From traditional absinthe service (without the legendary sidecar of cuckoo) to that tiki torchlight classic the zombie, Beehive State imbibers have a bounty of bevvies at their boozy fingertips. We've curated an arsenal of aperitifs, local ingredients and top-notch purveyors all available in our salty city and beyond. The most wonderful thing about this list? It was really damn hard to limit the mix to 26 stars in the spotlight. Here's a hearty "Cheers" to our city's great bars, talented brewmasters and distillers, ingredient artisans and all of the folks who are raising the bar of craft spirits statewide.A is for Absinthe
Yes, really. Think subbing out the soda part of any highball with an appropriately profiled beer and enjoy the depth of flavor and zing it'll bring to the glass. Hops havens like Squatters (multiple locations, Squatters.com) and Beer Bar (161 E. 200 South, 801-355-3618, BeerBarSLC.com) have been bringing this beery boozefest to local glasses with much acclaim. Locals can try a spin on Brazil's national cocktail with a Caipbeerinha at Beer Bar, a perfect refresher on their sunny patio while live-streaming the Olympics from Rio, perhaps (and without the risk of Zika. Yikes). And the fine folks at East Liberty Tap House (850 E. 900 South, 801-441-2845, EastLibertyTapHouse.com) have been keeping us surprised since they opened in February of 2015 with a beer or cider cocktail on rotation on the drink menu. Said ELTH owner Scott Evans shortly after the tavern's opening, "In a market where most of the beer tap handles look the same, we're bringing in more hard-to-find imports, seasonal brews, Belgian sours and hard ciders."
Cold Brew Coffee
Think of it as the hot (er, cool?) mix of choice for summertime sipping. Get your caffeine fix and booze rations in all in one go with this beaut of a bottled mix-in. Try local favorites like La Barba Capitol Black Cold Brew or pick up artisan java by the jar at spots like Caputo's Market (multiple locations, CaputosDeli.com).
Here's my personal jumped-up spin on the Kentucky classic of my formative drinking years, the mint julep:
Cold Brew Julep:
To a mixing glass add 1.5 ounces bourbon, 2 dashes chocolate bitters, 1.5 ounces (or more, to taste) simple syrup and 2.5 ounces cold brew coffee.
Stir for 40-50 revolutions with cracked ice, strain into a tall glass filled with ice.
Float a bit of cream on the top if desired. Garnish with mint. Sip through a straw. Sigh.
Chugging on brews like a crisp Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen in the outfield watching Salt Lake Bees baseball is one of the best ways to spend time during a Saturday double-header. Or our favorite way to skip out of the office? A Thirsty Thursday lunch date, where $10 gets you seats anywhere in the ballpark and a hot dog with soda. To gild that already fab lily, 12-ounce pours of domestic draft beers are only $2.75 during all Thursday games. How's that for a home run? The fine print: There's a limit of two per customer in line, and you'll probably finish one on the way back to your seat, so plan ahead. And only in Utah are the lines for beer usually shorter than for ice cream. The exception? On Thirsty Thursdays, the lines for microbrews and faves like Shock Top stack up early.
Eldredge, Amy: Badass Bartender
Whatever you do, don't call her a mixologist. As Ms. Eldredge told a rapt crowd of food and drink aficionados at a recent PechaKucha event held at Publik Coffee, "It's a ridiculous term. ... I'm proud to be a bartender." She's the bar consultant and drinks program developer for such hot spots as Under Current and Rye (239 S. 500 East, 801-364-4655, RyeSLC.com) and past president of the Utah Chapter of the U.S. Bartenders' Guild. Ask her why she loves being a bartender and you'll hear: "I've always been a creative type, and I've dabbled in a lot of mediums like music, cooking, writing and painting." Eldredge later found her niche in cocktails and soon realized "the sky was the limit" when she started experimenting with fresh juice and syrups, rediscovered reclaimed spirits, "and the technicality and precision that I've always respected in any craft." On her fellow cocktail masters, she says, "The community of cocktail is such an eclectic group of like-minded peers and I love being a part of a collective team. I love my career because I can be expressive with creativity, I meet new and interesting people every day—many of whom end up becoming dear friends—and I can be myself." Among our city's cocktail cognoscenti, Eldredge has been a champion for recognizing the skill of professional bartenders, and is an ardent critic of the Zion Curtain, which as she said at that same PechaKucha presentation, "is an institution that undermines everything about the art of cocktails." She believes that customers deserve to see the ingredients, care and skill that goes into making their drinks, which can be seen at a bar, but not at a bewildering mishmash of restaurants in Utah. Eldredge has mentored countless bartenders from coast to coast, and is a huge supporter of booze education. At Under Current, she's been instrumental in setting up the types of classes that were previously reserved for industry-only attendees. Now curious civilians can learn about subjects like absinthe, artisan bitters and rare Italian amari with a slew of experts at the bar's sold-out classes held every few weeks.
