Don’t care for gin? Try it in Far and Away — infused with apples and flavored with smoked rosemary and spices — and you might become a fan.
“You may like it; you just don’t know it yet,” said Ted Kilgore, beverage director of Taste in St. Louis, where that drink is a best seller. The craft cocktail lounge and small-plates eatery is part of chef Gerard Craft’s restaurant group there, along with Niche, Brasserie by Niche and Pastaria.
In addition to classic cocktails priced at $8, Taste offers signature drinks grouped in descriptive flavor categories, priced at $10. Kilgore said grouping the cocktails that way helps patrons look anew at products they may have previously dismissed. “My whole intention is to get people to stop thinking ‘I can’t stand gin,’ or ‘I only drink vodka tonics,’” Kilgore said.
The Far and Away, with its light clove, vanilla and apple flavors, is a “beginner’s” drink — a crossover for people who like apple Martinis — as Kilgore put it, in a grouping titled “Tart, Bright, Citrus.”
“It doesn’t taste anything like juniper,” Kilgore said. “We’re trying to get people to lose the perception of what they think they don’t like.”
Also on the lighter side, but a bit more nuanced, is the Georgia on My Mind, in the “Tart, Spiced, Savory” category. It has a backbone of bourbon infused with peach and ginger tea. “Mixed with honey syrup, lemon and egg white, put over ice and topped with pear cider, it has a really fruit-forward start,” Kilgore said. “It’s lightly sweet and citrusy. Then the tannins of the tea clean your palate on the finish.”
At a more intermediate level is the Time Out of Mind, a “Crisp, Light, Aromatic” drink that sports craft-distilled gin, Gran Classico bitter, sloe gin, artichoke liqueur and thyme tincture.
Even more adventurous palates may choose the Big in Japan, a “Manhattan-esque” cocktail in the “Full, Dark, Robust” category featuring a global trio of whiskeys: 12-year-old Japanese, bourbon and single malt Scotch. The bourbon brings butterscotch and nutty impressions to balance the smokiness of the Japanese whiskey. Adding further nuance are Italian red vermouth, Byrrh aperitif and Cherry Heering liqueur. Two drops of Laphroaig single malt Scotch lend “a little iodine and saltiness on the finish,” Kilgore said.
Kilgore said at first he was unsure whether patrons would like the Big in Japan, but the bold concoction has become “quite a riot” over time. “This weekend it was in our top five in sales, definitely going over well,” he said.
All told, the flavor categories have been a big success at Taste, helping to boost cocktail sales from 40 percent to 50 percent of total sales over the past two years. To Kilgore, it is proof that St. Louisans are embracing craft cocktails.
“People are much more adventurous than I ever thought,” said Kilgore. “The number of them looking for drinks other than your plain, fruity Martinis is probably 10 or 20 times greater than when I got here six years ago.”