Several years ago my friend Curt turned me on to the speakeasy scene in New York. I found the idea of hidden throwback bars disguised as other types of businesses charming,
if a bit gimmicky. We visited one that was hidden in a Five Guys Pizza. You have to travel through the restaurant, past the cooks, and through an unmarked door that I would have
guessed led to a basement. Instead, there were stairs leading up to a spiffy old-timey cocktail lounge.
Several weeks later I got the silly idea to make a portable bar "disguised" as a lemonade stand. I would put it under an E-Z Up shelter and it would be my "SpeakE-Z Up", the pop-up speakeasy. There was a party coming up in two week so I hastily through together a 6 drink, spaced themed menu to compliment the host's "Big Dipper" (dip contest) party theme. Having no bartending experience, coupled with the fact that I only had two weeks to prepare, the drinks were just OK at best. But the experience opened the door to a creative endeaver that I quite enjoy.
My goal is to provide a truly unique and interesting cocktail experience, using ingredients and techniques you may not have encountered. Because this is a hobby and not a business, I don't have to focus on cost effective or quick methods. Nearly all of my ingredients are homemade. My fruits & vegetables are freshly juiced, my nuts freshly milked, and my herbs picked right from the plant when I make your drink. Because the menus are planned a year in advance I am able to explore the long game. That includes things like barrel aged cocktails, clarified milk punch, home made bitters, and growing exotic herbs not readily available at the local nursery. I love to seek out odd or historic liquors that are foreign to most of us. I lean toward high quality booze, and steer clear of flavored vodkas/whiskeys. If I want cucumber flavor, I add fresh cucumber. None of that assures a great cocktail, but it sure doesn't hurt.
In a world with a seemingly bottemless supply of different liquors, liqueurs, bitters, and non-alcoholic ingredients, I find having a themed menu helps give me direction. I've overheard people say "He makes up drink names that go along with a theme." While that statement isn't untrue, it oversimplifies what is actually going on. If you look closly at the menus you'll discover that the drink names always dictate attributes about the cocktail, whether that be the style, flavor, an ingredient, or a particular brand of liquor. Occasionally the connection between name and cocktail requires a bit of trivia knowledge, but most of the time it's based on word play. For example, on the Grateful Dead menu we have "Cucumberland Blues > Friend of the Devil." Each song dictates an attribute. The wordplay on the song Cumberland Blues dictates that a prominent flavor will be cucumber. The second half, Friend of the Devil, gives me a brand-based direction on the base spirit: Devil's Bathtub Gin. Gin + Cucumber? My wife is going to love me for this one! That nomenclature holds true for all my drinks, and the task of coming up with these direction providing names might be my favorite part of the process.
That is a very good question. This thing that I’m doing is rather costly and offers no decernable reward. I end up working the two best parties of the season, and most people will never know how much work I put into the back end, or pay close enough attention to the menu to discover the nuances. Yet I still care about it enough to spend the time & money, give up those parties, and hell… create a f’n website about it. I don’t have a reasonable answer for why. I do almost all of the menu designs, drink creation, costumes, and prop work during the winter months. So, I suppose this is just my creative outlet for when my other hobbies are unavailable to me.
Wine & Cheese Place