The “signature cocktail”…the mark of a well-executed Southern brunch, a tailgate or any porch party. I grew up in Virginia, and I was taught that a Southern host must master at least one signature cocktail. (I was also supposed to learn the family recipe for triple layer coconut cake, chicken salad, and sourdough rolls)
Fast forward to 2018. The signature cocktail has been roaring back for the past few years. Virginia has seen a surge in both new distilleries and in the cocktail market. Custom, craft cocktails are being served in bars across the Commonwealth. 2018 is poised to be the year of the Commonwealth Cocktail.
Cocktail classes are sold out weeks in advance. I know, I tried to grab a seat in a class in Charlottesville, Virginia. Determined to build an at-home bar that would wow any hospitality coach, I went on a search to find a source for Southern cocktail recipes.
A Local Spirit
First, I went to the Virginia Distillery Company web site. (vadistillery.com) I am from a family of whiskey drinkers and happen to have some Virginia Distillery whiskey on hand. I have visited their Nelson County, Virginia Visitor’s Center many times and always enjoy their Signature Cocktail tasting flight. The distillery rotates a collection of custom cocktails on their tasting flight and provides the recipes on their website.
Along with whiskey, I also enjoy coffee. As I am scrolling through the current recipes on the Virginia Distillery website, the Highland Coffee catches my attention. This signature cocktail was created by Nathan Simon of Tarrant’s West in Richmond, Virginia. As an added bonus, the suggested garnish is a piece of crispy maple bacon. Whisky—Coffee—Bacon for the Win!
We serve Trager Brothers Coffee at our house. One hot Virginia Summer, Will Trager taught me the art of making cold-brew at home. The Highland Coffee is not a hot cocktail, it is served ice cold. Perfect for any hour or season. I start my quest for the ideal coffee cocktail by making some Trager Brothers cold brew.
Cold Brew on hand, I try to master the Highland Coffee. It was a great success and will be the highlight of a Spring brunch. The Highland Coffee has three necessary ingredients. Here is the recipe:
2 oz Virginia Highland Malt Whisky
4 oz Cold Brew Coffee
1 oz Maple Syrup Reduction
Add all ingredients in mixing glass with ice, shake and strain into cocktail glass, top with whipped cream and garnish with a strip of crispy maple bacon. For extra zip, also garnish with a drizzle of the maple syrup reduction. Whisky—Coffee—Bacon heaven in a cocktail glass.
A Local Book & a Local Peach Sour
After mastering the Highland Coffee cocktail, I had a boost of confidence. Maybe I could master a few new cocktails with a Commonwealth of Virginia vibe.
I purchased the book, The IMBIBLE: A Cocktail Guide for Beginning and Home Bartenders by Micah LeMon
Micah LeMon, the bar manager at the James Beard Award-nominated Alley Light in Charlottesville, Virginia, has been crafting cocktails for more than two decades. Many call him the Ambassador of Cocktails. In 2017, LeMon released his book, The IMBIBLE.
One Saturday morning, I downloaded The IMBIBLE to my iPad. But could I master a few cocktails over the weekend?
A test. Micah LeMon presents a unique technique to the art of mixology. I am a beginner, and I was going to test his system.
The Bourbon Peach Sour also caught my attention. I am a Bourbon drinker. The IMBIBLE showcases an entire range of spirts, but this weekend I am going to focus on my beloved Bourbon.
I usually pick up my Virginia peaches at Chiles Peach Orchard in Crozet, VA. So, to ensure that my version of the Peach Sour is a true local, I pick up some peaches from Chiles.
Although I am a mixology novice, it doesn’t take me long to master the Peach Sour. The key ingredient to my success is the book, The IMBIBLE. Micah LeMon provides an easy-to-follow method, and he uses photographs as a teaching tool. Well done. It is a book, by a local Mixology Ambassador and author, that will remain on my iPad.
I have now mastered two signature cocktails and have added a local twist to each. It is time to plan a Spring brunch. I need to go master the family recipe for chicken salad on homemade sourdough rolls and that triple decker coconut cake.