Behind Bars: Tiki Classics

With "Tikitober" just around the bend, we figured it was perfect timing to kick of a new guest blog series we call "Behind Bars," where we spend a little time with some of our favorite local bartenders. 

For this first installment of Behind Bars, we were lucky enough to hang out with Ben Clemons from No. 308, who's been kicking ass with his Tiki Tuesday events all summer long. We asked him to share his thoughts on classic Tiki drinks and five of his favorite recipes. 

I don't even know where to begin discussing my adoration for tiki drinks. The taste? Yep. The history? Yep. The beautiful colors, glassware and garnish? Yep. Yep. Yep. I think what first really attracted me to it all was, honestly, how unabashedly kitschy the whole culture around it is. See, in a world where everyone is rapidly taking more and more aspects of life so seriously (almost to an unheard of level of pretension and scrutiny), Tiki is just happy. It's relaxed. It's anything but serious. In that, I somehow find solace. It may always be 5 o'clock somewhere, but it's always sunny in a scorpion bowl.

I started Tiki Tuesday at the beginning of the summer for a few reasons. Tuesdays at the bar seemed, well, boring. I realized there weren't any weekly parties to compete with, no crazy happy hour specials at neighboring bars promising 3 free drinks and a sandwich with every purchase of a draft beer. Couple that with my growing desire to see Nashville drinking more rum and the decision was simple, Tiki Tuesday.

I dove head first straight down the rum rabbit hole. I sifted through blogs, books, articles and anything else I could find in print pertaining to the brighter side of cocktail culture. Unearthing original recipes became an adventure. Learning the various cultural ties they had with specific rums, bars and people reminded me just how remarkable and unique of a spirit rum is. Trader Vic, Beach Bum Berry, Mai Kai, The Soggy Dollar Bar, just some of the legendary pioneers in the great Tiki crusades.

Ben Clemons of No. 308

Ben Clemons of No. 308

One Tuesday, a few weeks into our tiki party, I noticed something fascinating. The night itself was almost a sociology experiment. See, normally a bar sees a wide range of spirits being consumed. Tequila drinkers talking with whiskey drinkers. You get the picture. This dichotomy can sometimes lend itself to awkward "vibes" in a controlled environment. Not at a tiki bar though. As I looked around the room and out in the patio I saw smiling faces, jovial conversations. People. Having. A. Good. Time. And THATS why I love tiki drinks.

Enough talking though, here's a few well known classics in their non bastardized by American culture form...

Rum for Days

Today, Sunday August 16, is National Rum Day.

Seriously, only one day? Rum should at least have a whole month! You see, we kinda love rum. Regardless of whether it's white, brown or yellow, rum is one of those spirits that just doesn't get the love it deserves.

After all, it was RUM that helped us get through Prohibition. Just because the laws shut down (legal) production of booze here in the states, that did not mean other countries had to stop. And folks ("rum runners") would bring this sugarcane spirit up from the tropics where we discovered the joys of a good rum buzz. 

Through the months, we've been lucky to have some seriously amazing rums participate in 3st of the Month. And through that time, we've whipped up a ton of rum-based cocktails. So, it seems only fitting to share some (30!) of those with you on this most sacred of days. Drink up!


Shit we love: Ancho Reyes

You might have noticed Ancho Reyes just keeps on finding its way into our recipes (or tasted it for yourself at our August "Anni3stary" event). 

That's because it's shit we love. It's a crazy-versatile ancho chile liqueur inspired by a 1920's recipe found in the town of Puebla Zaragoza, Mexico. The ancho chiles used to flavor the liqueur are hand-selected, dried, scissor sliced, and then soaked in a neutral cane spirit for six months in iron vats. But it does not stop there. After straining, they blend it and age it to allow the flavors to combine even further. Their careful process results in a robust flavor that's both sweet and smokey while also carrying a warm heat thats not overpowering. 

This liqueur makes our favorites list not just because of its delicious taste, but also because of the complexity and depth of flavor it easily adds to so many cocktails. This shit plays great with others too. Whether it be tequila, mezcal, dark rum, and even whiskey and gin, you can add a little or a lot for entirely different results. If you don't already have a bottle yourself, go get one. You can bet it won't be an addition to your bar you regret. A bottle doesn't last very long on ours...

Here's a few of our favorite Ancho Reyes cocktails.

throw your own 3st this july

After almost a full year of putting on some incredible boozy gatherings every month on the 3rd (or 3st) of the month, we're taking this July off. 

We've planned this all along, knowing that July is a crazy month for everyone and that we would be ready for a break. And while we're already working on our big return in August (and other upcoming months), we figured it would only be right to invite you to host your own 3st of the Month this July. 

We pulled inspiration from fireworks and created new cocktails that are perfect for the holiday and drinking during the summer months. Be they red, white, blue or just plain boozy, they're all pretty darn good. So, gather a few friends, pick a few (or even all) of these drinks below, put on our special playlist of new summer music and PARTY like it's the 3st of the Month!

