Best New Bar Products: Part 2
We rounded up some of the best non-alcoholic mixers and accessories that debuted at this year's Tales for your perusal. Here's part 2.
A great cocktail is only as good as its ingredients. So, if you’re using great spirits, it goes without saying that everything else in the drink (and the experience) should be just as stellar. Here’s Part 2 of our roundup of some of the best non-alcoholic finds that debuted at the 2017 Tales of the Cocktail. (You can find Part 1 here).
Alley Twenty-Six Tonic Syrup: Shannon Healy first developed this recipe when he was working in a restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. In 2012, he and his business partner opened Alley Twenty-Six in Durham, NC, and his tonic syrup is the only tonic they’ve ever served. “This is a minimalist approach; we’ve found the more stuff you put in the recipe, you bury the lede,” he says. “If you get too complicated, you can’t taste the cinchona bark, which should be the star of the tonic.”
Of course, it works great with the botanicals of the gin, but they’ve also discovered that it works great with other spirits, and because it’s a syrup — not a bottled tonic with carbonated water — it also can be used in place of simple syrup in recipes. “It makes a far more interesting French 75,” Healy says. It’s also used in marinades, dressings and other food recipes, too. Expect more products in the coming year.
Lucio Tailoring: Maria Galvan was ready to start her own clothing line when she made a custom leather apron for a friend of hers who was a bartender. “He really wanted an apron, and I finally made it for him, and then all my friends wanted them,” Galvan says. Every apron and bar roll-up is made by hand from a sketch, and they’re all personally designed for bartenders who can pick out the colors, style and lining.
“It’s definitely a luxury, but it’s an apron you’re not going to need to replace for the rest of your life,” Galvan says. Every strap is beveled, sleeked, and hand-painted, and every single apron is touched by Galvan and her assistant. “We take pride in every apron we make, and there’s a story behind every apron,” Galvan says.
Hand-Blown Glasses: Ben Dombey, originally from Great Britain and based in New Orleans, is an artisan glassmaker who creates cocktail and wine glasses the very old-fashioned way — by hand. Every single glass has been touched by his lips, and he stamps images, logos and text right into the molten glass. “It’s not etched as an afterthought,” Dombey says.
“Every single glass has been individually made by me, inflated by my own lung power. Most glasses are made (in such a way) that human hands have come nowhere near them. It’s important to me to keep this 2,000-year-old tradition alive.” Dombey makes glasses for restaurants and bars, and often he’ll make glasses as special gifts for employees. But he also makes glasses for spirits companies, and he’s even done glasses for blind whiskey tastings with the numbers right in the glass.
Zurena: Nigel Smith grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, and during his teen years, his grandparents raised him. He grew especially close to his grandfather, Carlton Smith, who was a bartender for many years at one of the hotels in Trinidad. “He had a rum concoction he passed on to his grandchildren,” Smith says. “He taught me how to make it, and I made it my own, adding a few twists and turns.”
Smith started selling this rum concoction in Silver Spring, Maryland, and one of his friends asked him if he could make it with white rum instead of dark rum. The new elixir worked, and Smith decided to try his base with other spirits like gin, tequila and vodka. “Suddenly, this non-alcoholic base was bringing everything to life,” Smith says. Thus, Zurena mixer was born. “It’s all natural, with no additives or preservatives, and the name — it’s named for my daughter — means beautiful, joyful melody, and that’s what it brings to everything it touches.”
The syrup is made with citrus juices, spices and bitters, and it’s especially good for high-volume event bars. “It was used in both a vodka and rum punch at the Howard Theatre recently, and in one night, they went through five cases and ran out,” Smith says. “It mixes with anything, so if you have some slow-moving inventory, make a punch with Zurena and move it on.”
Zurena's Rum Pa Pum Punch
- 1 ½ oz. white or dark rum
- 3 oz. Zurena
Directions: In a shaker filled with ice, shake both ingredients together. Serve in a rocks glass filled with ice, garnish with a cherry.
- 3 oz. Champagne or sparkling wine
- 1 oz. Zurena
Directions: Pour Zurena into a Champagne flute, then top with Champagne or sparkling wine.
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