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The cocktail: The Midday Dragon

The bar: 116 Crown, New Haven

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz. Four Roses Small Batch bourbon
  • ½ oz. Campari
  • 1 oz. citric acid simple syrup
  • ½ oz. tarragon simple syrup
  • ½ oz. lime juice

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a shaker, shake and double-strain (julep strainer and screen strainer). Serve straight up with a lime and tarragon sprig.

“I’m a bourbon drinker. I like Four Roses for the consistent flavor and simple roots of the spirit. The Midday Dragon is unique in my mind for the two contrasting syrups that work with Four Roses’ flavor profile. They highlight the best parts of the bourbon like a surfer works with a wave. The name is a reference to the Campari (surprisingly), as whiskey drinks are in no short supply and I wanted to make sure the noble spirits were both shown reverence. The dragon is the biscione, a Milanese representation of strength and seen on the crest of the Visconti family (as well as Alfa Romeo). It is as associated with Milan as taking a drink ‘midday.’ ” — Geoffrey Wolff Veitch, tenured bartender

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The cocktailBad Hombre 

The bar: Little River Restoratives, Hartford

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. mezcal (lowland preferred) 
  • 1 oz. blanco tequila 
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • ½ oz. local honey syrup 
  • 1/4 oz. truffle-infused honey

Directions: Pour the liquid into a shaker, shake and strain into a coupe glass.

“This drink was a foray into savory cocktails. It matches the assertive qualities of mezcal with the intensity of white truffles. It’s the first drink we’ve had to bring back to the menu; so many people kept asking for it and were disappointed when we weren’t able to make it.” — Chris Parrott, owner of Little River Restoratives

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The cocktail: Dawn of the Daiquiri

The bar: Elm City Social, New Haven

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. strawberry- and jalapeño flesh-infused Angostura white oak rum
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice

Directions: Combine ingredients in shaker tin. Do your cocktail dance and shake vigorously. Double strain into your coupe glass. Garnish with a lime peel.

 “This drink has been a staple on our menu since we opened our doors in 2015. It’s a perfect example of a ‘simple but effective’ ideology: taking one of my favorite of the O.G. (Original Gangster) cocktails, the daiquiri, and bringing some fresh fruit and bright vegetable flavors to the party. We infuse virgin-oaked rum with fresh strawberries and the rinds of jalapeños (no seeds or pith so there’s little to no heat whatsoever). What we are left with is a perfectly balanced cocktail that all palates can enjoy.” — Dan Rek, head mixologist at Elm City Social

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The cocktail: Clarified Pisco Punch

The bar: Conspiracy, Middletown 

  • Ingredients:
  • 750 ml pisco (unaged Peruvian grape brandy)
  • 750 ml hawthorn hibiscus tea
  • 500 ml tamarind juice
  • 240 ml lemon juice
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 30 coriander seeds
  • 10 cloves
  • 7 crushed cardamom pods
  • 10 strips of orange peel
  • 10 allspice berries
  • Grated nutmeg
  • Oleo saccharum
  • 20 oz. whole milk 

Directions:

  • Combine pisco, hawthorn hibiscus tea (or any tea of your choice), tamarind juice (Goya brand works great) and lemon juice.
  • Add cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, cloves, crushed cardamom pods, orange peel strips, allspice berries and grated nutmeg over the surface of the mixture. Let sit overnight.
  • Add oleo saccharum to mixture. (To prepare, peel eight lemons, add two cups of refined sugar to the bowl, muddle and let sit for one hour. A paste of sugar and lemon oil will form.) 
  • Heat whole milk just to simmering (do not boil).
  • Add punch mixture. 
  • Strain contents through cheesecloth until mixture become clear.
  • Bottle and keep refrigerated. Makes about 20 tea-cup servings. 

"This pisco punch, a variation of it, dates back to the 1860s. Pisco was big in San Francisco around the time of the Gold Rush and all that. They would do pisco with tea and pineapple. So we just do a variation of it.” — Mark Sabo, co-owner of Conspiracy

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Mission: Mocktail

The Hunt for Creative and Tasty Non-Alcoholic Drinks

For non-drinkers who want to pop in to the local sports bar to watch college basketball without imbibing, what to order? After checking in with mixologists and bartenders throughout the state, we can report that options are limited. Connecticut is a little dry for the dry, but if you’re bored with coffee and soda there are a handful of bars in the state offering “mocktails” — non-alcoholic mixed drinks — to quench your thirst.

116 Crown in New Haven has a few stellar options which include an apple and ginger ginger beer (apple cider and ginger beer) and ginger lemonade spritzer (house-made ginger syrup, freshly squeezed lemon juice, club soda). The Bartaco chain also deserves credit for its nojito, which is muddled mint and sugar cubes with lime juice and club soda. It tasted surprisingly close to the real thing, and the nojito name alone warrants some kudos.

Sarah Maloney, executive director of the Connecticut Restaurant Association, says she’s heard of the mocktail movement going on in New York City, but “it hasn’t caught on here in Connecticut as of yet.” Maloney did add that some mixologists she has spoken with “agree it would be something fun and easy to do, as many bars have the fresh juice and garnishes in house already.”

Apple Ginger Ginger Beer

  • 1 oz. ginger syrup
  • Top up with equal parts local apple cider and ginger beer

Ginger lemonade spritzer

  • 1 oz. ginger syrup
  • 3 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Top up with seltzer water

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine. 

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The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University

Mike Wollschlager, editor and writer for Connecticut Magazine, was born and raised in Bristol and has lived in Farmington, Milford, Shelton and Wallingford. He was previously an assistant sports editor at the New Haven Register.

Albie Yuravich is the editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine. A product of the Naugatuck River Valley, he's also been a newspaper editor and writer at the New Haven Register, Greenwich Time, The Register Citizen and the Republican-American.