We'll see you in August!


summer drinkin'

Yup. Regardless whether it's "official" or not, it's definitely summer here in Nashville. 90+ temps are a better determination of the season than the Summer Solstice (June 21, in case you're wondering). 

When it comes to summer drinks, we like to keep them light, bright and refreshing. Be it Tiki or Tequila, there's no shortage of cocktails you can make this summer. And luckily for you, we've collected our favorite recipes right here for your boozy enjoyment. 

And if you don't have time to grab a bunch of ingredients, keep it simple. Just pick up some flavored seltzer (we love LaCroix) and booze. It can be that easy, folks.

So, grab some ice, a few buddies and get to drinkin'! 

for the love of negroni

The Martini. The Margarita. The Old Fashioned. Every now and then a cocktail comes along that captures the attention of many. It's just a shame it took so damn long for the Negroni to do that. 

Traditionally made with equal portions of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, the Negroni is a lesson in simplicity and balance. But start tweaking the ingredients in just the slightest way (even just use different types of gin), and the Negroni can be as diverse as the people that make them. Maybe that's why Imbibe Magazine and Campari have teamed up to celebrate Negroni Week.

Started in 2013, Negroni Week is a week-long celebration of one of the world’s great cocktails and an effort to raise money for charitable causes around the world. From 2013 to 2014, Negroni Week grew from more than 100 participating bars to more than 1,300 participating bars around the world and more than $120,000 raised for charities. 2015 promises to be another record-setting year with more than 2600 bars and restaurants already signed up. Perhaps even cooler, each bar can select the charity they want to support. 

Here in Nashville, there are several bars participating in Negroni Week (you can see and search all bars from around the world on the Negroni Week website). We don't know about you, but we're definitely planning on hitting up at least a few of those to support the cause. Yeah yeah, it's a tough job, but somebody has to do it.

At the time of publishing, here are the local spots you can go to enjoy a Negroni for Negroni Week:

Of course, you're welcome to make your own. Lucky for you, we've got some recipes for you below. 

gin: 101

A few months back we sent out a survey to our members asking them (among other things) what booze they hoped to see at a future 3st of the Month. The overwhelming winner was gin. This honestly surprised us a bit. We had already been planning on doing a gin-themed 3st, but knew it has a bit of a bad rap. You can thank your grandfather for that. People seem to think all gin tastes like pine trees (not that that's a bad thing). They're wrong.

Gin is for cocktails - not on its own. You can drink tequila and mescal as shots, and vodka is served chilled with food (zakuski) in its native land. Bourbon, rye and whiskey drinkers might add some ice or a splash of water. Gin is meant to be mixed, however, as the botanicals (herbs, spices etc.) come to life in cocktails and add complexity to the drink. This is why so many classic cocktails call for gin
— Simon Ford, Gin Historian

The truth is gin is about as diverse of a spirit as you can find. Whereas vodka, tequila, whiskey and bourbon all pretty much owe their differences to the types of grains (or agave), methods of fermentation and distillation, time of again and barrels used (if any), gin has all of those and more. Because, unlike these other spirits, gin is a result secret formulations of botanicals added at different points of the process to result in a highly flavorful spirit. To be called "gin" it must have some juniper, but the other botanicals can include a wide array of herbs, vegetables, flowers, fruits, spices and even tea. Each brand uses a different formula and many use different base spirits to begin with. Some are even aged in barrels. It's pretty complex shit. So, to help prep you for Juniper June, we've put together a bit of a gin primer to get you 'ed-gin-icated' on the types of gin.

Genever

Pronounced (in this country anyway) "gin-KNEE-ver," Genever is basically the 'grandfather' of gin. Though the true history is fuzzy to say the best (we are talking about booze here after all), it's thought that it was the Dutch that started making gin by adding juniper to cover the taste of the alcohol. Genever was originally used medicinally, thought to 'cure' ailments ranging from kidney ailments to gallstones to gout. Today, Genever is made from a base spirit distilled from malted wine, giving it a soft mouth feel and slightly sweeter flavor than many other gins.

London Dry

Many think of London as the birthplace of gin due to their longstanding history with it. It's said that in the year 1730, the average Londoner drank 18 gallons of gin a year! Today, London Dry Gin is used to describe a style of gin, not the location in which it is made. Like the name would suggest London Dry gin is dry, meaning not sweet. It's the classic gin that people think of when they say they 'don't like gin,' most often due to the dry nature and highly-flavored botanical profile, of which juniper is the predominant ingredient. Sometimes just referred to as London Gin, it's distilled from grain and then distilled again with the actual plant material that adds the flavor. To be called London Gin, it not have sugar or other additives other than water and the plant materials that flavor it.

Plymouth

Rich in flavor and texture like Genever, yet dry like London Gin, Plymouth Gin is a unique, protected style of gin originating from the city of Plymouth, South West England. Since 1793 it has been distilled from a unique blend of 7 botanicals, soft Dartmoor water and pure grain alcohol at the historic Black Friars Distillery - the oldest working distillery in England.