Kudos to Salt Lake Valley's Momentum Recycling (Utah.MomentumRecycling.com) for making all of those bottles that used to be tossed in the trash a hot commodity for curbside reclamation, and to downtown businesses like Squatters that've have been eco-conscious from the get-go. Recycled glass gets sorted by color, crushed into various sizes and then can be turned into more glass containers, fiberglass and even hydroponic rooting medium. So basically you're helping the environment, one bottle of beer at a time.
Ginger Beer vs. Ginger Ale
Yup, there's a difference. Ginger ale is sweet, with a mild spice element making it the perfect combo with bland crackers when you have a tummy ache (thanks, Mom), or in traditional highballs like whiskey-ginger, where you want the whiskey flavor to shine through. Ginger beer is a non-alcoholic concoction with more pronounced ginger flavors and strong citrus notes and has a milder sweet base. Drinks needing a bit more "punch" in the nose, like a dark and stormy or Moscow mule, call for using ginger beer. Keep it local with SLC-made Garwood's Ginger Beer. Described by its makers as a "symphony in a bottle," the sweet-tart sparkly nectar is available at the Downtown Farmers Market and independent markets 'round town.
Pull out your tiny violin for this food and beverage writer's lament. Sure, we eat and drink in excess all over town and call it "work." Downside? Lots of time spent on the treadmill and some brutal mornings following a night (or three) of gluttony. Most medical professionals will agree that the best solution is to either not imbibe in the first place or partake of some serious re-hydration in the aftermath. But for the dirty low-down cures, here are some local booze scribes' picks for pulling off a speedy recovery:
Devour Utah contributor and "Amanda Eats SLC" blogger, Amanda Rock: "McDonald's cheese and egg biscuit, greasy hash brown and weird watery OJ. It works. That OJ is watery magic. And the grease that seeps through the hash brown wrapper? Even better."
"Salt Tooth" blogger and food stylist/photographer, Caroline Hargraves says "Beto's [multiple locations, BetosMexicanFoodUtah.com] bean and cheese burrito. Every time. And the pierogies from The Polarican [food truck, ThePolarican.com] totally did the trick" for her after a recent rosé spree.
Local chef Evan Francois and foodie guru Rob Grine concur that charcoal tablets are the "best cure ever." Need some liquid medium to choke down this hack? Check out Vive Juicery's (multiple locations, ViveJuicery.com) "Sensei" blend with activated charcoal, honey, lemon and ginger—all bottled as black as your soul ($5 for a small bottle, or for the truly desperate, go large for $9). Pound it in one go, served very, very cold. Or, mix a charcoal tablet in with a pre-packaged mix like locally made Achiva Energy coconut water-chia blend.
City Weekly's own food critic, Ted Scheffler: "Big, brimming bowls of menudo!"
