Lest you think that interesting cocktails are served only in high-concept eateries by mustachioed hipsters sporting garters on their sleeves, Eric Alsander would like to puncture your preconceptions. Alsander is bar manager at Publik Draft House, a year-old restaurant next door to the Fox Theatre serving slightly gastro-fied bar food and hosting noisy games of Team Trivia and Texas Hold 'Em. But, as a veteran of New Orleans' Old Absinthe House, one of the most popular Bourbon Street watering holes, he understands that creative libations can flourish in a less-than-pretentious milieu.
About a month ago, Alsander and his bartenders pooled their ideas to create an updated drinks menu that's in step with the cocktail renaissance now taking place in Atlanta. One of the featured potions is a version of a recipe that Alsander remembers coming across a while back; it stuck in his mind because it includes Chartreuse, a 400-year-old green liqueur produced by French Carthusian monks.
"It's one of my favorite herbal liqueurs," he says. "It's almost like absinthe when used in a cocktail."
As with absinthe, Chartreuse needs to be employed sparingly and balanced with sweeter ingredients so its bitter, intense flavor doesn't overpower the drink. For this purpose, Alsander soaks pears, Granny Smith apples, clove and cinnamon in a light tequila, shaking the mixture once a day and straining the resulting infusion after a week's time. To the blend of Chartreuse and infused tequila is added Laird's Applejack, a brandy-based liquor. The drink is shaken with ice and served neat, with a lime peel.
The result is a cocktail in which several strongly flavored ingredients combine to create something else entirely. The tequila brings woody, musky undertones to the mix; the brandy and fruit contribute sweetness; and the Chartreuse adds a range of complex herbal notes.
But don't drink too many. This Viper has a bite.
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