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The Stirred Classics, Reconsidered

February 11, 2022

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Eric Medsker

Partner Content

The Stirred Classics, Reconsidered

February 11, 2022

Story: Punch Staff

photo: Eric Medsker

Four top bartenders offer their pared-down standbys featuring the bold expressions from Du Nord Social Spirits.

Aided by the boom of American craft spirits—with its countless expressions of bourbon, rye, gin and vodka to experiment with—the current wave of inventive, pared-down stirred cocktails doesn’t appear to be cresting any time soon. Though the likes of the Old-Fashioned, Manhattan and Martini remain cocktail royalty, bartenders playing with the strong and stirred category continue to riff upon and expand beyond those classics, creating plenty of opportunities to spotlight unique, notable bottlings.

After all, when creating a stirred cocktail, “the spirit must be the star of the show, with all of the other chosen flavors acting solely as accents and playing supporting roles,” says Jelani Johnson, a New York–based beverage director and bartender. “It is important to keep them simple and straightforward.”

Natasha Bermudez, a bartender at a modern Japanese and Peruvian restaurant in New York, echoes that sentiment, advising to “work with what the product has to offer instead of trying to hide it.” Johnson echoes: “Using restraint is paramount. The trick is to never overshadow the spirit with modifiers but instead to use them to highlight specific attributes of its character,” he says. “Great spirits need very little help from modifiers in stirred cocktails.”

Curating hundreds of such noteworthy American spirits is online retailer ReserveBar, who additionally, through the Spirited Change Initiative, is committed to showcasing the work of BIPOC- and woman-owned brands. One of those is Du Nord Social Spirits, a Black-owned distillery in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that owners Chris and Shanelle Montana describe as “a scrappy distillery born of rural practicality and city vibe,” with a commitment to “diversifying the craft alcohol community and actively recruiting underrepresented people to join the Du Nord family.”

Inspired by Du Nord’s creative portfolio, we asked four bartenders from PUNCH’s Bartender in Residence program to use Du Nord’s eclectic lineup of spirits—including vodka, gin, whiskey and coffee liqueur—to reconsider the stirred classics and share their new takes, with a more austere approach that would allow the bold and complex expressions from Du Nord Social Spirits to shine.

Autumn Leaf ReserveBar Cocktail Recipe
Recipe

Autumn Leaf

Orestes Cruz's inspired marriage between two classics—the Bijou and the Adonis.

Autumn Leaf | Orestes Cruz

Du Nord Prominence Gin—a juniper-forward hybrid between a classic London dry–style gin and an old-world gin with a backbone of citrus, angelica root and licorice root—immediately put Atlanta bartender Orestes Cruz in the mood for a Martini variation. His Autumn Leaf is an inspired marriage of two classics, the Bijou and the Adonis, and highlights the distinctive botanical character of the gin. “Inspired by the Adonis, I used the salty dry notes of fino sherry instead of dry vermouth, complementing the citrus juniper profile of Promience Gin,” says Cruz. “Then I took the Bijou cocktail as inspiration and added green Chartreuse and Punt e Mes to bring a peppery, bitter end that rounds up the herbal profile. The result is a delightful, bold and complex combination of flavors with a long finish that’s ideal for autumn nights.”

Old Flame Reserve Bar
Recipe

Old Flame

The immortal Old-Fashioned serves as the spark for Jelani Johnson's Old Flame.

Old Flame | Jelani Johnson

Du Nord Mixed Blood Whiskey, a blend of Du Nord’s Longfellow high-rye straight bourbon and a custom selection of sourced whiskeys, “is a rock star when it comes to versatility in cocktails,” says Jelani Johnson. While its high rye content and playful notes of light smoke make it a perfect fit in classic cocktails like the Sazerac or Old-Fashioned, “it stands up on its own beautifully as well, sporting rich, round notes of vanilla, stone fruit and spice,” Johnson adds. The immortal Old-Fashioned is the spark for Johnson’s Old Flame, whose modern touch comes in the form of a smoky-sweet grilled pineapple syrup, with an accent of herbal absinthe to complement the classic bitters. “The rye spice is accentuated by the blend of absinthe and bitters, creating a bracing backbone,” says Johnson. “The bourbon’s top notes of light smoke, stone fruit and vanilla are rounded out by charred pineapple and brown sugar, making a complex and delicious sipping cocktail.”

Coffee With Giuseppe Reserve Bar
Recipe

Coffee With Giuseppe

Annie Williams Pierce's Coffee With Giuseppe takes inspiration from the Bitter Giuseppe, a modern amaro classic.

Coffee With Giuseppe | Annie Williams Pierce

The genesis of Du Nord’s Café Frieda Coffee Liqueur began as a quest to find a liqueur that tasted like real fresh-brewed coffee. The cold-press blend uses organic, fair trade beans and spicy chicory roasted less than a mile from the distillery. “It tastes like actual well-sourced and roasted coffee,” says Annie Williams Pierce, the owner of a funky neighborhood cocktail bar in Columbus, Ohio. “It has incredible balance between the soft sweetness, hint of spice, subtle acidity and a luxurious mouthfeel—which makes it well-suited for all types of cocktailing.” Williams Pierce’s Coffee With Giuseppe takes inspiration from the Bitter Giuseppe, a modern amaro classic made with Cynar, sweet vermouth, lemon and orange bitters from Chicago bartender Stephen Cole, and offers a lower-proof cocktail that you can enjoy any time of day. “The blend of Café Frieda and Cynar brings out an intense bitter chocolate note in the midpalate, while finishing with a bright and refreshing snap of citrus,” says Williams Pierce.

Litchi Paradis Reserve Bar Cocktail
Recipe

Litchi Paradis

Natasha Bermudez's gives the lychee Martini a modern makeover.

Litchi Paradis | Natasha Bermudez

“I’ve always wanted to make an elegant, stirred lychee Martini,” says Natasha Bermudez. “As soon as I tasted Du Nord Foundational Vodka, everything made sense and I went for it. It has a delicate sweet and floral nose [and] silky mouthfeel and finish that, for me, sets it apart.” The corn-based vodka is named in honor of Minnesota, “the Star of the North,” and serves as the base for Bermudez’s Litchi Paradis, which is layered with fragrant flavor from cherry blossom vermouth, a lychee liqueur and black lemon bitters.