This cocktail from Khalid Williams, bar manager at Taprock Beer Bar and Refuge in Unionville, is a sweet and spicy blend sure to get your party off on the right foot.

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Bushnell Park Pirouette

Serves: 1

Prep time: 1-2 hours

Bar items needed: Boston shaker set with Hawthorne strainer and Japanese jigger (in a pinch, a Tupperware container or a mason jar with a secure lid can be used)

INGREDIENTS

Saffron-infused lemon oil and Meyer lemon juice

  • 10 lemons
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 saffron threads
  • 5 ounces orange juice (fresh is best)

Candied sumac

  • 4 sumac berry clusters (raspberry can be substituted)
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon-sugar

Other ingredients

  • 2 ounces Highclere Castle London Dry Gin
  • ¾ ounce Hartford Flavor Company Wild Moon Botanics sumac liqueur 
  • ¼ ounce St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram

DIRECTIONS

Saffron-infused lemon oil (need ½ ounce per serving) 

Peel lemons, ensuring as little pith as possible. Place in a non-reactive container. Cover with sugar, tossing until lemons are covered and no clumps of sugar are in the bottom of the container. Muddle with a blunt object of choice. Place in an airtight container such as a mason jar. Let stand for at least 3 hours. Strain.

Add 2 saffron threads to every ounce of lemon oil. Allow to infuse overnight or place mason jar in simmering water for 30 minutes.

Meyer lemon juice (need ¾ ounce per serving)

Squeeze the lemons used to make oil; you should have about a pint of lemon juice. Add 1 ounce of orange juice to every 4 ounces of lemon juice. Stir.

Candied Sumac

Make strawberry-size mini clusters of sumac. Dip into a mixture of 75/25 honey and water. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour. The lower and slower you go, the better it will be.

Put it together

Build gin, sumac liqueur, Allspice Dram, lemon oil (½ ounce), lemon juice (¾ ounce) and 1 cluster of candied sumac in a shaker without ice. Add enough ice to cover liquid. Shake vigorously. Strain through a tea strainer into a rocks glass. Add ice. Garnish with candied sumac.


Q&A with Khalid Williams

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Khalid Williams, bar manager at Taprock Beer Bar and Refuge in Unionville

How did you first get into bartending?

My first foray was a bit illicit — a large house in the Farmington Valley, a dearth of authority figures and a smattering of random spirits that fit together in the least cohesive way imaginable. I was, for some reason, responsible for the bacchanalian vibe of the party, so I had to engineer some sort of punch using an ancient bottle of oxidized vermouth and some random gin. As for mixers? Flavor ice pops. Somehow it worked.

Tips on using local ingredients in holiday cocktails?

Sumac (the red, non-poisonous kind; avoid the white!) is all over central Connecticut, and nettles in the southeastern part; they both make absolutely amazing drinks. The Coventry Farmers Market is especially cocktail friendly. Eattheplanet.com is a gem of a resource for foragers. I worked in South Glastonbury for a time and the amount of local produce is staggering. Rosedale Farms in Simsbury and Auerfarm in Bloomfield are my lifeblood. Now more than ever, people are cooperating via social media.

When preparing a holiday feast, is it better to be a traditionalist or an innovator?

The three Ls come together to make the best holiday meal: local, legendary and luminary. Butternut squash from around the corner will always taste better than one from across the pond. Smithfield ham is ubiquitous but irreplaceable. My family has roots in Alabama and we do everything on the pig but the oink. Last year my cousin had the audacity to make the stuffing with plant-based sausage. She told us afterward. It was to die for.

Khalid Williams on Instagram: @thebarrelage

This article appears in the November 2020 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.