Must Travel for Bourbon

In Eat, October 2016 by Alexandra DrosuLeave a Comment

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Bourbon bar the Oak works hard to raise the bar when it comes to craft cocktails, and part of that process involves traveling: Bar Manager Glenn Shriver and JMR Kitchens Beverage Director Hali Haught go to different regions of the country to discover new liquors, get inspired by new cocktails and discover how other venues are elevating service for their customers. “We go to other cities to try things that we can’t get in North Carolina but also see what other places are doing. The reality is when you go to Portland, New York and Nashville, they’re a couple years ahead of what we’re doing in this market,” says Haught. Here, they share what’s inspired them on their travels.

us_capitol_building_at_night_jan_2006 Washington, D.C.

While visiting our nations capital, Haught headed to the Jack Rose Dining Saloon, featuring more than 2,000 bottles of whiskey. There, however, she was surprised to find a tiki bar. “I’ve never been a huge fan, but I had a proper Mai Tai and it might possibly be the most delicious drink I’ve ever had,” she says. The discovery has prompted Haught to bring the tiki trend to Raleigh, introducing seasonal inspired versions this fall.

nashville Nashville

Shriver checked out The Patterson House, a 1920s speakeasy style lounge that limits the number of patrons that can visit at any given time. There, he ordered a Ramos Gin Fizz, a drink that was invented in the late 1880s and combines two “no-no’s” as Shriver says—citrus and cream. “It took something you’re not supposed to do, the curdling, and made it into a delicious drink. It reinforced my idea of the classic cocktail,” he says. Back in Raleigh, Shriver has been focusing on perfecting timeless drinks, like Sazeracs and Old Fashioneds.

downs_entrance_dsc4246 Louisville

Haught says she was shocked when she saw the caliber of cocktails being crafted in Louisville. Though Kentucky is home of the Bourbon Trail, she didn’t expect to find local bars competing creatively with the big city cocktail scene. She visited Proof on Main, a downtown bar, and ordered a cocktail with Cymar, an artichoke liqueur with a slight bitterness. She was also impressed with the way the bar incorporated sour mash into its cocktails, a great way to introduce bourbon to a first timer. Both ingredients have found their way onto the Oak’s cocktail menu.

portland1 Portland

As a bourbon aficionado Shriver headed to the Multnomah Whiskey Library, where servers use a rolling ladder to reach thousands of different bottles. The speakeasy has no windows and bartenders wheel carts to prepare your cocktail table side. The personal attention elevates the service experience, says Shriver. It’s inspired him to aim higher when it comes to serving patrons at the Oak, and to truly create an inviting experience for them.

nyc New York City

At Pardon My French, a cozy French bistro in the East Village, Haught was impressed with their homemade syrups and tonics. There she met a French bartender who had worked at a Michelin-Star restaurant and made her own crème de violette. It’s inspired Haught and Shriver to start crafting their own bitters and tonic syrups. “We’re starting to do tonics,” she says, and she hopes she’ll be able to share the fruits of their labor soon with guests.

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