Ever since I took over this column in April, I've wondered: Is there really such a thing as a new cocktail—an idea no one's tried before? I asked this when I sat down recently to talk to the guys from Blind Tiger Cocktail Co. about the new menu they've developed for Alchemy in South Park.
"I'm kind of of the belief that there's no such thing as a new idea," says Adam Stemmler, one-third of Blind Tiger. "I don't discredit anyone's ingenuity or anyone's creativity, but anyone who's really studied the craft, a lot had been done by even the '20s."
There are ideas buried by history that are being rediscovered, but a great cocktail ultimately comes down to a tried-and-true methodology, Stemmler explains—a "trifecta of players."
"They have a base or something that's being the star of the show; they have a softener or a modifier and that's usually... something sweet; and then you have a bittering agent and maybe that's bitters or a bitter liqueur, like Campari, or the acidity that you would get from limes, grapefruit, oranges, whatever . You'll see those players get bigger or smaller, but almost every single cocktail has one of those three things in some form or another."
While this is obvious to bartenders, chefs and cocktail fiends, it might not be to the average imbiber. But it's a bit of knowledge that aids in the appreciation of a well-made drink. That's why the menu Blind Tiger created for Alchemy is so cool. For each cocktail, there's a chart showing you the role the ingredients play in the drink. The menu's organized from lighter drinking—the cocktail at the top of the list is Blind Tiger's take on the mule, switched up with the addition of a grapefruit and lime cordial—to heavier, like the Juxtofizzition with Rittenhouse Rye, Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, lemon juice, egg white, Angostura bitters, soda water and nutmeg. Rum and rye? What's up with that?
"It's kind of an up-and-coming— I'm afraid to say trend—an up-andcoming idea," says Dustin Haarstad, who started Blind Tiger in 2010. "You get to play off the balance of both the ingredients. You have the spiciness of the rye and then you have that really rich molasses-y flavor of the blackstrap rum."
The Oro de Mayahuel is a twist on a margarita—Forteleza Reposado tequila, honey, lemon juice, smoked sea salt and Angostura bitters. What makes it interesting is the addition of an applewood tincture, created by the third Blind Tiger, Jason O'Bryan.
"It's got a bright, just a really nice round kind of woody flavor," Stemmler says.
Blind Tiger is selective about whom they'll work with, but Stemmler and Haarstad, who live nearby, knew Alchemy would give them creative freedom and also ensure that the bartenders produce consistently good cocktails (a "Spirits 101" training is part of Blind Tiger's cocktail program).
Alchemy's new menu, Stemmler says, is "one of the first we can really get behind and say, Yes, we did this exactly the way we wanted to, and we had the green light to run with this.'"