Ice, Ice Baby
So, why don't drinks made at home taste as crisp or clean as the ones we order at great bars? Usually the culprit is home ice machines, which even when filled with filtered water dump the moon-shaped rocks right next to the frozen pizza and burritos, making home ice taste like, goddammit, pizza and burritos. The ice at HSL (200 S. 418 East, 801-539-9999, HSLRestaurant.com), on the other hand, tastes like mountain-fresh moonbeams and pristine glacier-fed rivulets that bartender Scott Gardner has molded with flashing knives into shapes of wonder and whimsy from a huge-ass clear block of frozen H20. Said Gardner during a visit to HSL (Handle Salt Lake) shortly after its opening in April, "Guests love to see that huge block of ice on the bar. It's a great way to start a conversation about why using great ice makes such a difference in cocktails." Like describing why using a large chunk or chiseled sphere dilutes the drink more slowly (because of surface area), which is perfect in an old fashioned, rather than using chipped or cracked ice, which does a traditional julep justice but would water down other cocktails too quickly. Also, ice-masters can work around cloudy spots and other imperfections in a large ice block to make a cocktail even more visually appealing with that terrific transparency thing goin' on. And it's magically delicious.
It's the distinctive herbal note and one of the main characteristics that makes gin distillation distinct from its neutral-flavored cousin, vodka. Made with a fermented mash of barley and other grains, gin started out centuries ago as a medicinal libation particularly appreciated for helping ease childbirth. (Can I get an "amen," mama friends?) But when Dutch King William of Orange deregulated distilling in early-18th century England, gin became so plentiful, cheap and easily obtainable by even the poorest of the poor that it was targeted as the cause of widespread social breakdown and depravity. British booze historian Richard Barnett describes circa 1750 gin as the historical equivalent of modern-day crack. So, what turned around gin's PR problem? Quantity and quality control, and a distinctly American invention of the 19th century quickly embraced by the world: the cocktail. Martini, anyone?
Gin joke of the day: Why were olives invented? So gin-drinkers wouldn't starve to death.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
... and other mixology ingredients like super-fresh herbs, exotic fruit and a huge selection of coconut and other prepared tropical juices are sometimes hard to find on the fly in our salty city. Luckily, Southeast Asia Market (422 E. 900 South, 801-363-5474, SoutheastMarket.com) and Rancho Markets (multiple locations, RanchoMarkets.com) have us covered on the regular. Sam's Club (multiple locations, SamsClub.com) is the year-round source for fixins like fresh lychee, superbly unbruised Thai basil or maybe the fresh okra pods necessary for pickling that perfect bloody mary garnish. And booze geeks in the know routinely rely on Rancho Market as the go-to for finding the good stuff such as spot-on papaya or mango juices, full-strength Mexican Coke and dried roots for making homemade amari and bitters.
Insider's tip: At Rancho Markets, look in the produce section tucked away on the back wall with the dried spices for cinchona bark, cascarilla, wormwood and gentian root at a fraction of the cost of even online suppliers. Bonus? You can eye it before you buy it.
Local Lemon Bitters
What takes simple and classic drinks like the vesper or old fashioned from good to great? Good quality bitters. These alcohol-based botanical blends were formulated back in the day as medicinal additives. Pretty soon, bartenders figured out that they gave a bit of balance and pizzazz to boozy potions, as well. Fortunately for we denizens of Deseret, local companies like Beehive Bitters (Facebook.com/BeehiveBittersCompany) and Bitters Lab (BittersLab.com) have thrown their figurative hats into the artisan bitters boom with national acclaim, making everything from streamlined citrus bitters to complex barrel-aged brews.
Mexico's masterful concoction of cerveza preparada has as many interpretations as there are distinct culinary regions of the nation. Beer is always the base, but from there, the sky's the limit for mix-ins like lime juice, hot sauce, spices and tomato or Clamato juice. Always served over ice with a salty-spicy rim, it's the genius south-of-the-border solution to beating the heat. CW's own editor, Enrique Limón, recommends the michelada at Taquería El Paisa (919 West 2100 South, 801-908-5320, TaqueriaElPaisa.com) as one of the best in town. You can order the standard-fare mich in original or jazzy flavors like mango and tamarind for less than 10 bucks, or try the fishbowl-sized "michelada loca," which comes with a rim of chile paste, 10 grilled butterfly shrimp (I know) and is topped with a celery stalk. "All the basic food groups," Limón says.
