Tony Dee, our new Executive Chef in Indianapolis, isn’t afraid to try anything. He’s worked at some of the country’s best restaurants, and spent a lot of time and energy with all kinds of ingredients in many kitchens. Joseph Davey, the General Manager of the same restaurant and former Beverage Manager for our entire restaurant group, loves creating new drinks. The two of them have paired up to create some artisan and unusual drink ingredients.
They’ve experimented with bitters most extensively. Bitters are an ingredient for bar drinks that pack a lot of flavor into only a drop or two of liquid. You can add bitters to drinks and completely change the drink depending on what you’ve used to make the bitters. If you’d like to read a great guide to bitters, we recommend this article from Food & Wine magazine.
The key ingredient generally in bitters is Gentian root, Tony says. He also uses wormwood and sarsaparilla root, coriander seeds, peppercorns, fresh thyme, bay leaves and ginger root. We combine the ingredients with grain alcohol, and seal in large hermetic jars. We shake every day for 30 days. “You can use after 14 days but I prefer to wait and let the flavors grow deeper,” Tony says. “The ratios for amount of ingredients varies per taste. The alcohol used for making bitters can also vary. We used grain alcohol for ours. Other types can be substituted like rum, vodka, bourbon, tequila and gin.”
The flavors Tony has made so far are ginger, vanilla, herb, pineapple, coffee, orange and lemon. Tony says he’s working on rhubarb, bing cherry, peach and grapefruit. Bitters are powerful, and you only need a drop or two to dramatically enhance the flavor of the cocktail you’re making, he says.
Our Indianapolis location also has two wood casks for making cocktails as well. Tony made a ginger infused bourbon and a Manhattan, both set in mini wood barrels sitting behind our bar. “By setting them in wood barrels, we get a rich oak flavor with the drinks and once again, the longer it sits, the richer and smoother the flavor,” Tony says.
“My next step is to be introducing house made Vermouth,” Tony says. “With the summer months on us now, some great ingredients will be in season and we will be able to make lots of amazing cocktails.”
Tony also created Limoncello and Orangecello, which are well-known and loved in Italy. A similar process is used, but these are made in a larger jar and sugar is added. The process of making the Lemoncello and Orangecello is as follows:
30 Lemons or Orange skins, skin only (Note: as little pith as possible; the pith is the white part)
1 bottle grain alcohol (750 ML)
1 bottle vodka (750 ML, we recommend Grey Goose)
8 cups sugar
Combine all ingredients and stir everyday. Keep your refrigerator and covered. Let mix sit for at least two weeks. The longer it sits, the smoother it gets. We let ours sit for 45 days. After time is up, strain through a fine strainer and chill. It is ready to serve.
Tony recommends sitting outdoors on a patio and sipping on a mild summer day.
Do you make cocktails at home? What’s your favorite to make?