Second Time Around

I’ll try anything twice.  It’s always been a useful and practical way to live my life.  I took this approach with Blue Hill Tavern located in Brewers Hill in Baltimore.  I was excited to head there as it has been on Baltimore Magazine’s Top 50 list for some time.  The first time Red and I went was in May.  I started out the evening with a New Old Fashioned ($8).  It was a playful twist on the original.  Blue Hill Tavern’s take contains vanilla infused bourbon, which is infused on the premises.  The wall behind the bar is filled with a beautiful assortment of spirits that have been infused onsite.  Rounding off the bourbon is simple syrup, water, a peach slice, and blackberries.  Despite the fruit color overtones of the cocktail, this was an unapologetically bourbon drink.  The bourbon was the star and every other component was a member of the supporting cast.  It was a sweet drink as one would imagine, but the sweetness wasn’t overdone.  The flavors were very, very clean and bright.  Fruit can be a dangerous component in cocktails.  They can easily overwhelm a delicate drink or conversely be lost by potent spirits.  This particular cocktail rode that prickly fence.  The blackberries were a very nice and unusual pairing with the bourbon that I appreciated and I have since imitated at home.

Unfortunately, last week my second go around with this cocktail did not fare as well.  This time I felt like I received a bourbon on the rocks.  The distinct coloring from the fruit was nearly non-existent.  The blackberries were still there, but the peach slice was noticeably absent.

The cocktail was hot from the moment it hit my mouth until it slammed into my stomach.  The bourbon was overwhelming.  This was not the refreshing libation I consumed in May.  I asked our bar-chef which bourbon was serving as the base for the vanilla infused bourbon.  He inquired and returned with his answer: Makers Mark.  What a dreadful mistake.  In May the base of the bourbon had been Woodford Reserve.  These two bourbons are worlds apart in complexity and silkiness.  The change is a fatal flaw for this drink.  A cocktail that had been delivered with grace and style was now a garish and ugly caricature of itself.  Mediocre ingredients make for an inferior product.  The change is truly regrettable and I hope that it is not permanent change for what was a great cocktail.

Fortunately, that was the only blemish on what were two otherwise wonderful experiences.

The Blueberry Sweet Tea cocktail ($7.50) – blueberry infused vodka (also infused onsite), sweet tea vodka, simple syrup, iced tea – was a well made cocktail.  The tea and the blueberry were in excellent proportion with each other.  The simple syrup helped draw some additional sweetness out of the blueberry to combat the bitterness of the tea.  It was a little sweet for my palate, but this is a sweet tea cocktail; so, that is very much the point.  It inspired us to make our own version for Red’s birthday, which was considered a smashing success by our guests

When drinking and creating a gin and tonic, I find myself siding with my British counterparts that the proper ratio for a gin and tonic is 1:1 – with a wink to the ratio as it is almost always constructed with a tad bit more gin than tonic.  Americans on the other hand tend to err on the side of the tonic with 1:2 ratios or even the ghastly 1:3 ratio.  Blue Hill’s Gin and Tonic ($8.5) is of the American variety.  However, their quinine infused carbonated water is the artisanal Q Tonic, which is a delightful tonic and is almost weightless in the drink.  The gin is also infused onsite with ginger and is garnished with pickled ginger.  The ginger is slight on the nose as well as on the palate, which works well in the summer.

The addition of a new cocktail since our last visit was the highlight of my dipsomaniacal adventures at Blue Hill Tavern.  The Dark and Stormy with Hail is a fantastically clever drink.  An often underwhelming art is the skill of crafting a visually exciting cocktail while maintaining clarity and execution in the taste of the drink.  This is certainly not the problem here.  Even the Russian judges are forced to score this drink a 9.5.  It is a traditional Dark and Stormy made with Goslings rum and Barrit’s ginger beer, but there are tiny coconut spheres floating in the drink.

The addition of the coconut is an absolutely brilliant concept that brings fun and texture to the drink.  I find it conceptually to be a mature version of the unique and playful youthfulness of bubble tea.

Despite my grave disappointment with my New Old Fashioned, Blue Hill Tavern still ranks highly for my happy hour escapades.  Their specials include $3 bottles, $4 draught beer, $5specialty cocktails and glasses of wine and their appetizers are half-price.  The food is also commendable, especially the after dinner specialties.  As the lady of Kitchen Treats remarked, “Whoever is infusing the liquors and making the deserts…they are the real stars”.  So, try Blue Hill just make sure you do it twice.


~ by its12oclocksomewhere on August 3, 2010.

One Response to “Second Time Around”

  1. […] going on too much of a tangent, without a good ginger beer it is impossible to make a Moscow Mule, a Dark and Stormy, or a Crimson Gradient.  Ginger ale is NOT a suitable […]


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