Nick and Nora Glass
Tired of seeing those coupe glasses that everyone else uses? Pick up some Nick and Nora stems, based on ones used in the Thin Man films made in the 1930s and '40s and named after the film's protagonists, Nick and Nora Charles. Same volume as a martini or coupe glass, but a new elegant take on an iconic 20th-century style. Vintage stalkers can sometimes spot a set on that boulevard mid-century badassery (aka, South Broadway between 200 and 500 East) at Now & Again (207 E. 300 South, 801-364-0664, NowAndAgainSLC.com) or The Green Ant (179 E. 300 South, 801-595-1818, TheGreenAnt.com), but you're pretty much guaranteed to find a set of stems at Boozetique (315 E. 300 South, 801-363-3939, BoozetiqueSLC.com). The new ones are on the main shop floor, but vintage glass hounds know to check the back room for antique barware of every stripe and service need.
Oleo saccharum, aka "oil sugar," is the bartender's secret to building concentrated citrus flavors. The key to a very old school-style punch base or the homemade sour mix of your dreams is making this secret ingredient—basically a process for releasing all of the goodness and zing of the citrus oils from the zest, which then gets made into a syrup to balance the fruit/acid/sugar. This is a technique of pre-Civil War era origins, popular with booze slingers from the early American Republic through the early cocktail era. It's a pain in the ass, for sure, to peel all those lemons, but get to work: It's totally worth it after you've completed the citrus oil base a couple of days later. This recipe makes one quart of sweet-sour lemon mix, which can then be used to make whiskey sours, amaretto sours, you name it. Or, combine a quart of oleo saccharum mix with three bottles bourbon and three bottles sparkling wine and some spices of your choice (think nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves) to make enough generous drinks for 40-60 people. Or around a dozen CW staffers.
Here's a take adapted from the definitive document on the subject, Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl, by drink historian David Wondrich. It's my personal favorite prescription for the historic method, and also the basic formula used by barman extraordinaire Scott Gardner of Water Witch fame to make a High West Prairie Bourbon Punch.
• Prepare oleo saccharum by completely removing zest (just the peels without any white parts) of 6 large juicy lemons.
• Then, in a big bowl, combine the lemon peels with 1 cup demerara or raw turbinado sugar.
• Stir to combine and smash peels a bit with the back of a wooden spoon to grind in the sugar.
• Lightly cover with plastic wrap, and move to a warm spot out of direct sunlight—this bowl's gonna be living there for a while, so get used to it.
• Reserve all those whole peeled lemons in the refrigerator to finish the project. Every time you remember (every 3-4 hours or so), stir and smash the sugar and peels some more. Do this for at least 24 hours and up to two days. You'll eventually have a nice pool of lemony oily, syrupy goodness in your bowl of curly lemon peels.
• To this bowl of goop, add juice from all of the reserved peeled lemons and let sit for an additional 8-12 hours.
• Stir well, then strain out solids.
• Pour the lemon syrup into a quart jar and add enough cold water to fill the jar. Refrigerate up to 4 weeks. Boom.
Did you know that pretty much any lower-proof punch or cocktail (see above entry) can be frozen into popsicle molds to create a cool treat? As long as the alcohol proofing isn't so high it inhibits freezing. Baseline: Get the ABV lower than 25 percent total liquid for best results by adding fruit juice or soda—the options are endless. Our fave? After a big party throw leftover sangría (including fruit) into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 24 hours. Wait, who has leftover sangría?
Few cocktails define summertime sipping quite like the gin and tonic, a beverage mixed in the Tropics by British colonists to make the bitter taste of antimalarial quinine hidden in tonic water more palatable—and its drinkers predictably more shitfaced at the same time. Although we're used to seeing tonic water in a clear, carbonated, conveniently canned concoction, many artisan and housemade tonic waters are slightly almond-tinged due to their extraction from cinchona bark (remember our fave purveyor, Rancho Market, in "K", above?) But be careful, ye experimental alcohol astronauts at home: Too much quinine can actually cause crazy-ass symptoms like ear-ringing, rashes—and in really severe cases of cinchonism—muscle spasms, vertigo of the extremely vigorous variety and (understatement here) epic intestinal inconsistency. Rather than sticking close to home with an EMT on speed-dial when doing the home-brew thing, why not cozy up to the bar at a pre-approved spot like Finca (327 W. 200 South, 801-487-0699, FincaSLC.com) for an outstanding housemade mixer in their classic G&T? Or, buy lovely tonic potions sourced all over the world at Caputo's Markets, Boozetique or local markets like Harmon's Grocery (HarmonsGrocery.com). The Trader Joe's version ain't too bad, either.
