We’re back! Winter found us sequestered at Pammy’s Pub finalizing (and editing, editing, editing) bar reviews for Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide. Add to that the preparation, primping, and posing of 46 cocktails for their close-ups, and it’s easy to see why we’ve been absent. Spring coaxed our creativity with a marketing plan and promotion schedule. Summer put us on the road throughout the Adirondacks, selling and signing wherever we were welcome.
With all that attention to detail and embellishment, the realization hit. The current trend toward drink artistry, rather than guzzling gluttony, has led to a focus on flavor and presentation. Complicated preparations, the use of local and home grown ingredients, and the almost daily arrival of spirited new flavors populating liquor store and beer aisle shelves have prompted an emphasis on savor over swill. Drinking is popular again.
The Adirondack Park, with its growing number of breweries, distilleries, and wineries, is keeping up with its metropolitan counterparts without sacrificing its own identity. Breweries are winning awards, bars like Matt’s Draft House in Inlet and Judd’s Tavern in Lake George offer extensive beer lists, and demand flourishes with expectations.
Quality now outranks quantity, at least among those of us with a taste for flavor and a modicum of discretion. Consuming liters of bargain-basement hooch and cases of watery beer is a vague memory better left to the collegiate masses. Like reading from a gourmet menu, drink selection has become a thought-provoking experience. A cocktail is capable of suiting any purpose, from light aperitif to rich dessert. Among those who have sought to make an impression, Lake Placid’s Liquids & Solids at the Handlebar demonstrates exactly that virtuosity, as well as a penchant for fresh and unique ingredients, with an eclectic liquids menu.
This doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Even the simplest drink becomes a fancy cocktail with the addition of herbs, spices, and garnishes commonly found in the kitchen. Presentation can be as simple rimming the glass, or spearing a shish kebab of fruit. Trading the old pint glass for a snifter cranks that draft beer up a notch.
Beyond the drink experience lies the event built around showcasing those tasty wares. Labor Day and the conclusion of the official summer season bring the unleashing of ever more clever devices designed to lure locals and entice visitors to return. The Adirondack Nationals Car Show, held in Lake George the weekend after Labor Day, leaves in its tracks a pileup of autumn attractions. Octoberfests (Lake George, Lake Placid, Old Forge) and all their brewhaha hit their stride in the fall. Sunday football pools, food and drink specials, and dinner pairings (both wine and beer) are just a few of the enticements used to keep the momentum going just a bit longer. Then there are the more creative events.
Like fashions, movies, and hairstyles, everything old is new again. Classic cocktails like the Manhattan, Old-fashioned, and Gibson are experiencing a revival, often with a fresh new twist. The Adirondack region has its own place in Prohibition history, and this weekend you can slip into a local speakeasy (upon uttering the password, of course). Celebrating the area’s role in the whiskey smuggling trade, the Tri Lakes Business Alliance presents Rum Runners Weekend, complete with an antique “rum-runner” car chase and police pursuit from Pottersville to Chestertown, dinner specials at area restaurants, Speakeasy Nights and a Charleston contest. We’re getting our flapper dresses, fox stoles, and cloche hats out of mothballs for this one. Whether we order a Sidecar, a Southside, or a White Lady at the Panther Mountain Pub, we’re sure to get a blank stare from the bartender, so here’s the recipe for the White Lady.
1 ½ oz. Tangueray London Dry Gin
¾ oz. orange liqueur (triple sec will do in tough times, but Cointreau is best)
¾ oz. fresh-squeezed juice of lemon
Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled coupe glass.
Many of us came of (drinking) age before the law reverted back to its pre-Prohibition limit (21) in 1985, and before stiff penalties drove us off the road. Since then, we’ve had to find ways to drink responsibly. One solution we’ve found is to make more interesting choices, experience new flavors, and enjoy the social aspects of going to a bar. Drinking may be more challenging than it used to be, but it isn’t going away. A lesson learned from Prohibition. And it’s popular again. If it’s not, we intend to make it so.