The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2018

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Page 97 of 124

november 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  97 We set out to find these intrepid bartenders, and it turns out they offered plenty of new angles to explore. Among those challenging themselves to create an updated iteration of the Jack & Coke is Joshua Tallent, the Denver-based Beverage Manager of White Lodging Services, which runs Le Méridien and the AC Hotel by Marriott. In an homage to a song of the same name by Jim James of My Morning Jacket fame, Tallent calls his cocktail Yes To Everything. "This is my first time attempting a rec- reation of a Jack & Coke, and I wanted just the right amount of zing with the right amount of pow!" he quips. "I love pairing Jack Daniel's with the Graham Cracker Porter from Denver Beer Co. and showcasing that roasted-vanilla and cinnamon character to feed into the backbone from the Coca-Cola. A dash of lime for acid adds that wow factor at the end." Cari Hah, Bar Manager at Big Bar in Los Angeles, also follows a more craft-inspired path: "I make a cola syrup and then use sour cherry bitters and Amontillado Sherry. It's a lovely riff on an old-fashioned Jack & Coke!" she says. Halfway across the country in Detroit, Leonard Lopp has rolled out a new take on the classic as part of his fall menu at The Keep. "It's a bottled cocktail that has Jack Daniel's and a blend of bitters, amari, nocino, and lemon acid. I'm trying to make a carbonated, all-booze version of a Jack & Coke, essentially— it's delicious, but also a hell of a lot more prep time than original!" he says with a laugh. Will Benedetto also churns out some labor-intensive takes on the classic in both Nashville and New York, where he serves as Beverage Director at Nashville's The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club and Cocktail Curator for In Good Company Hospitality. At the restaurant group's iconic New York bistro Parker & Quinn, located in an upscale hotel in the Garment District, the Smoked Jack and Root Beer cocktail is the product of several highly involved techniques. "We take a root beer syrup and cold-smoke it with hickory chips, then add a touch of citric and malic acid for balance," Benedetto explains. "Next, we measure out the perfect amount of Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 and then pour the whole thing into a small 5-gallon keg, which we hook up to our soda sys- tem. The system then properly dilutes and carbonates the mixture, allowing us to pump this meticulously crafted cocktail through our soda guns." If that level of craftmanship wasn't enough, Benedetto takes things a step further at The Fox Bar. "We've gone as far as to make our own syrup, which imitates the flavors of Coca-Cola using hickory, cardamom, kola nut, sassafras, and cane sugar," he says. "We mix this with a little bit of Italian amaro and a healthy dose of Jack Daniel's Single Barrel to create a souped-up homage to the classic Jack & Coke." A Low-Maintenance Refresh While all that scratch syrup–making might make busy bartenders wonder where they'd find the time to elevate the iconic drink, fear not: It turns out you can achieve a better Jack & Coke with a single adjustment. Five of the ten bartenders we spoke to swear by using imported Mexican Coke over standard Coca-Cola as the cocktail's base, as the former contains cane sugar in lieu of high-fructose corn syrup. "Mexican Coke is my go-to anytime," explains Travis Sanders, bartender at Pennyroyal in Seattle. "It's got better flavor, is more balanced, and is not as sweet and syrupy." While bartender Carol Donovan of Chicago's Burton Place agrees that "real sugar makes everything taste better," she's quick to add that Coke from a soda gun tends to be her preferred option. "It the gun is well-maintained, then gun Coke is better than a can, and a true glass bottle is better than from a plastic bottle," she says. Lopp, however, respectfully disagrees: "I've always loved Coke from a can and prefer that above all others," he says. With so many variations to consider, it's worth noting that the Jack & Coke's real magic flows from the combination of two legends in the beverage world. As longtime barman Marvin Allen of the Carousel Bar in New Orleans' Hotel Monteleone explains, "it's amazing how Jack Daniel's is still going strong, even with all of the other whiskeys that are coming around." "Some cool and deli- cious concoctions have resulted from the process of experimentation, but I don't think Jack & Coke's place in the Cocktail Hall of Fame is in jeopardy of being replaced anytime soon," Tecosky adds. Yes To Everything Created by Joshua Tallent ◗ 1½ oz. Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey ◗ ½ oz. kola nut–infused syrup ◗ ¼ oz. fresh lime juice ◗ Denver Beer Co. Graham Cracker Porter Shake strongly and strain over a big rock in a double Old-Fashioned glass. Top with Denver Beer Co. Graham Cracker Porter (or substitute another vanilla-cinnamon porter). Garnish with grated cinnamon and salted peanut dust. PHOTO: JOSHUA TALLENT Joshua Tallent is the Denver-based Beverage Manager of White Lodging Services.

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