IMBIBE: Well Spritz Me Already

Warm humid days are upon us and we are tired – if that’s even possible – of our usual summer brews. Take a break from your hazy IPAs and summer shandys. Pause the margarita for a refreshing ever-so-slightly-sessionable and easy-to-make drink: The Spritz. Some say the Aperol Spritz, others recall their grandma’s circa 1991 white wine spritzers.

It’s all fair game and you can, too, enjoy some morning, day and evening drinking as summer fades. The spritz actually has a past that’s old – it wasn’t just part of the 1950s cocktail craze that Aperol (for which we thank thee mighty spirit gods) crowned. Spritz were actually grown from a period in the 1800s when forces from what would become Austria invaded an area of Italy (Veneto). Venetians were asked to add water to the sparkling wines (red or white) to lower the alcohol content – a spritzen in their conqueror’s language.

Essentially, this cocktail began with adding cold water to sparkling red or white wine. Fast forward to the west’s cocktail culture 1950s heyday and Italians began using a lovely amaro called Aperol with prosecco. Orange-hued and easy to crush, this beverage now hails another revival. Perhaps you’ve seen this or a version of this at a brunch spot near you.

Try it. Maybe you’ve seen Cynar, Gran Classico or Campari with bubbly and club soda. Also delicious.

Make one at home this weekend. Or weeknight. Whenever, and sit outside, relaxing for a minute before school starts, before cooler weather, before you break and buy octoberfest too early.

Aperol Spritz

Go get:

2 oz Aperol (or your favorite Amaro)

4 oz Prosecco

.75 oz Club Soda

Orange Peel

Make: Put ice in the goblet. Pour Aperol, pour prosecco and club soda over it. Top with orange peel and serve and stir and sip. And sip. And sip. And make another one.


Vermouth Spritz

Go get:

3 oz Vermouth (in warmer weather try a Bianco or Medium Dry)

2 oz Prosecco or Club Soda


Orange twist or a Green Olive and lemon twist

Make: Place ingredients in a goblet and pour and drink and pour another.

Your Mom’s White Wine Spritz

Go get:

4 oz chilled white wine

1 oz sparkling water or club soda**

Lemon peel

Make: Pour ingredients into wine glass and drink. Repeat.


* Yes, you can borrow the title of this article for your next dating app tagline; go for it and good luck.

** Substitute club soda for a flavored sparkling water – so many flavor combinations to enjoy.

And finally, if these are too labor intensive as you sit by the pool or bay. Go to your local store and pick up SOL’s new Loyal Lemonade canned cocktail. Refreshing stuff and locally made.


IMBIBE: Highball Summer

The older I get, the shorter summer feels. Therefore, I propose all drinkers take minimal effort this season to maximize lazing in the sun (with sunblock, of course — those fine lines don’t come from nothing). My remedy for optimal drinking without wasting time?

All hail the Highball Summer of 2018.

They’re long, lean, straightforward (generally) two-part cocktails served over ice. The history, like most of our founding cocktails, stands a bit mixed on exact introduction to the public, but many think it was mid-1890s in New York, where asking for a Scotch & Soda became on-trend.

Follow that with the effervescent and malaria-proofing Gin & Tonic. Or the ‘60s swinging Presbyterian, and baby, we got ourselves a good time. Besides these gems, you may have seen Japanese Highballs as of late. Yes, with the growing thirst for Japanese whisky comes the cocktail used to greet everyone entering an izakaya.

Here are a few favorite highballs to greet your summer guests, without detracting from your time in the sun.

Japanese Highball
2 oz Japanese whisky (try Toki or Nikka Taketsuru Pure Malt)
4 oz club soda (always go for low or no sodium)
Dash of melon bitters and/or lemon twist

2 oz rye — (or go use a local whiskey like SoL)
2 oz ginger ale
2 oz club soda
Lemon peel (or a stale cigarette)

Gin & Tonic
2 oz gin
4 oz tonic
Squeeze lime slice
Note: With our market enjoying a flush of gins, experiment with flavors — a strong juniper-forward gin will be classic, whereas a soft floral style or Old Tom gin will taste mild, perhaps a touch sweeter. Also, don’t mess around with bad tonic. Get the good stuff. Why ruin your gin?

