The Drunken Vegan, a.k.a. Patrick J. Hurley, is a full-time barman at the Civil Life Brewing Company and cocktail enthusiast about town. He's an unapologetic drunkard, a vegan and a bon vivant, and, no, he doesn't think those last two terms contradict each other.
As we stand at the cusp of the season, we turn from the bright, citrusy, light gin drinks of summer to the deeper and more complex flavors of fall. The October cocktail list at Olio (1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088) promises some outstanding seasonal treats. John Fausz, bar manager at Olio and Elaia and general manager of Olio, has just finished up the list. "October's a loose theme -- 'harvest' being the best single idea to frame it," Fausz says. He acknowledges that this sounds cliché, but rest assured, Olio's take on the season is wholly unique.
Fausz curates a wee little cocktail list that changes each month. He generally offers eight to ten cocktails, often rarities brought lovingly back from the annals of cocktail history. For the first time, October's list features mostly his original concoctions.
"It's the first time that original creations are being presented en masse alongside a couple of fairly bizarre antique cocktails," he says. You can expect lots of rye and vermouth, amaros, some aged rum and some relatively obscure liqueurs and eau de vies (brandies made from grapes or any other fruit).
"This is my dream list. It's all stuff I like. It's time to have some fun and make drinks with eau de vie and some more interesting spirits," Fausz says.
The Drunken Vegan sampled two new offerings. The "Rochester" (as in the city in New York) combines Averell Damson plum gin with rye whiskey, white vermouth, Douglas fir eau de vie and bitters. Damson plums are small, dark plums similar to sloe berries, and Averell produces a sophisticated variation of sloe gin that works well in this drink. Rye spice is the prominent flavor, with a faint hint of fruit and a little bitterness. There is also some warm clove and cardamom spice, making it very well integrated and balanced.
The "Medford Stone Fence" is based on an old colonial New England recipe. The original is whiskey-based, but Fausz uses rum. According to Fausz, rum distilleries were well-represented in New England in those days, as were plenty of apple-based spirits and ciders. He is using Smith and Cross Naval Strength rum, which is distilled in Jamaica and bottled in England. "It's the closest in style to a colonial-era rum," Fausz says.
For the same reason, he uses a Spanish cider, which is tart and dry with a pleasant minerality that seems closest in spirit to what colonial hard ciders might have tasted like. There is also some apple liqueur and a tot of simple syrup for balance. You get warm nutmeg on the nose, followed by caramel-spice rum tones, then loads of tart apple. It's better than a slice of apple pie (and probably more American).
It'll be tough to find a more interesting list of cocktails in St. Louis this October. Autumn's almost here -- you can taste it at Olio.
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