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Photo by Chris Casella

Bar Bet

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. With 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—(614) presents Bar Bet, a special cocktail challenge for bartenders to come up with a cocktail using a weird ingredient of their challenger’s choice.

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There are certain foods that seem to find their niche in the public consciousness and stay there. At some point in the last two months, you probably consumed pumpkin pie for the first and final time in 2014, this is because the months of October and November, and specifically the days surrounding Thanksgiving, are the times we as a society have deemed it appropriate to eat pumpkin pie. Of course, this was once based around when pumpkins grew, but if you haven’t noticed, that stuff is available in a can year-round, and despite that fact, no one is setting up a pumpkin pie tent at ComFest every year.

Seasons aren’t the only deciding factors of when we consume certain foods. Take Combos for instance, or their full name Combinations, as my girlfriend refers to them. As far as I’m concerned, these tubular snacks are pretty gross 99 percent of the time. The one exception? Road trips. If you put me in a car for more than a few hours, or long enough to necessitate a stop to refuel, I will make a beeline for the Combo aisle as soon as the car is parked. My road trip only snack list also includes sunflower seeds, Flaming Hot Cheetos, and of course, beef jerky. Last month, when Travis Owens of Curio challenged Sean Ward of Giuseppe’s Ritrovo to create a cocktail using beef jerky, I was secretly hoping that the cocktail would consist of eating a Slim Jim followed by pounding a tall boy in a gas station bathroom.

Well clearly Sean has also had similar road trip experiences, because the final result wasn’t that far off, if a bit more refined. I present to you, this month’s entry into Bar Bet:

Truck Stop Tango

2 oz. Tres Agave Reposado tequila infused with Jack Links peppered beef jerky

.75 oz. house ancho chile liqueur

.5 oz. fresh lime juice

.5 oz. simple syrup

2 dashes of jalapeño tincture

Spiced Frito dust rim

Miller High Life (pony bottle) sidecar

Let’s just start with presentation on this one: exquisite. The Frito rim speckled with Mexican spices, topped off with a lime  wheel and a couple pieces of jerky from Bluescreek Farms in the North Market, and lest we forget, that adorable little bottle of champagne (of beers). The more obvious direction to go when infusing a spirit with beef jerky would have been bourbon, but the tequila is a perfect fit. As for the process?

“It was an interesting experiment of how to get that actual beef jerky flavor,” Ward said. It definitely wasn’t as simple as throwing some jerky in the bottle. He used a small amount of high proof vodka to extract the flavor first, and then added a few ounces of the extraction to the bottle of tequila. This process seems to have done the trick, allowing the pepper, and smoke of the jerky to mingle perfectly with the agave, lime, and heat from the ancho and jalapeño. The entry is all spice and citrus, giving way to earthy agave, sweet sugar, salt and pepper, and smoke, and finishes with that distinctive corn chip flavor and another kick of spice. Take a sip of the High Life bottle and it all comes together. The Great American Road Trip of flavors.

Going full circle back to seasonally appropriate ingredients, for next month’s Bar Bet, Sean has challenged Nicole Hollerman of Veritas Tavern to create a cocktail using candy canes. In the meantime, head over to Bexley and stop in at Giuseppe’s to try the Truck Stop Tango while you still can.

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