Drink your bacon
Here's the deal: at Drink, there's no menu. You tell your barkeep what you're hankering for—something with mint, or something classic, or something with champagne and tequila—and they create a concoction just for you. Oh, and everything is $10.
It's a brilliant idea, and opens up a million possibilities. Perhaps too many: how on earth do you decide?
Luckily, that problem was solved when I heard the story of the guy who walked into Drink with a bag of Circus Peanuts and challenged the staff to use them in a cocktail. The result involved ... bacon-infused bourbon.
We turned up just after 5 pm on Saturday; the place was already lively, though not packed. Drink is in a long, narrow basement space, with walls of exposed foundation stone and brick. There's a collection of punch bowls, sensuously curved glassware, pots of fresh herbs, a pile of citrus.
The bar top has been cleverly designed to maximize capacity: rather than running in a straight line from one end of the room to the other, it meanders like a river, turning at right angles and doubling back, creating smaller islands around which everyone gets a front-row seat, sushi-bar style.
Most noticably, there's no alcohol in sight; no uplit shelves of bottles, no logos, no beer taps. Everything is tucked away below the counter. It's almost like they don't want to give you any clues.
But when our bartender asked what we wanted, I was ready.
"Do you have any bacon-infused bourbon?"
His face lit up. "Absolutely—I just made some this morning. So you know about it? That's great!"
He suggested a couple of options: a bacon flip, made with a whole egg; a bacon Old-Fashioned; or, he said, "I've been thinking about trying something with scotch. You want to try that?"
Yes. Yes, I did.
The Boy, eyeing up the herb garden, opted for "something with rosemary."
As our new best friend set to work, he explained how to make bacon-infused bourbon:
- Fry up a whole heap of bacon.
- Drain the fat and mix it with bourbon.
- Next (and this is the genius part), freeze it. The fat will harden but the alcohol will stay liquid.
- Discard the fat; pour the bourbon through a coffee filter to remove any residual impurities.
The aroma hit me first: strong, smoky and most definitely bacon-tastic. It was a serious, manly, put-hairs-on-your-chest drink; it suggested boozing with Frank, baby, until the wee small hours and then grabbing breakfast at a joint off the Strip at 4am.
The Boy's drink, by comparison, was afternoon tea: cognac and honey simple syrup muddled with rosemary and finished with club soda.
We sat and sipped and watched the bar staff create. One customer asked for "something with lemon and lavender"; another wanted something with St-Germain and dry vermouth; the old guy next to me gave specific instructions for vodka, lemon and egg white. "I used to make these back in my fraternity," he told me conspiratorially. "You'd give it to girls, and they never knew it had alcohol. They thought it was lemonade!"
With each new request, the bar-artists (bartists?) ducked below the counter and pulled out hand-labeled bottles: raspberry simple syrup; ginger soda in a syphon. They grabbed handfuls of ice and cracked it with a spoon. One guy poured a flaming concoction between two silver tankards, blue fire dancing in the dark bar.
For round two, we changed tack: I went for "something with sage," and The Boy asked what other infusions they had.
"How about pistachio in apple brandy?"
So I had a lovely sage margarita (no triple sec, which would have added too much sweetness and hidden the subtlely of the herb), and The Boy had a brandy sour. The infusion was fabulous, with the apple notes up front and the sweet nut oil coming through in the finish.
We left at around 6:45, and Drink had become standing-room-only busy. From all accounts, it's an impossible ticket by 8pm.
But even if we can't make it back there for a while, we did get some inspired ideas. Our rosemary bush will see more than just lamb action; my summer herb garden is going to need double the sage (I wish I'd asked the guys at Drink what they make with their pot of fresh chives ...).
And the bacon-infused bourbon? Okay, maybe that's best left to the professionals.