Agave & Soda
2 oz mezcal or tequila (or 1/1 split)
4 oz club soda
Lime wedge and grapefruit wedge both squeezed into the glass
This is one of my favorites because I get to have tequila and/or mezcal without having to juice lots of citrus and shake. Saves calories and time!

0 proof option: Ango & Soda
A whole bunch of dashes of angostura bitters
6 oz club soda

Basically, pick your favorite spirit, pour it over ice. Top with club soda or a light fizz of something. Garnish to your heart’s desire. And raise a glass to summer.

IMBIBE: Lime Rock

Screenshot_20180401-203555Do you feel that? In the air? It’s time. Cocktail menu changes are upon us. For SPRING.
Yes, despite March roaring in like a lion and, uh, out like a frozen lion, we still believe spring will spread over New England. While we wait for the weather to turn warmer and green things to sprout, your local spirits intelligentsia quietly finalize their seasonal cocktail menus.
What to expect? Look for more gin, rum and tequila drinks. Rumor has it the East End plans a little pisco action coming at us on their patio. The Eddy’s working up a slew of spot-on-as-per-usual beverages … and at least one of them has tequila for all you agave fans. The Dorrance is featuring great drinks from their alumni of amazing bartenders — like a yearbook of beverages, with plenty of weather-appropriate options and a few warmers in case you still feel that chill in the air. Down in Newport the fine people of Perro Salado are devising a strawberry drink that’ll have you feeling like throwing off your sweater shackles and romping in a park.
But before you completely twitterpate with warmer weather wanderlust, meander over to the bar at Vanderbilt Grace. Yes, yes, you might be thinking I’ve lost my way from one too many, but trust this writer. Christine Mercado, bar manager, created a whole line of amazing cocktails for Women’s History Month — yeah, we know March ended. But we had to mention at least one of them. Why? It’s delicious, you can make it at home following our handy guide below, and because we can.
What: “Lime Rock” — Ida Lewis
Found Where: The Vanderbilt Grace
Go Get:
  • 1.75 oz Appleton Estate Reserve Blend Rum
  • 0.75 oz ginger liqueur
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • soda water
  • Rim half of the glass with lime salt
  • Shake rum, ginger liqueur, lime and simple syrup
  • Strain over fresh ice into rocks glass
  • Finish with lime salt rim and gumpaste anchor*
“This Amazing woman [Ida Lewis]  kept the lighthouse on Lime Rock for 54 years, during which she saved 18 to 25 lives,” Mercado posted on her Instagram feed recently while I swooned over her creation. Grab this drink, Google Ida Lewis (or check out the documentary: https://motifri.com/idalewis), and then go find some sunshine. Happy spring, indeed.
*Unless you’re an artist like the talented Mercado, don’t bother making the anchor; just buy a plastic one and wish you were an artist instead.

