Photo by David Blandford.
I’m a whisky, bourbon and rye guy. The Manhattan is my libation of choice through the fall, winter and much of the spring.
But as the days brighten, my palate lightens. Especially when the sun sets long after the cocktail hour.
Unfortunately, a lot of summer cocktails made with rum, vodka and tequila don’t mix as well with my Scottish-English heritage as the aforementioned brown liquors. Further, the syrup and fruit in a lot of summer cocktails make them too darn sugary for my taste.
A visit to Vessel on a recent warm afternoon solved my dilemma. This upscale downtown cocktail lounge has drawn large crowds since its relocation to Seventh and Olive earlier this year. They’re famous for reinventing their cocktail menu daily. And if you come in before the menu is written (as we did), they’re apt to invent the cocktail of your liking on the spot.
My excellent summer cocktail. Photo by David Blandford.
My proposition: “a bourbon drink with a hint of July.”
“Leave it to me,” said my bartender as he deftly mixed and measured.
“I’m intrigued,” I said aloud.
What came back moments later was tall, cool, summery – but not sugary – and presented without pretense by simple list of ingredients: bourbon, ginger beer, apricot liquor, lime juice and a sprig of mint.
“Delicious!” Bourbon-y with a bright finish. A julep with Caribbean soul.
“Enjoy!” said my bartender as he scurried down the bar to invent more drinks for my friends.
Tracey, Joan and Ann take notes. Photo by David Blandford.
Li ordered a St. Germain and club soda which was simple, refreshing and not too sweet.
Kauilani crafts cocktail-class ice cubes. Photo by Joanna Franco.
Luke, a brown liquor purist like me, got a name with his drink: “The Sexy Old Fashioned.” Ok, not a typical summer cocktail, but I admired Luke’s defiance of season and the drink’s hefty 2-inch-square ice cube. Later I learned that the folks at Vessel “harvest” their own ice cubes from humongous blocks they cut to size by chain saw. If the drink selection at the bar is refreshingly lacking in drama, this activity makes up for it.
Soon, the days will cool and I’ll return to my Manhattans and Sidecars. And I hear that Vessel crafts winter cocktails just as well.