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:
Found Where: The East End
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.
What: An Improved Corn & Oil**
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!”