New Trends in Drinking

My original pitch to the hardworking, hard thinking, patient editor and publisher of Motif went like this:
“Millennial drinking habits are different!”
They were intrigued, but, really, why should we care about the idea of Millennial drinking habits being so different from the drinking generations preceding them? Because, drinking readers, these things impact beverage production, availability, importing/exporting, prices and more — in more diffuse ways than history will tell of the Trump Steel Tariff of 1918, erm, 2018.
Call this my Magic 8-Ball of Booze Predictions. Based on the current evidence, the short of it: Wine consumption is up. Spirits consumption continues to rise. Ciders are up. Beer is down.
Expect the Craft Brewery Bubble to Continue to Burst
Don’t cry just yet. This doesn’t mean every local brewery will go the way of all good old breweries across a rainbow bridge. But it does mean a shake up, and some will be lost as the latest of-age drinkers consume less beer. If you are a beer fan, it may do well to practice loyalty to some of the locals you wish to see around for years to come.
Expect to See More Distilleries Opening
That’s right — in Rhode Island, maybe even Providence. Eventually, expect to see distilleries being bought by bigger national/international conglomerates. Over the next few years, watch out for brand dilution. And eventually, a bursting bubble. Or at least a fizz out of sorts.
Expect to See More Convenience Cocktails
Cocktails in cans. Cocktails on draft. Yes. Delicious pre-made cocktails at your disposal. No, not the yellow-hued 5% juice mixed up grain alcohol jugs on the bottom shelf of the packy. We’re talking high quality, lower sugar and real-juiced cocktails in cans. Also, expect to see cocktails on draft at your favorite cocktail bars and restaurants.
But pay attention to who’s making them. And, more importantly, whether you like the drink.
Expect to See More Health-Related Alcohol Fusions
Some of you may already be kombucha aficionados. Well, expect higher alcohol kombucha to hit the shelves near you. With more and more health focus moving away from at-will consumption (as in drink whenever you want), some brands are looking to add a take to the healthy living component. We bet you’ll see more tea and fresh juice-related alcohol. But don’t hold your breath on wheat grass booze. We hope.
Expect to See Rosé Sticking Around 
Also just say no to blue wine <— THAT, my friends, is NOT a nice way to treat any wine, even a crappy one. And. You will still get to wear, or have to deal with seeing, those Rosé All Day t-shirts. It’s worth the burden.
Expect to See Sparkling Wine Continue to Rise
Maybe even in a can! There are a few already canned, but more importantly, look for quality sparkling wine. It does not have to be champagne to be great, nor does it have to be pricey. But do a little homework to see about the value of what’s bubbling up in front of you.
So, Expect to See More Wine in a Can and in a BiB 
And better wine at that. You can expect to see higher quality wines in different formats for your drinking convenience. I myself have a few favorite BiBs that can be found in high quality wine shops throughout the state.
[BiB = Bag in Box wine, way cooler than boxed wine]
Expect More Non-age Statements in Whisk(e)y 
It’s already getting harder to grab age statements in Japanese and Scotch Whisky. Across the board, many distilleries are moving to non-age statement whisk(e)y. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Age is a singular statement of perceived quality, but only one factor in what determines a tasty bourbon, rye, Scotch, etc.
Expect More and Weirder Liquor
Keep your eyes out for interesting imports from all over the world. Amaro, vermouths, liqueurs and other fun styles of spirits are increasingly finding their way to the US. Mezcal will continue to rise, but don’t be shocked if a while down the road we see tequila becoming difficult to get. That’s worthy of a whole different article, though.
Expect More Cider, Both Good and Crappy
What you like is what you like whether it’s deemed “crappy” or not, but a point of contention in cider is what makes the cider. In other words, fresh pressed juice, juice concentrate, added sugar, added flavor??? What do you want to deal with when you sip that delicious apple thing in front of you?
Don’t expect to see more gastropubs.
Don’t expect all booze to be created equal. There’s a lot of marketing out there.
Don’t expect yourself to love riding the trend wave. Drink what you like, in moderation, of course.
Don’t expect to see your ex drinking wine out of a can. Just kidding. Don’t expect to see your ex, ever, if you’re lucky. Nevermind. You’re not that lucky. Just drink.
Writer’s Caveat: I wrote this piece with a bit of mirth and a sizable pour of brandy in my glass. I’m also employed in the beverage industry. This is all my take inspired by a lot of well-researched pieces out there by trade and consumer publications.

IMBIBE: Coping this Valentine’s Day

Swipe left. Swipe right. Ghost. Stash. Breadcrumb. If you know these terms, you know the phrase “all’s fair in love and war” couldn’t possibly be truth. Lyly didn’t write about love in the 21st century, that’s for damn sure. We can be certain only of one thing when it comes to a decent date: you pick the spot, so you can get a good drink at the very least.

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, here are a few love notes to help you cope date or datelessly:

Go Bitter

Amaros can be found dotting the bars across Providence, mostly. Beyond Fernet, which many of us have proven our salt in shooting, try a sip of Amaro di Angostura. Its earthy baking notes will put you in the mood. Some spots to sip on Amaros more bitter than your cold heart: East End, Courtland Club, The Eddy, the Dorrance, Diego’s.

