Bartenders, while a friendly bunch, can sometimes be a bit competitive. Each season, as new menus roll out across town, there is a bit of cocktail envy that inevitably takes place.
While he almost certainly wasn’t the first person to do it, I still remember trying Phillip Richardson’s beet-infused cocktail at Basi Italia, and lamenting the fact that I hadn’t thought of that myself. Joe Peppercorn, a veteran of some of the best bars in town, once created a tongue-in-cheek shot with muddled hot fries, and while it was patently awful, I found myself strangely jealous of the comedic execution. There is a seemingly endless pool of ingredients to choose from when formulating a new drink, and a similarly endless list of failed attempts to use them. Don’t worry though, that doesn’t stop us from trying.
It is in the spirit of exploration, comedy, and competition, that we begin Bar Bet, a special cocktail challenge from (614), and who better to start with than Travis Owens, owner of Curio at Harvest. Here’s how it works:
We challenge [bartender] to come up with a cocktail using an ingredient of their choice. They work their magic, and then present us with the results. We take a pretty picture, write about what they made and print it right in this space. And then, if you’re quick, you can go try the adventurous libation at the bartender’s spot. Go ahead and look to the right – yep, there it is. Travis gets to pick the next bartender and the next ingredient. Then that bartender picks the next, and on and on we go down the weird cocktail wormhole. Got it? Alright, here we go.
Travis, having opened his bar with a kale-infused margarita, is no stranger to the strange ingredient. With that in mind, we chose something that feels more at home on a potato chip than poured over chipped ice, more akin to a casserole than a cocktail: green onion. Travis of course wasn’t phased, and when we discussed the idea over a drink or two at his bar, he simply responded “give me a week.”
A week later, I found myself sitting at that same bar, with what looked like a drink I would consume poolside in Tahiti. Yes, it had a tiny umbrella, but it also featured plastic monkeys hanging from the rim of the glass, and a long green onion in place of the straw. Not what I was expecting on a cold rainy Monday in Columbus, but it did let me pretend I wasn’t stuck in Columbus on a cold rainy Monday. Travis said he began toying with the idea of making Verdita, a traditional accompaniment to mezcal and tequila throughout southern Mexico, consisting of pineapple, jalapeño, cilantro, and mint. Travis’s version omits the cilantro, and adds kaffir lime leaves, agave nectar, and of course, green onion. “Green things typically go well with other green things,” he noted. “They have an affinity for each other, flavor-wise.”
The green onion Verdita is then combined with Vida mezcal, Rhum J.M., Combier, and a touch more lime juice, shaken, and strained over crushed ice. The result is a well-balanced and refreshing concoction that, much like it’s appearance, will transport you from your current Midwest surroundings. The grassy vegetal notes in the Rhum J.M. fit the drink perfectly, and the smoke of the mezcal adds another layer of complexity. The green onion comes in on the back end, leaving you with a savory finish that adds to the mystery of this bizarre and beautiful libation. Do yourself a favor and get over to Curio at Harvest and order The Greenhorn, while supplies last.
Oh yeah, we almost forgot – Sean Ward, you’re next. Travis challenges you to use beef jerky in a drink before this time next month. We’re excited, and a bit terrified to stop in at Guiseppe’s Ritrovo to see what you’ve come up with. See you then!