Old Tom

Though not as popular as it's gin siblings, Old Tom Gin is essentially a sweeter version of London Gin. Still made from grain distillates and highly flavored. Old Tom Gin became popular in 18th Century England before falling out of favor. Thanks to the craft cocktail movement, many new Old Tom recipes are being released commercially.

New American or International-Style

In some cases, the only thing New American Gin has in common with the other varieties is juniper. But that's where the similarities can end, as all rules are discarded and a range of new and exciting botanicals are added through various methods, imparting a huge variety of flavor from brand to brand. Just by substituting a New American Gin for London Gin, a classic cocktail and be new again. 

agave goodness

With our May "Tres de Mayo" 3st of the Month right around the bend, we're starting to get excited about the boozy action that's in store. This is promising to be our largest one yet, with a total of 21 tables already committed. 

While tequila won't be the only thing served at the event, it's certainly got the lion's share with 14 brands and counting...

And just to prove that tequila is good for a hell of a lot more than just shots and margaritas, we've pulled together some of our favorite tequila cocktail recipes for you to enjoy. 

shit we love: luxardo maraschino

If you've spent much time clicking through our recipes, you know we love Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. It's that secret ingredient that can transform even the most simple of cocktails with just the smallest amount. It's a common ingredient found in many classics, but it's worth keeping on hand at your home bar for experimenting your own brand new cocktail creations. 

Before you go any further, let's take a second to clear the air. We know when you see the word "maraschino," you're thinking of those toxic red cherry-like things with stems on them. Well, stop it, damnit! We've talked all about cherries before, but let's just save some time and cut to the chase. Those bright red things have nothing to do with Maraschino liqueur. 

Luxardo Maraschino is made from sour Marasca cherries. In fact, it is actually distilled directly from the cherries and the crushed cherry pits, giving it almost an almond-like and subtle bitter flavor. After fermentation and distillation, it's sweetened with cane sugar, resulting in a clear, not-too-sweet, incredibly-flavorful liqueur. 

Look for it next time you're out browsin' through the liquor store. Keep it right on the top of your bar within arm's reach and start adding a little to your favorite cocktails. We have a feeling you'll love it just as much as we do.

Here's a few of our cocktails made with Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur:


green cocktails!

Admit it. You've done the green beer thing. . .only to wake in the middle of the night with a horrible case of green vomit. 

Well, you're older and wiser now. And you deserve to celebrate St Patrick's Day with a little more class and style. 

With this in mind, we've pulled together our favorite green drinks - both naturally colored and brightly colored - to give you a little boozy inspiration. 

DRINK UP!

putting the "bitters" in bitter lovers

As you likely know by know, our February 3st of the Month is called "Bitter Lovers" and is taking us back into the world of craft cocktails as we celebrate special ingredients like bitters, amaris and aperitifs. For the sake of simplicity, this first of two "bitter blog" posts is all about bitters.

Most people know what bitters are. They've seen a bottle of Peychaud's sitting behind the bar for years. But what many don't know is the role bitters have played in cocktails. We often refer to bitters as the "salt and pepper" of cocktails, providing depth in flavor that you can't get with booze alone. But to say that is really selling them short. 

In fact, the very first documented use of the word "cocktail" was in 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository. It was simply defined as "a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters." That's right. A cocktail was not a cocktail without bitters. 

Now, some of you may have recognized that simple definition as the basic recipe for an old fashioned, but it was more than that. It was the starting point for a movement that grew beyond just the old fashioned and into an entire culture. In 1862, a bartender by the name of Jerry Thomas first published a book known as “The Bar-Tender’s Guide,” “How to Mix Drinks” or “The Bon-Vivant’s Companion.” While the book may be known by three names, it did one thing: established the principles for formulating drinks of all kinds - including methods, measurements and ingredients. Needless to say, bitters were a key element even then.

The history of bitters actually dates back even further, with the first mentions occurring in ancient Egypt. Essentially, bitters are an infusion of aromatic herbs and botanicals into an alcohol base. Originally used more for medicinal treatments, bitters have experienced a resurgence of late, appearing in many new and creative formulations. 

For the sake of our Bitter Lovers event, you can expect to see a variety of bitters appearing in several cocktails. But don't just think you're going to be drinking old fashioned's all night. Bitters are a common ingredient in many types of cocktails - even tiki drinks. 

As an example, here's a list below of the cocktail recipes on our site that include bitters. Take a peek for yourself and you'll see how essential they are to a great drink.

 

Tickets are on sale now for Bitter Lovers. All proceeds will benefit Blood:Water, seeking an end to the water and HIV/AIDS crises in Africa.

give thanks for booze

A good friend once referred to the term "FFF." 

"Forced Family Fun" was the meaning and we know exactly what they meant. Yeah, we love our family, but sometimes, like around Thanksgiving, family time can be more than a little stressful. 

The cure? Booze, of course!

We've published several new cocktails just for the Holidays and pulled in a few of our other favorites. You'll find all the flavors of the season - from sorghum to sage, spice to smoke. But most importantly, these things pack a punch! So be safe out there please!

So go ahead, make that trip to the liquor store now - it gives you a good excuse to slip out of the house.