Go Pink

But we don’t mean the obnoxious pink that looks like a fairy puked. We mean pink like something you could drink up while your date yammers on. Think agave. Think lightly hued pink. Like the salty dogs at Chilango’s or a mouthwatering mezcal paloma at El Rancho Grande or down at Perro Salado. Or forego the pink altogether and just drink mezcal.

Go Home

Sometimes there’s nothing better than takeout on the couch with your date. In my case, the date is a homemade sparkling negroni. It’s not too sweet, not too bitter, bubbling and all mine.

Go Get:

.75 oz Campari or Luxardo Bitter

.5 oz London Dry Gin (don’t pick the cheap stuff, go real)

.75 oz Sweet red vermouth (Dolin, Alessio or Carpano will do)

4 oz Cava (or a brut bubbly of your choice)


Stir the first three ingredients with ice. Pour into a flute and top with bubbly. Garnish with a fresh lemon peel. Serves one unless you really like someone, then double it. Ah, hell, double it either way.

IMBIBE: Cooler & Warmer Holiday Bar Spreads

For a wickedly short moment in our state history, we let the world know Rhode Island was “Cooler & Warmer.” While that siren song did not resonate with we Rhode Islanders, we can, in fact, celebrate the demise of 2017’s tourism slogan and simultaneously bring Christmas cheer to all by hosting a holiday party with both cooler and warmer bar spreads.

I’m a big fan of putting out a spread of options, with notecards for what to do, and letting guests DIY their own drinks. In fact, you can even appoint each guest to bring a particular bottle or fixing for your shared holiday bar! By keeping to a warm bar or cold bar (or both on separate tables), it’s easy to interchange spirits and bases for happy holiday drinking. So let’s get a little cooler, and then warmer, shall we? <insert red nosed cheeky grin here>

Cool Bar
For your cool bar, you’ll need to think about what you can serve as a base (a punch or a wine or cider) that your guests can add to. I like bubbles, I like gin, I like cider. Check out the options below:

Go Get
Bubbly, lots of it (I like using prosecco, cava or Limoux for quality, but affordability. If you want to show off your earned dollars use a full-blown champagne.)
Gin (London Dry, preferably, or one with a high juniper profile)
Rum (dark)
Whiskey (your choice, but I prefer bourbon)
Vanilla Vodka (or just vodka for you vodka people)
Cranberry Liqueur (there are a few good local options! If you can’t find one, just use unsweetened cranberry juice.)
Fresh cranberries, lemon slices, and lime slices for garnishes

Cocktails you can make with this spread
Poinsetta: 1 oz of cranberry liqueur, top with bubbly and a cranberry or whatever berry you have on hand, serve in a flute or coupe.
Santa’s Chilled Cider: take 1 oz of your favorite spirit* and top with the Cider Blend**
Rudolph’s G&T: ½ oz Cranberry Liqueur, 1 oz Gin, top with bubbly for super booze or tonic for slightly moderate behavior

Warm Bar

Now it’s time to get warmer. The spread will have you rosy-cheeked and singing by the fire to your high school flame in no time. Be careful.

Go Get:

Hot water
Hot cider**
Hot coffee
Hot chocolate
Buttered rum batter (recipe below)
Lemon wedges, sliced, with cloves
Whipped cream (lots of it)
Chocolate sprinkles
Rum (preferably gold or dark)
Whiskey (preferably Irish or bourbon)
Brandy (don’t be cheap – use something decent! I like Germain Robin)
Irish Cream
Liqueurs: raspberry (Framboise), mint (Menthe Pastille or Brancamenta), chocolate (Godiva or Meletti), orange (think Grand Marnier)

Cocktails you can make with this spread

Hot Toddy: Keep it simple. 1 oz whiskey (or rum), top with hot water and add the lemon wedge with cloves. You can get fancy with a cinnamon stick. Have a little sugar or honey nearby for sweetness to stir in as needed.
Spiked Hot Chocolate: Take your favorite way to make hot chocolate and have it warm and ready. Then stir in 1 oz of your favorite liqueur or spirit. Top with a lot of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles.
Holiday Hot Buttered Rum: 1 Tbs of the Hot Buttered Rum Blend***, 1.5 oz rum, top with hot water. If you don’t feel it’s rich enough, top with whipped cream. Or better yet, a spoon of vanilla ice cream. Trust me.
Irish Coffee: 1 oz whiskey, 1 Tbs sugar (or 1 oz Bailey’s), stir into coffee, then top with a load of whipped cream — guests can also just spike a coffee with whatever they like!

