So there’s one more show in the books since Cocktails, 365 began as volunteer bar manager for Imbibe! at the Depot Theater Company.
During that time we’ve been thrilled to help expand the repertoire of western Kansas theater goers.
Our first cocktail behind the bar was The Chanteuse, which we featured several months ago on these very pages. That drink caught on like wildfire, so the Depot Theater chefs were kind enough to ask us to return to the bar for the April production of Fox on the Fairway by Ken Ludwig.
Our immediate thoughts turned to building something off of the classic non-alcoholic golf beverage – the Arnold Palmer. That recipe is simplicity itself – half iced tea, half lemonade. It’s a well-balanced, delicious drink that’s perfect for cooling off on warm days without getting blotto. However, as this is a total gourmet experience, we wanted to add a bit of adult kick to the drink, while increasing its complexity and pairing it with the evening’s meal. As is par for our course (boo hiss) we started out with the basics of building from a non-alcoholic drink – add vodka and see what happens to it.
Unfortunately, vodka didn’t add much and simply flattened some of the flavors from the sweet tea and the lemonade. We then switched over to New Amsterdam Straight Gin – which is a sweeter and less botanical gin. It added some character, but the taste still wasn’t quite right. Add to that a dash of mint syrup and there were some of the layers there, but you lost the iced tea with the flavor of the gin and the mint syrup. Finally, close friend and fan of the site Don S. asked if I’d considered using Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka. Or, as we’ll be calling it throughout the article – Bison Grass.
Now, we’ve mixed with Bison Grass here before.
Bison Grass is a fascinating little vodka from Poland that is flavored with a particularly pungent type of grass that’s enjoyed by the Bison of the area. We’ve described opening the bottle to some as opening a bottle of freshly mowed lawn. It has a nice, earthy, spicy taste and odor that gives it more complexity than basic vodka, but isn’t as sweet and cloying as your standard flavored vodkas. We put that to the test, and it was a massive hit. Finally, the complexity was there with all the flavors featured full front.
Now all that was left was to decide on a name. A good number of suggestions were bandied around until it was settled – Crouching Squirrel. The name of one of the country clubs featured in the show.
- 2 oz Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka
- 4 oz fresh, sweetened lemonade
- 4 oz sweet tea
- 1 dash mint syrup
- Lemon wheel to garnish
Fill a Collins glass full to the top with ice then build the drink – vodka, lemonade, tea, syrup. Stir vigorously until mixed well and then serve with a straw, garnished with a lemon wheel. Before drinking, twist the lemon wheel over the top and drop into the drink.
When mixed with the lemonade, sweet tea, and mint syrup, the drink became incredibly complex with each of the ingredients holding their own in the mixture. It’s important to not overdue the mint syrup, because the balance comes in its citrus and sweet and bitter. The Bison Grass adds an excellent peppery aftertaste with no funky aftertaste. This was paired with a roasted ham, mini multicolored roasted potatoes, and fresh bread.
If you’re looking for food pairings, make sure it’s something lighter that’s not going to overpower the complex flavors of the drink.