by Holly Fann
Like any red-blooded American, Gut Check uses liquid medication to cope with holiday stress. Not only does a good winter cocktail make it possible to tolerate family members, say, inquiring about your procreation plans, it helps keep you warm, too. From now until Christmas, we're calling upon local drink-slingers to suggest great cocktails to get you through the season. Some of them are holiday-themed, some traditional, some not so much, but they all share one common thread: delicious potency.
There is something about the dark hardwood, crystal chandeliers and the double-Windsor-knotted tie worn by mixologist TJ Vytlacil that gives Blood and Sand (1500 St. Charles Avenue; 314-241-7263) a festive and celebratory feel -- especially during the holiday season.
At a place that prides itself not only on extensive cocktail and wine lists but also on the dishes created by chef Chris Bork, it isn't surprising to find that the mixologist has been collaborating with the chef to create new flavor profiles for cocktails as well as the food. This experimentation has led to Blood & Sand's interpretation of a perfect holiday cocktail, the Blitzentrapper.
"Chef has been making these really interesting simple syrups for us to use at the bar," explains Vytlacil, pouring Gut Check a small amount of toasted-hazelnut simple syrup to taste. "It really gives us a lot of ideas and new directions for the flavor profiles for our drinks."
Vytlacil won't divulge the exact recipe for the Blitzentrapper, but he graciously allows Gut Check to watch as he mixed one up for us to try.
He pours a small amount of the syrup into his shaker along with fresh carrot, lime and orange juices. Next comes a quick pour of ginger liqeuer and finally a measure of Flor de Cana Gold Four-Year Rum.
Vytlacil shakes his concoction the way only a mixologist can, breaks the airtight seal of the shaker with an ear-slapping snap and pours the frothy Creamsicle-hued mix into a vintage silver-rimmed cocktail glass.
The drink is akin to the three-course-meal gum from Willy Wonka. Each sip reveals a new layer of flavors. First is the caramel nuttiness of hazelnut syrup, which is washed away by juicy citrus, which in turn is followed by a fragrant pale perfume of carrot. All the while, the rum warms our insides.