Whiskey Drinks Around Honolulu
Whiskey's Back: One Night on the Whiskey Trail with Hawaii’s Best Bartenders
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An amaro is a cousin of vermouth, an Italian digestif. It’s alcohol infused with sometimes dozens of different herbs, spices, barks, roots, flowers, citrus peels.
Amaros were originally thought to be medicinal, with a touch of sweetness to make their extreme bitterness palatable. Amaros can be drunk straight, if you’re Italian or need to show your palate a little tough love. They are better in one of Power’ cocktails.
- In a shaker glass, add 2 ounces bourbon (Power uses Bulleit), 1/2 ounce Dolan Blanc vermouth, 1/2 ounce Amaro Averna and a dash Angostura Bitters. Stir over ice.
- Strain over fresh ice into a highball glass. Finish with a lemon twist.
Chandra Lam, Director of Mixology
Southern Wine & Spirits
Probably the most talked about cocktail event in recent memory was the wedding reception of Daniel Lucariello and Chandra Lam.
Lam is director of mixology at Southern Wine & Spirits, and many of the town’s top bartenders donated their time to mix up their best drinks.
Dave Power had to work, but he dropped off a small keg of a drink called a Bartender’s Handshake, a formidably bitter blend of Campari and Fernet Branca, touched with a little Coca Cola. “Dave took it to the next level,” says Newman. “He didn’t just add Coke, he carbonated the whole thing.”
Lam apparently survived the Bartender’s Handshake. Nevertheless, she wasn’t available to go out on the Whiskey Trail with the bartenders and me, partly because she was going on her honeymoon, partly because she probably has too much sense.
She did, however, come up with one of the most dazzling of the whiskey cocktails.
“I absolutely am a whiskey drinker,” says Lam. “I put this drink together because I wanted all these flavors together. It’s always fun to create a drink just because you want to drink it.”
Lam’s Smokey Aperitif is a symphony of bourbon, honey—and bacon. In fact, the recipe calls for bacon-infused bourbon.
Infusing bourbon with bacon is a tricky process that requires melting bacon fat into the spirit, chilling it until the fat solidifies and then straining out the fat with cheesecloth, leaving only the flavor behind.
Lam suggests Bulleit bourbon, which has a higher percentage of rye than most. That makes it spicier and better able to stand up to the smokiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the honey.
She adds Aperol, an Italian bitter orange aperitif, because the slight bitterness whets your palate for a second sip of the cocktail.
The recipe calls for four or five leaves of basil. Why so much? “Bacon and basil are a match made in heaven,” she insists. “If you have big basil leaves, you can use only three. Anyway, you strain out the basil after you muddle it.”
If infusing your bourbon with bacon sounds like too much trouble, Lam came up with a variation of this drink for Roy Yamaguchi’s Tavern at Princeville.
“They don’t infuse the bourbon, and they use maple syrup instead of honey,” says Lam. “But they just garnish the drink with a big, fat hunk of bacon that you can eat along with the drink, and get the same effect.”
- In a shaker glass, muddle 5 to 6 basil leaves. Then add 2 ounces bacon-Infused Bulleit Bourbon, 1/2 ounce Aperol, 1 ounce fresh lemon sweet-and-sour mix, and 1/4 ounce honey syrup.
- Add ice, shake and strain over ice into bucket glass. Garnish with a basil leaf and strip of crispy bacon.
Four Seasons Maui
Although I’m a writer, not a bartender, several years ago I set out to create a whiskey cocktail that even people who didn’t like whiskey would like. It needed balance: sweet, sour and a touch of bitter. It had to have enough whiskey to be worth a bourbon drinker’s time, but, on first sip, it couldn’t have the whiskey blast that puts off so many drinkers.
I never got it quite right. Then I talked to Dale DeGroff. DeGroff is a legend, the former head bartender of New York’s Rainbow Room, consultant to Sex and the City, author of two definitive cocktail books.
I explained my problem. I had the basic spirits and the bitters, but the balance was off.
Off the top of his head, DeGroff told me what to do. “Don’t muddle oranges, muddle lemon, and use a touch of orange juice.”
About a year later, DeGroff was back in town, doing a cocktail event at the Halekulani. I told him his advice worked. “What did you call the drink?” he asked.
“It’s called a Smile.”