Whiskey Drinks Around Honolulu
Whiskey's Back: One Night on the Whiskey Trail with Hawaii’s Best Bartenders
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- In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle a slice of lemon peel, two or three mint leaves, 1/2 ounce Campari and 1 teaspoon of confectioner’s sugar.
- Add 1-3/4 ounces bourbon, and a splash of hibiscus-infused simple syrup and fresh juice from half a lime.
- Shake with ice.
- Put a splash of Pernod and a splash of Wild Turkey bourbon in the bottom of another (preheated) lowball glass, light it on fire until the Pernod and whiskey burn off. Add fresh ice; strain the drink into the prepared glass and stir.
Kyle Reutner and Maria Burke
Reutner and Burke own Imbibe Hawaii, the company named best cocktail caterer in HONOLULU Magazine. The two also tend bar some nights around town. Burke is a manager at Crazy Box and tends bar at Nobu. Reutner makes drinks at Apartment 3 and Town.
The Cocchi Cop is Reutner’s recipe, but it was Burke, working that night at Nobu, who made it for us. Both get credit here for this light, refreshing, and far from dull drink. It’s a great introduction to whiskey for drinkers of clear spirits.
The key ingredient, besides bourbon, is Cocchi Americano. Cocchi is a little known Italian aperitif, a white wine infused with herbs and a touch of quinine.
The more famous French aperitif, Lillet, was reformulated in the 1980s. Part of Cocchi’s growing allure is that it tastes like the original Lillet, the one James Bond used in his classic Vesper martini. Cocchi Americano is available in Hawaii bars, but no retailer carries it, not yet, anyway.
- Build in a tall glass over ice: 1-1/4 ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon, 3/4 ounce. Cocchi Americano, 1/2 ounce Lemon juice.
- Top the drink with Fever Tree Ginger Beer, stir. Don’t garnish, the drink stands on its own.
Lewers Lounge, Halekulani
Thyme to Roll
From Nobu, it’s just a hop across the street to where Tim Rita is just opening up Lewers Lounge.
It’s interesting to sit down at a bar with other bartenders. They immediately survey the bottles on the back bar. It’s partly envy (look at Lewers Lounge’s array of cognacs, including Louis XV) and partly one-upmanship (you don’t have a bottle of Cocchi Americano?).
Rita is constantly coming up with new drink menus, keyed to events. For instance, for Oscar season, he created Mickey’s Ward (Jameson’s Irish Whiskey, Orange Curacao and maraschino liqueur, touches of lemon, mint and Peychaud’s Bitters), a drink that Newman and Reutner think is excellent.
Rita’s latest menu honors the Tinman Triathlon, and he’s come up with one of the most approachable whiskey cocktails ever, called Thyme to Roll.
“It’s for the bike leg of the Triathlon,” he says, “but it’s really about combining thyme with fresh blueberries. I find I sell more whiskey if the drinks are friendlier.”
Asked for the recipe, he wants to write it down. “I want to get it right.”
“He doesn’t want me to hear,” insists Newman. “He knows I’m going to steal the recipe. I’m going to anyway, Tim.”
Thyme to Roll
- In a shaker combine 1-1/2 ounces Maker’s Mark, 1/2 ounce Orange Curacao, 1/2 ounce lemon juice and 1 ounce blueberry and thyme syrup (which Rita cooks up himself, from scratch).
- Pour over ice and garnish with five or six berries and a sprig of thyme.
“Dave Power can do wonders with whiskey,” says Dave Newman. Which is why we end the evening at the bar at Town. Power tries to strike a perfect balance between classic drinks and the modern palate.
The drink he made us was, as he puts it, “not quite a Manhattan, because it’s got an Italian twist.” Power calls it a Nolita, for the Italian neighborhood of Manhattan where Martin Scorsese grew up.
In bartender lingo, a “perfect” Manhattan uses both sweet and dry vermouth. Power uses premium dry vermouth from France, Dolin Blanc.
However—here’s the Italian twist—instead of sweet vermouth, he adds Amaro Averno.
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