Nicky and I love it when we have the chance to share our cocktail passion with our friends. One of those amazing people is ‘Nay. Not only is she a dear friend, she also owns one of the best burger joints in town! So we swung by George’s the other night for a bite, met up with ‘Nay, and decided to twist her arm to join us for an impromptu cocktail adventure. Keeping it in the neighborhood, we headed up the street to Rosebud, where were delighted to find Melissa behind the bar.
Following an unspoken vintage theme, we started off with a traditional Negroni (Miller’s Gin, Carpano Antica, Campari) and Sazarac (rye, bitters, sugar, herbsaint), two of our favorite classics and crafted beautifully by Melissa. As for a Rosebud original, we opted for The Tartan. We’ve had this before, but the recipe allows for this to be a seasonal drink. The current version was featuring apple-infused vodka, a muscadine shrub and prosecco. I love that this is such a simple template for a cocktail and that the fruit infusion and the shrub can change in and out seasonally. The back-end vinegar trace will make some people (who love shrubs) adore this drink. Others may be put off by the shrub element. It works for me and I like the versatility.
Round two continued down the vintage path. Nicky was in the mood for Cognac and asked Melissa if she wanted to make a Sidecar – cognac, cointreau (or orange liqueur), lemon juice. She delivered on a nicely balanced libation complete with the sugar-coated rim. Harry MacElhone would have smiled.
I opted for her version of a classic Manhattan. She chose Redemption Rye and Carpano Antica (with Angustora bitters). Perfect ratio of rye to vermouth and stirred with style.
Jeff Jackson, Rosebud’s mixologist and infusion genius, joined us in the vintage discussion and introduced us to a Ward 8, a cocktail dating back to 1898 in Boston.
I love a cocktail with a good story. (Or a cocktail that leads to a great story!) Back in 1898 Martin Lomasney (Democratic political czar) had held power in Boston for about 50 years. His latest goal was to capture a seat in the state legislature. The Ward 8 was created in honor of his election and named after the city’s Ward 8, which delivered him the winning margin.
There are two other popular versions of the history of the Ward 8. One states that the cocktail originated in New York in an area known for political corruption. My favorite story is that the Ward 8 is a traditional drink of the Scottish Guards. Our people do know how to drink well.
Which ever story you choose to accept, here is the recipe used by the barkeeps at the famous Locke-Ober in Boston:
2 ounces rye whisky
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon grenadine
Jeff used High West Double Rye (how can you go wrong there), and just a touch of orange juice, plus the lemon and grenadine. Nice. Originally the drink was decorated with a small paper Massachusetts flag. Glad Jeff is not a purist.
Back to the bar
An added surprise for the night was the discovery of Jeff’s collection of cellos. If you check the top shelf of the bar at Rosebud you will see several large, glass jars of liquids. This is where the lemoncello, limecello and orangecello are all resting.
Traditionally I’m not a big fan of the cello family. They usually are too sweet with not much of a redeeming element. I will have to admit, these were pretty amazing. When Jeff said they had a “creamy” element to them, he was correct. We sampled each and found them all to have a velvety, creamy texture.
Jeff explained that he begins the process with the fruit peel and grain alcohol. He has moved away from the grated zest to actual strips of the peel to gain a slightly different flavor. The peel and alcohol sit and mingle for about three months. Then he strains (and strains) the mixture, adding in an equal amount of sugar to the final liquid. The mixture then sits for another month or two. It is a seemingly long process but well worth the wait.
Of the three flavors, the lime seemed to be the favorite for each of us. It has a nice earthy element that balances out the sweet. Can’t help but think how nice this one will taste with Mezcal. The orange and lemon will both stand well on their own, or will blend nicely in a cocktail.
Look for Jeff to use some of these in the new fall menu! Word has it that he is working on a new fall menu of drinks to release later this month. Pretty sure you will continue to see a handful of classic, vintage cocktails on the menu as well. We can’t wait!
Rosebud, and sister restaurant The Family Dog, are both located on North Highland Avenue in Virginia Highlands. And, as always, we don’t really talk about the food menus, but we can tell you that Chef Ron Eyester (The Angry Chef) serves a fabulous, creative menu of American/Southern influenced dishes that are seasonally driven and slightly reinvented to delight and please.