I really didn’t want to like Tonic on 4th. In fact, I loved Twist so much, and was so mad that it was gone, that I was determined to never go to Tonic. Period. Then I met Josh Durr, the cocktail consultant for Tonic. His skill with a cocktail shaker swayed me, and later the same week I popped into Tonic. I sort of feel like I haven’t left since.
Josh trained all the bartenders (Benjamin, Maggie, Erin, and Mike), and every one of them has that vintage, craft cocktail thing down to the art that it is. Even better, they’ll explain anything to you, from how and why they make their own bitters, tinctures, and ice to the history of the cocktail on which you’re sipping.
For me, the test of any bar is the Manhattan. If you read my post earlier this week, you know that Josh made me a flawless Manhattan. I expect nothing less from the folks at Tonic, and they deliver. My request of “stirred and up” might as well be laughed at – how else would they serve it? And I love that.
The cocktail menu is large and eclectic, and the menu is divided up into several sections: Classical (e.g., Moscow Mule, Aviation), Classic Punches (e.g., Bourbon Milk Punch), Neo Classical Originals (e.g., The Liberal Liberal and the absinthe-included Lumberjack Frappe), and New Punches (e.g., Teachers Punch). The menu not only lists what is in each drink, but provides you with a history of each cocktail.
My first night there, Benjamin made me a Bluegrass Flip. It was a drink I’d never heard of, but really enjoyed. Honestly, I’m not overly sure what was in it besides some liquor mixed with a Bourbon Barrel Stout and some egg; maybe some bourbon? Trust me, it’s a lot better than it sounds, and it lives on their Specials menu.
My friends all have a range of favorites. One girlfriend swears by the Liberal Liberal, which is a slight twist on a Manhattan. The recipe calls for Wild Turkey 101, sweet vermouth, Amaro, and the house-made orange bitters. I know that a couple of the bartenders actually prefer the drink with different bourbon. I tried it with the Wild Turkey, but it wasn’t up my alley. I suspect I might enjoy it more with Four Roses. Another girlfriend is very attached to the classic Moscow Mule, which is simply Smirnoff Lime Juice and Goslings Ginger Beer. Finally, a friend of mine will always order an Old Old-Fashioned. I had to ask – what’s a New Old-Fashioned? Apparently newer Old Fashioneds have some fruit muddled in the bottom, but the older style focuses more on the bourbon.
Twice now I’ve ordered snacks. Tonic shares a kitchen with Local 127, but don’t expect to order off the Local 127 menu. Tonic offers light bites, but they’re quite tasty. Thus far I’ve tried a rather yummy plate of Stuffed Baked Potato Skins (so cute and tiny!), Ohio Kennebec Fries with Cheddar Sauce, and an order of Sliders. I’ve seen the Grass Fed Fox Hollow Burger with Cheese. It’s huge and according to a friend of mine, quite tasty. Because they share the kitchen with Local 127, Tonic adheres to the same policy of local foods from local growers and markets.
Oh the wine list? I haven’t paid much attention. Because Tonic is so focused on craft cocktails, I don’t expect them to have the world’s largest wine list. However, since they are a part of Local 127, I do expect what they offer to be top-notch. I was happy to see they still offer the Gruet sparkling wine from New Mexico, which is the bottle I always ordered at Twist ($8 a glass at Tonic). They also offer a nice Montfort Chenin Blanc ($5) and a rather eclectic red selection including Chile and South Africa. It’s a short list, all by the glass. I should probably ask for a wine list next time I visit, just to see what all of the options are on the off chance I order a bottle.
As for beer, they have a nice selection of bottles, including Lindemann’s Framboise and Bells Seasonal. Their tap includes Unibroue’s Maudite, La Chouffe, Delirium, several ciders, and the Left Hand Polestar Pilsner, among many others.
The prices at Tonic aren’t cheap. On a good night, it’s easy for two people to run up a bill of around $100. At the same time, you’re not drinking well drinks either. I’ve been to Tonic three times now, although I want to go more. Of course, I’m in Las Vegas now, trying to find a decent Manhattan in Sin City. But I’m actually home the entire month of February. Do you know what that means? It means you can find me at Tonic.
My thanks to Bob 5chw4r7z for use of the photos!
Here are some more drinks from our session with Josh Durr.
Add ingredients to a shaker filled halfway with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
I had recently sat through a session on gin presented by Tanqueray, so I was surprised when Josh grabbed the Beefeater for this drink. He told me it’s bcause the big bold London gin flavor holds up to the rest of the ingredients. So there you go – it really does matter what type of liquor you choose per drink.
The Whiskey Sour
Are you used to whiskey sours with a mix? Now that I’ve tried a “real” whiskey sour, I am shocked at both how good it is and just how simple it is to make. Why buy a mix?
Add all ingredients into a shaker with cracked ic. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.
Yeah, I know. Pretty simple, yes?
Editor’s Note: The above image is a random cocktail, not an Aviation, of which I have no photo.
Another cocktail from our session with Josh, and oh how good it is. It certainly didn’t sound good (milk, really?), but I was really wrong.
Bourbon Milk Punch
Add all the liquids to a punch bowl. Add the vanilla next. Add several large chunks of ice and stir gently but well.
Folks, you can have this with breakfast or brunch or just about any time you want.
In the class we took from Josh Durr, he made us each a Manhattan. Now, the Manhattan is my favorite cocktail, but I’ve had a lot of horrible versions, both locally and when we travel. In Vancouver, I ordered a Manhattan and had the worst drink of my life – and I’m still not sure what all he put in it. At several local bars, the bourbon and vermouth are often low-end, the drink is filled with floating ice chips, and bitters aren’t even added. Sigh.
So Josh’s Manhattan was a breath of fresh air for me – it was something out of the stylized Mad Men. Because of this class, I’m now very specific with my Manhattan order: “Four Roses or Woodford Manhattan, up, and stirred please.”
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Sounds easy, right? Josh commented that you should always use high-quality bourbon, vermouth, and bitters. He goes so far as to make his own tinctures, including bitters, but we aren’t all so dedicated. An interesting tip is that you can replace the vermouth with Elderflower liqueur for a twist on the classic Manhattan.
When you stir the Manhattan, consistently and quietly stir to chill down the drink. Josh recommended making the drink in a pint glass and pouring it out through a double-strainer.
It was good folks. Really really good.
Photo from Flickr user ginsnob
via Creative Commons
It’s Cocktail Week here at My Wine Education. I know, we love wine. And next week you’ll be getting a slew of wine reviews. But this week, in honor of my second trip to Las Vegas in a month, it’s all cocktails. Enjoy!
Back in December, Kevin and I were lucky enough to take a class at The Party Source from Josh Durr. Josh is the cocktail consultant who helped put together Tonic on 4th, including creating the drink menu and ice program. Josh is from Louisville, where he is a partner in Molecular Bartending, LLC. He has created cocktails for Brown-Forman, Southern Wine & Spirits, Republic National Beverage, and, of course, Tonic.
The class was geared toward the professional, although everyone present was a consumer, with the exception of everyone’s favorite local bartender, Molly Wellman. And really, I think Molly was just there to have fun – she already rocks at all of this stuff. The rest of us? We eagerly asked all manner of questions and drank some rather flawless cocktails.
A few key notes I scribbled down:
Overall, I left the class very excited about Tonic. I love classic cocktails and really, I’ve had some horrible Manhattans. I’ll be reviewing Tonic later this week. My thanks to Josh for an amazing class! I’ll be publishing some of his cocktail recipes over the next few days, starting with the Manhattan.
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