It's hard to believe that only a couple of years ago the total number of Utah distillers could be counted on one hand. But what microbrewing did to step up the beer-lovers market across the country, craft distillers have similarly pulled off to push the boundaries of small-batch booze. Even, or should we say especially, in Utah. It's a not-very-closely guarded secret in the beverage world that most of the bottles that end up on liquor store shelves aren't actually distilled by the folks who bottle and label the products; most spirits made in the U.S. come from a couple of large manufacturing plants in the Midwest and are shipped all over the country to brands who further filter, flavor and adjust the proof of the base booze before bottling under their own labels. And some of the results are pretty damn delicious. However, craft distillers are proud to be the exceptions to that repackaging rule, watching over the entire process of production from sourcing raw materials, to fermenting and distilling their products on-site and directly overseeing the entire bottling process. Bless their OCD hearts. Small-batch rum, in particular, is currently experiencing a kind of modern renaissance in cocktail culture. Rum must be made with sugarcane or its byproducts (such as molasses), and traditionally comes from sugar-producing regions of the world like the Caribbean. Four Utah distillers are currently making rum for this thriving market: Dented Brick Distillery (Antelope Island Rum), Distillery 36 (Brigham Rum), Outlaw Distillery (three distinct rums: white, French oak-aged and a spiced rum) and Sugar House Distillery (silver rum and gold rum aged in barrels that previously held their malt whiskey). Of these, Distillery 36's Brigham Rum recently won a silver medal at the Denver International Spirits Competition and Sugar House Distillery won a bronze medal for their silver rum from the American Distilling Institute this year.
Shakes (those of the boozy variety)
Utahns love their ice cream, with some of the highest consumption rates of the frozen concoction in the country. Better yet, grown-ups can blend it up with liquor, like the folks at Hub & Spoke Diner (1291 S. 1100 East, 801-487-0698, HubAndSpokeDiner.com) do with five different boozy shakes on the menu all whirled up with rich, thick ice cream. Try a dirty chai with rum, espresso and chai blend ($9), a ramped-up grasshopper with fresh mint, crème de menthe and chocolate liquor ($8.50) or a bourbon-forward salted caramel shake ($8.50). Just in time for National Ice Cream Day (yup, that's a thing) every July 21.
In February of 1933, Utah was the 36th state and deciding vote to repeal national Prohibition with the enactment of the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In the previous century, the majority of Utahns—being members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—had been advised against alcohol consumption with Joseph Smith's 1833 revelation known as "The Word of Wisdom," which kyboshed partaking in liquor and wine. We'll leave it to scholars to decide whether Smith's polemic was prophetic or perhaps practical within the purview of the contemporaneous and popular United States Temperance Union manifesto (with one million-plus members strong and growing) and other groups gathering some serious part-ay-stomping force at the moment.
It's hard to imagine now, but in 1909, national anti-booze advocates were arguing that Utah was a decidedly crucial and critically "head-in-the-sand" pro-alcohol state still holding out against Prohibition, being one of less than a dozen remaining "saloon" states that didn't control booze statewide or through state oversight. In 1911, Utah Republicans still opposed a statewide law prohibiting alcohol, but they did go along with legislation that provided for a local option (which most Beehive bureaus approved) with the notable exception of Ogden and SLC whose residents voted for continued access to booze. And then we get to think on this shit-show, y'all: By 1916 Utah's Republican party toed the national prohibitionist line, but during the convention planking of the platform, relative moderate Governor William Spry was defeated for renomination by Nephi L. Morris, a prohibitionist teetotaler. Democrats made a good showing, too, including Governor Simon Bamberger, a non-Mormon, German-born Jew who stopped booze sales at his Lagoon Resort, with a bonus of offering to pay $1,000 for anyone who could draw a portrait of someone who was a bigger opponent to alcohol than him. Like most states in the U.S., Utah's experiment with alcohol prohibition was a semi-sneery bust, at best. According to the Utah State Historical Society, this is the minimum boozy contraband seized by the state between 1923 and 1932: 448 distilleries; 702 stills; 47,000 gallons of spirits, malt liquor, wine and cider, and 332,000 gallons of mash. According to local lore, that was only the tip of iceberg. One of the easiest types of bootleg alcohol to produce was known as sugar whiskey. Per Utah historian Allan Kent Powell, "It required a 100-pound bag of sugar, a sack of cornmeal and a sack of yeast, which were mixed together and boiled in 50-gallon drums."
