Words by Kaylee Dugan
Photos by Clarissa Villondo
Jack Rose has made a name for itself on 18th street. Between its excellent beer program and killer whiskey selection, it’s a go to place whether you’re looking to experiment or sip on an old favorite. For Dram & Grain‘s new fall cocktail menu, they’re looking to push the boundaries of that trust and lead customers to spirits, and other ingredients, they’d never dream of trying before.
Their menu is split into three distinct sections, Know, Inquire and Discover. The goal here to is start you off easy with the Know section, not only does this menu include the full list of ingredients, but it also provides longer descriptions of notes and flavors you should expect. Inquire pairs it down a bit, giving you a colorful description, but not a fully transparent look into what goes into the drinks. The Discover menu is as minimalist as can be, featuring nothing but the cocktail names and prices.
While the layout is certainly unusual, the team behind this menu, Andy Bixby, Benny Hurwitz and Morgan Kirchner, promise there is a method to the madness. They’ve noticed over the years that customers would often come in and get overwhelmed by the large selection of drinks and would either freeze, unable to make a decision, or they would revert to their comfort zone and refuse to try anything new. This is why the fall menu not only withholds some information. They’ve also gone all out with the cocktail names this year, going for experiential names like Boogie Boarding is Bittersweet at Bethany Beach and Wine Night in Metallica’s Treehouse. As silly and irreverent as they are, these names give you an idea of whats in store, sometimes better than the ingredients list. Just because you don’t know what’s in the drink, that doesn’t mean they want you to go in blind.
We tried six of their cocktails (two from each menu) and it felt more like a well coursed meal than boozy night. Starting off with the Playing in the Sprinkler with Enzo we were treated to a spritzer-esque drink with Aperol, infused Singani, sparkling wine and frothed grapefruit. It’s a creamy and bright concoction that feels like it could destroy a hangover in one sip. It’s the breakfast cocktail of champions and if Jack Rose had a brunch (RIP) it would be the perfect addition.
Next up was the fittingly named, Down the Rabbit Hole. Made with Absolut Elyx, Cynar and a homemade carrot ginger beer, it’s like a healthy smoothie with booze. I can see Real Housewives going nuts for this (and I mean that with all the love in my heart). It’s definitely got a spicy kick from the ginger beer, but the carrot really comes through and makes you feel like you might honestly be drinking something you could pick up at Jrink. This was made for your yoga obsessed, Soul Cycle maniac friends.
Moving on to the Inquire portion of the menu, we kicked things off with Field of Creams. A play on the whiskey sour, this drink involves a chocolate covered raisin liqueur that you’re going to wish you could buy at the liquor store. It’s a fantastic fall drink that balances sweet and citrus in all the right ways. I was to sit back and sip it while I watch a movie. The opposite of this dreamy cocktail, A Wedding Bouquet Grown in Paradise is not the kind of drink that makes you want to sink into a leather chair. This is a drink that knocks you off your feet with all of the intricate flavors. It’s a bombastic cocktail, that feels floral, spicy and powdery all in the same sip. Made from a paradise tea Kirchner found at a farmers market, it’s a tea connoisseurs dream, but even if you’re more of a coffee person, this is a fantastic drink to share with someone. Kick back and debate what flavors you taste and smell, because there’s a lot to mull over here.
Finally, we find ourselves in the weirder portion of the menu. The place where you can order a tequila cocktail fat washed with shrimp (Shrimpwrecked On Grapefruit Island), a drink with a chorizo garnish (I Got Sunburned at a Mexican Pig Roast) and so much more. We started with the Papaya Salad from a Bangkok Night Market and goddamn did it transport us out of that dark basement bar. Not that I’ve ever been to Bangkok, but I have had papaya salad (shout out to Thai X-Ing) and this captures the spicy, nutty, refreshing crunch in a way that feels like actual witchcraft. While it was a real contender for favorite drink of the night, the cocktail that stole my heart was Stealing Tomatoes from the Garden of Eden. Fun fact about me, I eat cherry tomatoes with Himalayan pink salt and freshly cracked black pepper every morning for breakfast. The sweet, salty, lightly spicy combo goes incredibly well with any egg dish, from omelettes to runny over easy breakfast sandwiches, and it jump starts my day in all the right ways. This cocktail is the liquid equivalent of my breakfast routine. It tastes fresh and sweet and salty and stupidly addicting.
This fall, there’s nothing we recommend more than doing trust falls with Jack Rose.