Two things I'm seeing lately in local bars: stripped-down, short-recipe cocktails, and a veering toward sweet-sour flavors. When you put the trends together (and add a warm, sunny day) you get a drink that inspires you to order just one more, blow off deadlines, stash your iPad and anything from which you could remotely do work, and listen to as many stories as your bartender wants to tell.
That would have been a recent afternoon for me, had I fully given in to Northwest Elixir, a brilliant pairing of High West's lively, rich double rye and an apple drinking vinegar. And a few shakes of Angostura bitters. And that is all.
Crafted by Tito Thomas, who tends bar at Ralph's on the Park, the Northwest Elixir references High West's geography, as well as the healing reputation of drinking vinegars, or shrubs. (Virgin shrubs are usually made by macerating cut fruit, then stirring vinegar and sugar into the captured juices.)
Here, the apple shrub is Pok Pok Som, a brand developed from Chef Andy Ricker's Thai restaurants. Apple is said to be the strongest flavor of the line (which includes tamarind, pineapple, raspberry) and it does have a mildly funky aroma, but on the palate it's smoothly sour, cider-like, and brings a silky texture to Tito's cocktail.
Even better: the apple shrub brings out rye's fruity qualities, actually enhancing the spirit and letting it run free.
Ralph's on the Park, 900 City Park Avenue, 488.1000. Curious about the garnish? Those are green apple scoops.
High West Distillery & Saloon is currently a James Beard Foundation award semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program.
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