*I love a mix of ginger liqueur and mezcal, but rum, whiskey and vanilla vodka also work great.

**Cider Blend
2 tsp dried orange peel
¼ tsp mace
1 tsp whole cloves
½ tsp whole allspice
¼ tsp ginger (optional)
¼ tsp nutmeg
2 Tbs cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar

This blend can be used for chilled and hot options! It’s pretty easy if you infuse your cider ahead of time and let some of it cool for the cold bar. ALSO. You can make Mulled Wine with this spice blend. Just add ¾ cup water with the wine and warm up. You’re welcome.

***Hot Buttered Rum Blend
4 sticks butter, softened to room temperature
2 ¼ cups sugar
4 Tbs molasses
1 Tbs ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground clove
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Take all of the ingredients and pulse in a food processor or blender until smooth. Keep chilled in your fridge until the party.

IMBIBE: Where to Slake Your Post-Comic Con Thirst

You’re thirsty from long lines and photo ops with your favorite celebrities. You want to stretch your legs but, oh, Comic Con’er, where to go? Take a cue from us locals and break out of the convention center.
IMBIBE covers cocktails. Therefore, we not so humbly present the following list of cocktail joints* for each area of the city. Please note this list is nowhere near exhaustive; we’re just slightly selfish and can’t (won’t) list all of our secrets. That’s for you to discover in between Comic Cons.
The Eddy: These kids bring it. Doesn’t matter who you find behind the bar, you will have an amazing drink. Get a classic or try one of their many new fall creations — all based on classics but upgraded with clever.
The Dorrance: This beautiful bar is a launching pad for many of Providence’s finest bar (fiends). Go in for a drink and you’ll immediately understand what we mean.
Magdalena Room: It doesn’t matter what you like to drink, you can find that cocktail here. A mere stone’s throw from the convention center, tucked in the corner of the Dean Hotel.
Thee Red Fez: We’re loathe to share this place with you. Because it is a sneaky standard for many industry folk. Go on in and enjoy yourself. You’re welcome for our generosity.
New Harvest: Coffee. Whiskey. What else could you possible want? Oh, they have a killer cocktail list, too. Fall in love. (And if that’s not enough, walk across the Arcade to Rogue Island for lots of food and local beers).
West Side
Slow Rhode: Nestled in a strip off West Fountain St, you’ll find Slow Rhode sitting pretty (next to Long Live Brewery, beer nerds). With an easy selection of seasonal cocktails and food to match, you’ll be glad you walked up from the convention center.
The Avery: You could hole up here for hours sipping on whatever creations strike your fancy. We suggest anything with mezcal.
Ogie’s Trailer Park: Go for the kitsch, stay for the nostalgic drinks. Oh, and the tots, gotta have the tots.
The Grange: Proof that vegetarians make amazing drinks, too. (As if we were ever really worried about it.)
Julians: While this is more of a beer nerd joint, you gotta order at least one of their cocktails because they spin quite nicely. And don’t forget to admire their toy collection when you hit the bathroom.
East Side
Milk Money: Boys and girls, the bar fuses familiar and completely inventive flavors. Challenge them and say you don’t like something — like gin — and see what they do to change your mind.
The East End: You could easily walk by this place on the corner of Wickenden and Brooks, but that would be a huge mistake. Walk in. Be impressed. Cocktails on draft, made to order, and a most impressive whiskey bible.
The Point Tavern: Wickenden Street houses a lot of great options, but we have to point out one of our favorites. Get it? Set yourself halfway up the street and relax here for a while.
Durk’s BBQ: You’ll go in for the food, but find yourself staring slack-jawed at their bar. At least that’s what usually happens to most of us. Old fashioneds all day long.
Cook & Brown: A standard worth the journey down Hope Street. Tucked away on the neighborly East Side, you’ll feel like you’re far away from the stresses of Comic Con. The drink game here is always strong.
* But not to worry, most of the spots offer more than acceptable beer and wine options, too.