Post-Prohibition, each state in the country negotiated their own liquor distribution and policies, making a national mish-mash of access to alcohol or lack thereof. Booze didn't start flowing to Utah stores until 1935, and Beehive imbibers have been at odds with the DABC ever since.
There's something about that ubiquitous paper parasol that brings on nostalgia for beachy beverages like a piña colada or mai tai every damn time, even when Utah hasn't seen oceanfront property since roughly the late Cretaceous era. And forget about that whack-a-doodle Zion Curtain blocking patrons' views of insidious mixology as the instigator for cocktail curiosity among the short set: We all know it's plastic swords, tail-curled technicolor-hued monkeys and, yes, tiny umbrellas that have fascinated kiddos ordering Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers' from time immemorial. Or, at least from the 1940s. Theories abound on where and when, exactly, the paper umbrella came to top especially syrupy and sweet concoctions. But historians agree that decorative paper objects of all shapes and sizes have been made and distributed from China for centuries, and full-size paper umbrellas were popularly found around the sunny South Pacific before and during WWII, coinciding with America's mid-century mania for all things tiki. That legend that the little umbrella keeps the ice from melting in the sun's rays? Drinks historian Dale DeGroff doesn't buy it: "The big paper umbrellas were sunscreens, but the little ones were decorative."
Think fast: Where's your vermouth stored? If you didn't say "in the fridge," you're asking for trouble of the off-flavored variety, advises local spirits guru, Jim Santangelo, founder and educator of the Wine Academy of Utah. Whether it's the sweet (red) variety or dry (white) kind, vermouth is a wine-based spirit with a low-enough alcohol content that it can and will go bad if not used quickly or refrigerated. Save your Manhattans and martinis from going to Funkytown (in a bad way) by buying quality vermouth in the smallest quantity bottle you can find and keep it cool. Get some superb street-cred by attending classes all about various vermouth at local spots like Caputo's Market, Finca, Pallet (237 S. 400 West, 801-935-4431, EatPallet.com), Under Current and through the University of Utah's roster of tastings and tours (1901 E. South Campus Drive, Ste. 1175, 801-587-5433, Continue.Utah.edu/Lifelong/Food-Wine).
"Careful man, there's a beverage here!" Abide, dudes. Don your comfiest robe, get thee to the nearest bowling alley, and mix up a double of The Big Lebowski classic, a white Russian. Bonus points if you free-pour like a badass Jeff Bridges: To an old fashioned glass filled with ice, add 2 ounces of vodka (try Ogden's Own Five Wives if you're looking to class it up) and 1 ounce coffee liqueur. Glug a splash of heavy cream over the top and stir. Craving this creamy delight out on the town? Bask at Duffy's Tavern (932 S. Main, 801-355-6401), white Russian in hand to bring the Archie Bunker vibe full circle, or hit up dives like The Twilite Lounge (347 E. 200 South, 801-532-9400, TwiliteLounge.com), The Spot (870 S. Main) if you're in the central 9th area, or hell, pretty much any casino in Wendover.
