When we left home in September, I said farewell to my bar, and figured that while this year would be rich in many experiences, elaborate cocktails would not be a particular focus. (As I said to Linda, if you’ve just spent the day hiking in Yellowstone and you need a drink, there’s something wrong.) That has largely been true (except for Mardi Gras). I thought I could get by with the occasional drink in a restaurant, but after having the worst Manhattan ever made in a Chinese restaurant in Framingham, I decided that that approach was just too risky, and I’ve been keeping the necessary ingredients for an excellent Manhattan in the back of the truck ever since. ( I think that walking into a friend’s house with a portable Manhattan bar has been a major reason we’ve been welcomed everywhere, along with Greta’s sterling personality.)
There have been some memorable drinks along the way (Boston, Charlottesville, New Orleans, Dallas, Austin come to mind), but in all those cases, it’s really been the quality of the company I remember more than the drinks. However, in Tempe Arizona, I came across the first cocktail that made me sit up and pay attention.
We were having Easter dinner at Culinary Dropout, a gigantic, relatively new gastropub located in some big old shed buildings. Greta had found it on Yelp, where the reviews were uniformly good (she’ll be blogging about the food at some point). When I looked at the menu and saw Carpano Antica being used, I realized that the bartender knew a thing or two.
After trying to gauge my comfort level (did I like sweety drinks, or did I like mescal?), our knowledgeable waitress recommended the Operation Domino. I am a big believer in drinking the local stuff, so mescal sounded right for Tempe (and their Manhattan sounded too much like my own.) The ingredients are: Montelobos mescal, Campari, Jaime Torres Valencia Orange (a Spanish orange brandy liqueur) Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and a lemon twist.
It was superb. The smokiness and depth of the mescal was apparent, but beyond that, nothing dominated. The bitterness of the Campari balanced the sweetness of the vermouth and orange liqueur perfectly. If I had to compare it to another drink, I’d say it was like a Boulevardier, with overtones of the orange.
Greta is such a better writer about flavors than I am, that I got her to smell it, but she was too absorbed with the soft pretzel / provolone fondue to care. So I’ll just stop here with the description. I can only hope that Minott has the proportions on this one worked out by the time I get back to Oregon.