IMBIBE: Low Proof Drinks

We’re doing this. Really. In a beer issue no less. Attention, imbibers, a trend alert: Low proof and non-alcohol drinks are, in fact, a thing to discover, try, sip and share. It turns out not every beverage we order has to be high octane. And the proof, pun intended, shows up at some of the best bars in our area.

Let’s jump into the deep end first: No alcohol beyond this point. Gone are the days when your only nonalcoholic option is a ruby red Shirley Temple. Not that there’s anything wrong with that highball of nostalgic grenadine, but options for interesting beverages sans-alcohol are numerous and growing.

For example, Persimmon’s menu hosts a section — “Neutral Cocktails” — with drinks made full of depth and flavor to complement your meal. Kevin O’Connor, general manager and all around cocktail badass, thinks “using terms like mocktail/non-alcoholic/etc on a menu automatically triggers the stigma of being boring or childish.” Boring or childish will be the last thing you think when you savor one of his creations.

It truly is possible to go dry without being thirsty. Any good cocktail bar with a knowledgeable person behind the bar should be able to make a decent non-alcoholic or low-proof drink without batting an eye or giving you grief. (Pssst … you’d be surprised how many of your drink experts are on the wagon for a little or a long while themselves.)

If you happen to be in Newport and in need of refreshment, head to Perro Salado. Yes, salivate over their agave offerings and fresh margaritas. Put those on your “next time” list. This time, try one of their Refresco offerings. “We do all of our margaritas as mocktails, so a cucumber fresca is delicious,” shares Geralyn Rodrigues, agave expert and manager of the Perro Salado house and bar program.

Onto this notion of a low-proof cocktail — sometimes you just want a little. Maybe because you’ll be drinking a lot, maybe because you know you’ve got that meeting tomorrow and you want to hang but you know you can’t haaaaaang without suffering the next day. I get it. Like session beers, it’s possible to have a sessionable cocktail. And I, myself, writer with a hollow leg, have had moments asking for a low-proof options. We all need to take it easy on occasion, kids.

If you’re more of an at-home bartender, try making a reverse Manhattan for a lower proof option. That’s when you switch your ratio of rye and vermouth — more vermouth, less rye, but still a lot of the flavors you’re wanting. I’m a fan of highballs and sometimes I just add a touch of something to my club soda. Hence, the following recipe for your low-alcohol drinking pleasure.

What: Laura’s at Home Lower-Proof Elixir

Found Where: Whenever Laura has an article due, wants a beverage, but needs to be an adult

Go Get:

.75 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

.5 oz Fresh lime juice

5 oz Club soda

1 Luxardo maraschino cherry


Take the liqueur and lime juice and shake. Pour into a highball filled with ice. Top with club soda and stir. Add the cherry on top. Siiiiippp. (And finish writing your Motif article.)

IMBIBE: Back to School Drinks for Mom and Dad

Back to school season brings a snap in the air and dare we say, a spring in parents’ steps? Joaquin Meza, father of two, knows what this season means all too well, “Thank God for school! As much as we love our kids, summer is a heavier burden on parents. We enjoy summers with our kids, of course, but going back to school brings some calm to us parents.” ‘Tis the season, then, to raise a glass to you, parents. You’ve earned a drink or two.

Luckily for us imbibers, Joaquin also knows about seasonal drinks. He and his brother Marco hold down one of Providence’s most outstanding bars at a special spot we know and love: El Rancho Grande. I was lucky enough to sit with Joaquin recently and learn a little bit more about his approach to seasonality.

