The Spirit of the Monroe

April 25, 2010 (Day 85) — Depot Drinks

One wouldn’t think, than in a town the size of Dodge City, Kansas — a whopping +30,000 people — that there would be much of an arts culture. Mention fine arts, and a town which has come to define Western heritage and mystique probably doesn’t jump straight to mind. I mean, it only makes sense right? We’re small. We’re a farming community. We’re in the middle of nowhere.

And yet, you’d be so wrong.

That is the Depot Theater Company. A fully restored Santa Fe Train Depot, turned from rundown homeless hideaway to Kansas’ state-of-the-art theater. The jewel of southwest Kansas.

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with the theater since I was a junior in high school. Even when I left for college and moved away from home, I was at least able to come back see a show or two. You know, offer my support in any way I could. Since moving back home a few years ago, I’ve tried to increase my involvement. For close to three decades, some amazingly talented people have passed through these doors. And this Friday marked something else: a world premier play. “Spirit Gum.”

Now, I’m not here to pimp out the theater — although it is more than deserving of it. I’m here to talk a little bit about a recent tradition the theater started. The themed drink. When the company moved into the Depot six years ago, someone mentioned that perhaps they should begin serving alcohol prior to performances. At the theater’s previous two homes there was barely enough room for the actors and the audience. But now, theater leadership found themselves with a surplus of room.

For a while, it was simply beer and wine. It was only in the last two years that they began making a themed cocktail for each show. My friend, Lee — who has been mentioned on the site before, and has been known to comment from time to time — is a real bartender, unlike myself. Well, he used to be. So, I can still use him as my expert source. Tasked with finding the right libation for the show, he tracked down a lesser-known (to us anyway) cocktail.

Not only did he create the drink for this show. He’s also starring in it. Talk about multitasking! So, as I like to feature cocktails from other bartenders/mixologists, it only made sense that I feature the Depot’s newest concoction, especially because Jenn and I and our friends Don and Darleen went to go see it last night. So here it is. The Spirit of Monroe, brought to you by Lee Griffith.

“This recipie came straight out of the 1970s. It is not one I have heard of during my tenure (albeit short) as a bartender and liqour connoisseur. The original recipe came from a drink-o-file — the equalivalent to a cocktail rolodex. It is called a Nevins. The original recipe was bourbon, apricot brandy, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, grenadine and a dash of bitters. Now my challenge to come up with the theater’s specialty drinks was to somehow tie it into the show.

“‘Spirit Gum’ is set in Kansas City in the late 1970s. The main characters are old enough to have experienced Kansas City’s jazz age in their prime in the 1930s which, of course, coincides with prohibition. My immediate thought was a drink with either bourbon or gin. I then stumbled across the Nevins. Still a stiff drink with bourbon undetones, but had the potential to appeal to a mass audience.”

The Spirit of the Monroe:

1 oz. gin (original recipe calls for bourbon)

1/2 oz. apricot brandy

4 oz. ruby red grapefruit juice

1/4 oz. lemon juice

1/2 grenadine for color and sweetness

dash cocktail bitters

Mix ingredients together in a rocks glass.

“In initial taste tests, the bourbon was a winner. But also in consideration for a mass audience, gin (and the reference in the play of bathtub gin) was decided as the base liquor. Therefor gin was substituted in place of the bourbon. Fortunately for this drink, both liquours work. Bourbon gives much more body to the drink but is not the star ingredient. It almost sits as an undertone and just enough to know that there is liquor in the drink. The gin is slightly more sneaky, but does mix well with the other flavors. This is a Nevins reinvented for 2010.

“Try the bourbon first. But, for those who like a lighter pallete, gin is a fine backup. As the specialty drink for the world premier of ‘Spirit Gum,’ the name was changed to tie into the theme of the play. We call it the ‘Spirit of the Monroe’ (a reference to the name of the hotel in which it takes place).”

Cocktails, 365 Review: This really is an excellent drink. With gin and the base spirit, it simply acts as something to give the drink a bit of oomph. The first tastes that strike you are the grapefruit juice and the grenadine. The citrus of the lemon and the dash of bitters are understated, but still there. Kudos to Lee and the Depot for an entertaining show, and for a delicious cocktail. Try it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Lee’s Review: This is definitely a lesser known cocktail that needs to be revisited. fulled bodied, interesting ingredients and very tastey and versatile to appeal to a mass audience. I would most certainly recommend this drink.


— Mark


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  2. […] we’ve interviewed a bartender with his own traveling business, a cocktail stylist, a former bartender and an aspiring bartender. In keeping with the tradition of interviewing people involved in the […]

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