Words by Kaylee Dugan
Photos by Clarissa Villondo
Dram & Grain wants to take you on one more trip around the world. The team has pulled inspiration from places like Havanna, London and San Francisco, an eclectic mix of locations each with their own diverse cocktail history. From the artful and delicate creations of Tokyo to the heady flavor packed mixtures of New Orleans, Dram & Grain has once again succeeded in distilling the essence of each city into drink form. Next time they update the menu, expect something completely different, but for now, just be glad they want to take you on another vacation.
Our jaunt kicks off with a stop in Tokyo, both drinks aiming to show off different sides of the immense city. The Shochu-Colada is served in traditional shochu cups and featured Mizu shochu, Cynar 70, coconut, pineapple and Yuzu. It’s a creamy and delicate little drink with sweet fruity flavors that get tempered by the bitter (in a good way) taste of the Cynar. It’s a far more refined take on the Piña Colada that highlights what we think about when we imagine old school Japan. On the other hand, Thanks For Being A Friend (which is not a weird out of place Golden Girls reference even though I really wish it was!) is the booze forward rollicking cocktail that reminds me of all the delightful Japanese whiskies I’ve been lucky to try. It’s made with Four Roses Bourbon (which was bought by the Kirin Brewing Company in 2002) and includes Kuromitsu syrup (Japanese black sugar), Angostura and Umami bitters and Lapsang Souchong tea. It’s a smokey, booze forward concoction that still manages to be a delightful and easy drink (at least I finished mine real quick…). Like many of the syrups and bitters at Dram & Grain, the umami bitters were made in house from three kinds of mushrooms. The bitters by themselves have a delightful salty, protein-y taste that makes you crave more.
Moving on to London, we start off with the Royal Voyage. A combination of Plymouth Gin (duh), house made dried grapefruit tonic and Himalayan pink salt make for a refreshing and bright combination. A Gin & Tonic is a classic combination that doesn’t need to be altered or fucked with, but Dram & Grain’s version kills it nonetheless. Another interesting riff is the Kings & Queens, which is kind of sort of a Negroni, but with grapefruit and rosemary infused Absolut Elyx, Peychaud’s Aperitivo and Dolin Blanc. It tastes like a boozy orange soda with a bitter, more adult, edge. Again, super drinkable. Like, gone in a second drinkable.
Next up, we land in Havanna and of course the first cocktail features that hot Stiggins’ Plantation Pineapple Rum. I feel like every good cocktail bar in this city is going bonkers for this stuff, and for good reason, it’s goddamn delicious. This cocktail, aptly named the Stiggin’s At It Again also features the locally made Cotton & Reed white rum, Cocchi Americano and a house made coconut amaro. It’s a booze forward concoction that starts strong and ends with that sweet pineapple. The next drink, Two Pink Flamingos (which is not a John Waters reference, I asked) is a lighter, sweeter, and more tropical take on that delicious pineapple flavor. Made with Ron Zacapa 23 rum, a house made strawberry-banana aperitif, heavy cream (hell yeah), soda water, lemon, lime and egg white, it’s almost like a Ramos Gin Fizz, but with a much sweeter citrusy flavor. Served in the most obnoxious way possible (and I mean that with all of the trashy love in my heart) it is a conversation starter to say the least.
We’re halfway through and heading on to New Orleans, where things get personal. The now infamous Gator Wrestlin’ & Paddle-Backs is based off of Andy Bixby’s experience watching a man wrestle gators (and feed them mushrooms) while doing Chartruese paddle-backs off of an old boat oar. You know, your average Tales story. The drink includes Green Chartruese, house made alligator butter (which involves caramelizing alligator meat, freezing the fat and then the oh so popular fat-washing), Don Ciccio & Figli Carciofo Amaro, pineapple, tamarind, lime, and Cajun spice. It’s bonkers. It tastes like liquefied meat, not in a gross way, but meat is still the overwhelming flavor. Spicy, fatty meat. There’s a little bit of sweetness right at the very beginning, but you can’t hide that meat flavor. It’s over powering. If you think Bloody Mary’s are a little too savory for you then this will blow your goddamn mind. I’m certainly glad I had it, but I don’t think I would want an entire full sized drink. There’s just a lot going on.
If that liquid meat description isn’t doing it for you, go with the Ode 2 Odes instead. It’s an ode (I’m not sorry) to their very popular Ode to Omaha cocktail is basically tastes like a smokey Old Fashioned. Made with Wild Turkey 101 rye, Thomas Tew Aged rum, Chartreuse aux Fraise, house made bitters and Falernum smoke. It’s spicy with a little hint of sweetness and the perfect amount of delicious smoke. It was probably my favorite drink of the night and considering how many good drinks I had, that’s saying something.
For the final leg of our trip, we’re touching down in San Francisco. The Fresh Baked tastes exactly how you imagine it would, with Wild Turkey Rare Breed Straight Bourbon, house made fortified cinnamon roll, Contratto Aperitif, Don Ciccio & Figli Cinque Aperitivo, Fernet Vallet and bitters. It’s a great nightcap. That toasted bakery sweetness really comes through, but its far from overwhelming. It still tastes like an adult beverage. Last, we have the Shine Like 1849, a tribute to the gold rush, the drink includes Copper & Kings Butchertown Brandy, a seasonal shrub and a gold luster mineral water. It’s a very fun, bright (in both ways) cocktail. Another drink that’s very easy to power through.
We’re not going to say anything of these drinks are better than a vacation, but for the price they’re as close as you’re going to get.