You know the place, that bar that makes you feel like Norm walking into Cheers. Whether it's because everybody knows your name, or absolutely nobody does and that's exactly what you crave, there's something about a great bar that makes you glad you got off your ass and went out to share an adult beverage in the company of other actual humans. Thankfully, SLC's got both of those options covered and everything in between: Bar X (155 E. 200 South, 801-355-2287, BeerBarSLC.com) brings bi-coastal levels of hipness to the Beehive with highbrow craft cocktails; or for those searching for the laid-back lowbrow vibe, that Trolley Square-area stand by for cheap-ass shots, X-Wife's Place (465 S. 700 East, 801-532-1954) is sure to fit the (low denomination) bill.
Insider's Tip: X-Wife's beachy patio mural also doubles as a PokéStop.
Whiskey evangelist Tim Peterson is a firm believer that great booze is best shared with friends, rather than collecting dust on an investor's shelf, because hell-to-the-fuckin'-yeah: You Only Live Once, and you sure as hell can't take that great whiskey with you. There's an ever-increasing world of whiskey-Bogarting booze-bankers who are lining their shelves with unopened bottles of rare hootch like Pappy Van Winkle, and for people who enjoy actually drinking whiskey rather than looking at a dusty bottle, this is a sad, sad thing. However, if you're lucky enough to be invited to Tim's tasting room—dug into the old coal cellar of his Sugar Hood cottage—you're in for a treat. Guests have access to well over 200 bottles of fire water sourced from all over the world, from elegant Japanese whiskys to rare Kentucky bourbons, superlative Spanish single-malt, whisky from every region of Scotland and unusual American blends like High West's Yippie Ki-Yay. And Tim, who doesn't believe in saving booze on the shelf, has a story about each and every bottle, many of them coming from distilleries he's visited personally. A wealth of information and a natural educator, Tim's personal collections equals (and he'd humbly say often exceeds) most public whiskey emporiums in both quantity and quality. He's been a Whisky Magazine blind-test judge and has a big social media following of folks no-doubt hoping they'll be the next lucky duck invited over to his invitation-only speakeasy. Check out @speakeasyonwentworth on Instagram and Facebook to get a glimpse into Tim's world and take part in future tastings.
From the oil sugar recipe to the retelling of the nimble cocktail umbrella's history, it's clear we're going for a summer vibe here. The mid-century epitome of all that's over-the-top about tiki tipples, the zombie was a classic made popular by the original Trader Vic's California-based chain of Polynesian-inspired restaurants. But the original cocktail is widely credited to that seminal saloon-keeper of tiki bar backstory, Donn Beach (his given name? Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) of "Don the Beachcomber" bars found from Hollywood to Hawaii. According to booze historian Wayne Curtis, Donn Beach blended up the primordial version of this powerful potion using five kinds of rum totaling at least 8 ounces (with some accounts upping the content to 12 whopping ounces!), all mixed with fresh pineapple and lime juice to jump start the day of a badly hungover customer by serving not just the hair of the dog, but apparently the whole damn hide. Beach later claimed the customer said he felt like "the living dead" until revived by the drink, and thus, the name "zombie" stuck.
An increasingly wide array of recipes with a similar fruit-rum profile included ingredients of every stripe short of the kitchen sink: apricot brandy, curacaos of various colors, grenadine, sugar, maraschino liqueur, various bitters, absinthe and pretty much every tropical fruit that has ever made its way to the juicer, all topped off with a floater of 151-proof rum and served in a decorative bowl (for a crowd of straws) or skull-head mug for single servings. This West Coast sensation then swept the nation after the Hurricane Bar at Flushing Meadows served zombies during the 1964 New York World's Fair ($1 each; limit one per customer). It was the fair's best seller. Tiki cocktail revivalists make modern versions of the zombie with top-shelf aged rums and supah-fresh squeezed juices served in vintage glassware, but Utah state laws still keep the ABV content relatively low compared to the original recipes. This may not be such a bad thing: In July 1936, Howard Hughes killed a pedestrian while driving home drunk after a night imbibing at Don the Beachcomber. Our advice: Make a zombie at home or leave the driving to the professionals.
And there you have it. Next time you're going for your usual, opt for something a tad more daring and, whenever possible, source local. May your glass be half full and your season filled with fun-filled memories (or half-memories, whatever the case might be).