this is the first where he took on the majority of the recipe development. Coming from life as a professional chef, Riley says he’s applied some of those philosophies to the art of the cocktail.
“A huge part of it is learning flavors and how they go together, so I’ve been enjoying doing that with alcohol and seeing what plays together,” Riley says.
Riley’s culinary background stands out with the gin-based “Caprese Martini,” a savory offering that is both a challenge and a delight. A splash of fire-roasted tomato juice adds some body to the spirit-forward martini without turning it into a bloody mary, and cracked pepper offers some sharpness to bring things into balance. A garnish of mozzarella, balsamic reduction and basil is well-placed, a counterpoint to olives as a booze-soaked snack at the end of the drink.
Abbott & Wallace gin was washed with olive oil for the cocktail—a relatively simple technique involving emulsifying gin and olive oil then using freezing temperatures to separate the fat from the alcohol—resulting in a smooth mouthfeel and a richness of flavor that brings the botanical qualities of the gin to the forefront over juniper. It’s worth sampling on its own if you’re a gin drinker or have a strong appetite for the curious.
“I think the caprese is my favorite because it’s so savory,” Riley says. “That’s one thing I’m really trying to lean into more, savory cocktails. You don’t see them very often outside of dry martinis or Gibsons.”
On the sweeter side, the “Blueberry Pie” tastes just like the name says. A sweetened play on a whiskey sour, the pie in a glass combines cinnamon whiskey, clarified butter, blueberry and egg white for a cocktail that very subtly masks any taste of alcohol. A vibrant color and perfectly creamy texture should make this a perfect choice for your friend that doesn’t like cocktails.
Riley also continues to play with milk clarification on the menu, replacing last season’s clarified milk Mai Thai with the “Dragon of the West,” a pleasant mix of green tea, lemon and gin. Milk clarification is a process of using acidic ingredients to separate the solids and particulates from milk. When used in cocktails, it acts as both a filter and preservative while producing a clear libation. Riley says the added benefit of milk-clarifying a cocktail with tea is that it removes the more bitter and astringent qualities.
“The milk in it gives it a really nice, creamy texture you won’t get anywhere else but it’s still pretty light,” Riley says. “It’s a great way to make new flavors.”
Abbott & Wallace is also getting ready for the return of the Kentucky Derby, distillery co-owner John Young says. Derby Day has become an annual tradition for the distillery, honoring the roots of bourbon-making. The celebration on May 7 will be full of big hats and “pony” races, while the Longtucky Juleps flow. Keeping Derby season going a little longer, Young said the distillery will also bring the Julep back to their canned cocktail offerings as well.
The growth in the tasting room has been a slow and steady process, Young says, but some big changes are on the horizon as Abbott & Wallace nears its fifth anniversary. Olive-oil washed martinis aren’t the only savory flavor—Young is waiting on the final paperwork to expand into a distillery pub. The change won’t have any immediate effect on their spirits production or distribution, he says, but does allow them to start serving beer, wine and food.
The soft launch of the new food offerings is aimed for mid-May, Young says, with a full launch of the menu and a re-grand-opening slated for June. The distillery won’t be building out a full kitchen just yet, he explains, though it could be an option for the future. The idea is to partner with other local purveyors for the meals, continuing to support the community that has shown them so much love already.
“We’re still focused on the libations but we’re hoping to have more substantial food options for people who want it and hopefully people stick around for another round,” Young says.