“Before, I didn’t understand the concept of pairing cocktails with food,” Joaquin humbly shakes his head thinking of his last 10 years developing El Rancho Grande’s bar program. “It shows good growth. The connection is there – looking at the seasonal part of it. It wasn’t natural for me. I’m starting to understand it more.” He credits his mother’s cuisine and traveling, as well as connecting with professionals in other cities, for his progress.

We can say, in the spirit of fall and back to school, he definitely did his homework. Try drinking his creations. Bet you’ll give him an A+.

What: Jalisco Autumn

Go Get:

1.75 oz Siembre Reposado tequila

.5 oz Cocchi Americano

.5 oz Aperol

.75 oz Cinnamon spice syrup (house made with cinnamon and cloves)

.5oz Lemon juice (fresh)

Make: Shake all of the ingredients with ice. Serve on the rocks with a mint sprig (to keep it brighter).

What: El Senor

Go Get:

1.5oz Anejo Tequila*

.75 Ancho Reyes liqueur

.5 oz Amantillado sherry

.5 oz Giffard Pamplemousse (grapefruit) Liqueur

Make: Stir the ingredients with ice. Strain and serve neat in a coupe garnished with lemon.

*(Or use mezcal. “We love mezcal and add Angosutra bitters for more body.” — Joaquin’s hint)

IMBIBE: Drinking at The East End

Folks, I’m admitting it up front: This article is not about Lovecraft or the love of Lovecraft. But it does involve the melding of precision and creativity – by a different kind of artist, right here in Providence. On Wickenden Street, to be exact.

The East End

A golden-dim interior opens into one of the most aesthetically attractive bars this drinker has seen in a while. There, bartenders move with studied deliberation, almost choreographed as they pull, stir, shake and sling. Artists of a different form with the inimitable Kayleigh Speck at the helm. Her bright smile and warm welcome immediately makes drinkers comfortable at the bar. There, the performance begins.

“I want customers to have fun and enjoy,” explains Speck as she stirs a sazerac for the gent to my left. “Going for a drink should be a fun experience – not depressing – so funny cups, interesting vessels are part of the experience.”

And experience, dear drinker, you shall.

Time to delve into two of Speck’s creations you can sip at the East End:

20170729_162710What: Mukushinagara*

Found Where: The East End

Go Get:

2 oz Nikka Coffey grain whisky

.25 honey simple syrup (use a 1:1 ratio)

2 dashes Yuzu Bitters (can be found at thebostonshaker.com )

Make: Join these in a mixing glass. Stir to dilute. Pour into an ice-filled lowball. Garnish with dried nori.

Nikka Coffey Grain holds a Japanese aesthetic, but with a different take that melds nicely with the body the honey syrup imparts. Yuzu bitters add a touch of eastern-inspired … what’s that?

When asked how she came up with this delicious take on the Old Fashioned, Speck revealed a bit about her creative process: “Using Japanese flavors as inspiration – to tie into the whiskey itself – I worked with flavors to highlight that region, like the nori garnish – it gives a nice umami, a touch salty as it dilutes into the drink.”

Speck starts with a conceptual idea inspired from a spirit – or even a flavor profile like “a walk in the woods in the fall” – then she finds a way to execute through flavor. She keeps a notebook full of ideas and flavor experiences to accomplish. For instance, she’s focusing on mushrooms for an autumn cocktail.

Onto drink number two. Let’s be honest, you don’t always stop at just one, especially when seated at a fun bar. “This one is a funny 1970s drink. We’re bringing it back and making it good!” laughed Speck as she stirred up her take.

20170729_163514What: An Improved Corn & Oil**

Go get:

1.5 oz Clement VSOP

1 oz Cruzan Black

.25 oz John D Taylor’s Velvet Falernum

2 dashes orange bitters

2 dashes orange citrate

Make: Stir with ice, baby – and try to do it they way Speck and her crew does with five different people talking at you while you smile – strain into a coupe and garnish with a lime wheel.

Speck has two goals when making a drink: “Make it delicious and make it Instagrammable.”

And who wouldn’t want to Instagram a bit of art? Especially if served in a cat glass. Go drink for yourself.

*By the way, the name means “Old Fashioned” in Japanese.

**Improved, because “the original is too sweet!”