Monday, 16 May 2022 11:41

Kindred Spirits: Cocktails of All Kinds

Written by  Josh Veal
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Every spirit holds the potential to shine — all it needs is the right cocktail.

Lucky for us, West Michigan is full of distilleries, cocktail bars, and restaurants with master mixologists at the helm. These are enthusiastic experts who read, study and experiment with cocktails all the time to craft unique and exciting drinks.

Mixed drinks range from having every type of alcohol imaginable to putting one specific spirit in the spotlight, and the latter is what we’re interested in today. If you’re looking for an easy entry point to a spirit you typically don’t imbibe, West Michigan has that. If you want a cocktail that does unique and interesting things with a spirit you know and love, we have that too!

So belly up to the bar, pick your poison and enjoy one of these masterful cocktails nearby:

VODKA

Parkside Fizz

Green Door Distilling  |  429 E. North St., Kalamazoo

This is one of those cocktails that really lets the spirit do the talking. The main ingredient is Green Door’s vodka, triple-distilled with 100% Michigan-grown corn. It’s paired with lemon juice, orgeat syrup, soda water and mint leaves, resulting in an intensely refreshing twist on a vodka-soda.

Just A Few More Months

New Holland Saugatuck  |  201 Culver St., Saugatuck

The other popular direction to go with vodka is fruit, and this cocktail from New Holland is a veritable cornucopia. Strawberry and pineapple infused Lake Life Vodka is mixed with, simple syrup, yuzu juice, bitters, soda water, and basil. It’s a straightforward, tropical delight.

TEQUILA/MEZCAL

MeXo Margarita

MEXO  |  118 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

Tequila has such a distinct and bold flavor, it’s not used nearly as often in cocktails as most other spirits. That said, an expertly made margarita remains one of the greatest drinks of all time. At MeXo, they kick the classic marg up a notch, using Cabrito Blanco tequila, Bauchant orange liqueur, housemade limonada, and citrus salt, all shaken tableside. 

Velvet Underground

Donkey  |  665 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids

This drink is the perfect introduction to mezcal, tequila’s smokier cousin, which often finds its way into cocktails. Donkey starts with a nice, approachable mezcal, then adds velvet falernum, a tropical liqueur, and Aperol, a popular Italian aperitif that makes the drink nice and bright orange. Bold, smokey, layered — perfect.

GIN

Doctor’s Orders

Eastern Kille Distillery  |  700 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

Gin is known for being chock full of botanicals and herbs, and Eastern Kille’s Barrel-Finished Gin kicks it up a notch with notes of Citra hops and oak. This makes for a balanced spirit that plays nice with other herbals. In this drink’s case, that means honey sage syrup, ginger syrup, lemon, and lapsang, a smoky black tea. Get well soon!

Respect Your Elders

Wise Men Distillery  |  4717 Broadmoor Ave. SE, Grand Rapids

Gin and elderflower go together like milk and cookies. Elderflower liqueur is a light, floral, fragrant that tastes like a field and pairs perfectly with gin. Mix those two together, add fresh blackberry, lemon, and soda, and you’ve got an agreeable spring drink for all.

RUM

Fire & Funk

Principle Food & Drink  |  230 S. Kalamazoo Mall, Kalamazoo

Most rum cocktails are bright and tropical, and you can find plenty of those around town. But we encourage rum fanatics to get weird with it, and that means Dr. Bird, the funkiest rum out there. I’m a huge fan, but you can smell this stuff from across the room, which is why Principle mellows it out with Cruzan rum and grapefruit cordial, before bringing in the heat with Ancho Reyes Verde, a spicy chile liqueur. Tastes like being tossed into a volcano (in a fun way).

RedRum

SpeakEZ Lounge  |  600 Monroe Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

If you can’t get enough of rum, this is the drink for you. RedRum is a special blend of distinctive rums infused with pineapple, vanilla and sugar cane, then served over ice. You’d think drinking straight rum would be a bit much, but the infusions make it highly crushable, along with the sidecar of pineapple juice. 

WHISKEY

Bitter Bird

Wonderland Distilling Co.  |  1989 Lakeshore Dr., Muskegon

Whiskey cocktails are often either bold, boozy and smoky, or bitter, citrusy and bright. This drink falls firmly in the latter camp, combining Wonderland’s Blended Whiskey with orange amaro, rosa aperitivo (a juicy aperitif), spiced syrup, orange bitters and orange peel expression. It’s like a Boulevardier on a tropical vacation.

The Fifth Wheel

Eastern Kille Distillery  |  700 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids

EK’s Straight Bourbon is a special spirit that deserves a special cocktail. While there are just about a trillion different ways to use whiskey, The Fifth Wheel infuses straight bourbon with fig, then adds Appelflappen — their spiced apple liqueur — orange, lemon, and honey. This drink will make it feel like fall anytime.

SCOTCH

The Forest Moon of Endor

Obstacle No.1  |  92 W. 8th St., Holland

It takes a deft hand to use Scotch well in a cocktail, but Obstacle No.1 is nothing if not masterful. This premium drink uses the uber mixable Monkey Shoulder Scotch as a base, adding the peaty Ardbeg 10 Year, the Scotch-based liqueur Drambuie, some herbal honey syrup, caraway tincture, and Blue Spruce essence, all smoked tableside. This one will take you to outer space, where you’ll fall madly in love with Scotch.

BRANDY/COGNAC

Daisy

Buffalo Traders Lounge  |  950 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids

Cognac is a specific type of brandy, much like champagne is a specific type of sparkling wine. This cocktail blends cognac with dry curacao (an orange liqueur), Maraschino liqueur, Montenegro amaro, angostura bitters, and lemon. Basically, it’s a heartwarming little bundle of distilled wine, herbs and bitters!

AQUAVIT

What’s Up Doc?

Long Road Distillers  |  537 Leonard St. NW, Grand Rapids  |  18 Washington Ave., Grand Haven

Aquavit is a very unique spirit flavored with spices including caraway, which gives it a rye bread flavor. Long Road ages that to smooth the flavor, then mixes it with orange liqueur, housemade nocino (a black walnut liqueur), carrot juice, black cardamom, lemon and dill. It’s a garden party in your mouth, the perfect spring drink.

ABSINTHE

Henry’s Jackpot

Bier Distillery & Brewery  |  5295 W. River Dr. NE, Comstock Park

Absinthe fans love its refreshing and potent black licorice flavor, but that strong personality means it’s used minimally in cocktails. At Bier, you can shoot for the classic slow drip service with Henry’s Absent Absinthe, or have it in this balanced cocktail made with Sole Cry Rye Barrel Reserve Whiskey, lemon and house grenadine. It’s Bier’s tasty twist on a Sazerac.

MOONSHINE

The Vintage

Michigan Moonshine  |  4005 Chicago Dr. SW, Grandville

Moonshine has an odd reputation due to centuries of illegal home distilling, but Michigan Moonshine is doing it right, using all ingredients from our state to celebrate local flavor. The Vintage keeps things simple so you can get to know your moonshine, simply adding blueberry juice and citrus. What more do you need?

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