In the hard, cold winter months, Fish & Game’s cocktails rely heavily on ingredients from the pantry and freezer. Because the kitchen and bar both regularly use each other’s byproducts, they should be understood as two sides of the same culinary coin, constantly innovating while maximizing efficiency. Thus do the twin goals of superb flavors and 100 percent product yield mutually reinforce each other. The following concoctions all owe a debt to the kitchen, and the kitchen’s repertoire benefited directly as a result of each drink.
1g hot red chili
2 sprigs fresh thyme
4 drops acid phosphate
2 dashes saline solution (80:20)
1 barspoon 2:1 agave syrup
1 oz evergreen tomato water
2 oz Wodka vodka
Muddle chili and thyme. Add the rest, stir with ice, and double strain into a chilled coupe.
Mrs. Ninny Threadgood
Pursuant to discussions about the fall weekend lunch program, thoughts naturally turned to bloody Marys. Since Jori had milled and frozen copious evergreen tomatoes, a type that stay green even when ripe and sweet, they seemed the logical choice since their juice was still raw. And unlike red tomatoes, which can get a bit metallic tasting when frozen, the evergreens retain their bright sweetness. After draining the purée to make tomato water, the remaining pulp fermented in a carboy of tomato vinegar.
For the base spirit, Nate and Madison lobbied for tequila, then mescal, then resorted to gin as those two proved overpowering. Gin did too. Jori’s original vodka idea triumphed; the much-maligned spirit’s neutrality allowed all the other elements to shine (and kept it closer to tradition). The result, a milky jade potion with a dusting of chili and thyme leaves on the bottom of the glass, offered a savory herbal armature for some heat, a little salinity, and the sweet and sour umami of the tomatoes. It ran all fall.
2 dashes Lady Jayne’s Alchemy pineapple sage bitters
.25 oz 1:1 honey syrup
.75 oz Miró vermouth
1 oz concord grape juice
2 oz Greenhook Ginsmiths Old Tom gin
Rinse coupe with Talisker. Stir rest of ingredients with ice and strain into glass.
Tasting Miró vermouth, Jori was struck by its strong notes of summer savory and wild thyme, both prominent scents in their fields and gardens come summer. Last year afforded a bumper crop of grapes, which ripen around the time those herbs are peaking, such that every step towards the fruit-laden vines releases pungent herbal aromas. So the painstakingly extracted—run through the juicer, then hang the slurry in a bag to drain*—juice of Concord and Niagara grapes seemed a perfect match with the vermouth.
Old Tom gin adds more botanical complexity without too much juniper. A Talisker rinse imparts a whiff of smoky body, providing depth and a dry counterweight to all the wet fruit flavors. After the peaty nose, the many herbs rush in to embellish the sweet-tart juice.
*The solids remaining in the bag went in a fermentation crock with whole turnips, an old Northern Italian technique: the grape solids ferment into a vinegary paste that pickles the vegetables.
Five Spice Duck Fat Washed Bourbon
Grind the following separately, then combine and grind together:
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp clove
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
1 large star anise
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted
Pour one cup of bourbon into a quart jar. Melt two ounces of smoked duck fat in a pan and add the spice mixture. Infuse for 15 minutes on low heat, taking care to never let the fat smoke. Pour the warm fat, unstrained, into the bourbon and stir lightly with a chopstick every few minutes until the fat starts to congeal into lumpy curds. Refrigerate until the fat hardens; if it stays soft put it in the freezer for a bit until you can lift the fat off cleanly. Save the boozy fat for brushing on something succulent just out of the oven.
Year of the Monkey
Madison wanted to make an onion drink. She and Jori played around with possibilities, including a five spice-infused shot of bourbon with an onion broth back, but nothing clicked except the spiced bourbon. The five spice made Jori think of Chinatown, which led logically to fond thoughts of roast ducks and shortly thereafter to the bags of frozen fat rendered off of the many ducks that see regular rotation on the dining room fireplace spit.
By infusing the fat with five spice, then washing the booze in it, all the spices’ aromatic qualities combine with the palpable smack of crispy caramelized duck fat. The result vividly evokes a sense memory of eating duck and drinking whiskey in Chinatown, something Zak and Jori have been known to do. The drink’s austere presentation—neat and slightly cloudy with spice powder—belies its decadent complexity. It packs a punch, managing the Wonka-esque feat of tasting like a cocktail, an aperitif, and dessert all at once.
Stir one bar spoon of maple syrup into two ounces of five spice duck fat washed bourbon. Serve neat in a rocks glass.