Cheers - July/August 2015

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Page 28 of 51 29 July/August 2015 • Another traditional Korean beverage is makgeolli. Fermented from rice, makgeolli is sweet and milky with bubbly carbonation and low (6% to 8%) alcohol. Dosi serves it in the customary bowl for $14. The drinks pair well with Dosi's "street food" menu, especially jeon, traditional Korean savory pancakes made from a mixture of fresh ingredients in an egg-and-fl our batter and pan fried to a crisp and chewy texture. Dosi is a soju bar pioneer in Houston. A key strategy to boosting the spirit's popularity is Soju Hour, a Happy Hour variation that runs 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day with a late-night version on weekends from 10 p.m. to midnight. During the Soju Hour, all soju cocktails and the Sampler Shots are half-price. Vo plans to open another place soon—a bar rather than a restaurant— which would put more of an emphasis on soju, much like the traditional drinking establishments in Korea. BEIRUT BABY: ARAK Arak is an aniseed-fl avored spirit from the ancient levant, the drink of Lebanon and enjoyed throughout the eastern Mediterranean. Wine made from local grapes is distilled twice; aniseed is introduced during the second distillation. The clear liquor, which has an ABV of 40% to 60%, turns milky because of the immiscibility of anise oil and water. "My dad used to tell me that they would drink arak when eating kibbeh nayeh (raw lamb tartar) so that the arak could kill any bacteria," recalls Grace Abi-Najm Shea, vice president of the Arlington, VA-based Lebanese Taverna Group. "I'm not sure if it's true, a Lebanese wives tale, or a good excuse to drink arak." In its six restaurants and four cafes, Lebanese Taverna serves Mediterranean cuisine and believes that a traditional mezze wouldn't be complete without a taste of arak. More- traditional customers typically order arak on its own or mixed with a little water. To entice newcomers, Lebanese Taverna offers cocktails such as the Arak Mule ($10) in which the Lebanese spirit stands in for vodka, and the Arak 75, a riff on the sparkling wine cocktail but with arak, jallab syrup and cardamom bitters. "The typical American consumer isn't accustomed to the anise, or 'licorice' fl avor, so we incorporate arak cocktails, which are delicious and approachable even to the American palate," says Chad Spangler, director of operations. What's next? Says president Dany Abi-Najm: "We will always be using traditional ingredients in new, exciting ways; but look out for a new drink using masthitha liqueur." CHICAGO'S UBER-BITTER: MALÖRT First distilled in Chicago in the early 1900s by Swedish immigrant Carl Jeppson, malört is a variation on the Swedish bitter bäsk brännvin. Malört translates as "wormwood," and is notorious for its brutal taste. How brutal? Chicagoans talk about the "Malört grimace." The original Jeppson's Malört brand has trademarked the name and moved production to Florida. But a few craft producers make a version of malört. "Malört can most certainly be considered an exotic spirit because it delivers a unique fl avor profi le. Its aggressive personality is not one that is easily forgotten," says Danny Shapiro, co-owner and bar manager of Scoffl aw in Chicago. The bar sells so much malört that it offers the spirit on tap, with draft shots priced $3. Regulars buy newbies a shot just to watch the look on their faces when they imbibe the super-bitter liquor. "It is an instant camaraderie builder," says Shapiro. Malört is a popular call for "Dealer's Choice cocktails," challenging Scoffl aw's bartenders to improvise a drink around that bitterness. Cocktails are $8. "It fi ts into the theme at Scoffl aw, because we see ourselves as a Chicago neighborhood place, and malört defi nitely holds a place within the hearts of our clientele," says Shapiro. The bar owner is skeptical about the spirit's popularity expanding outside of Chicago, though he notes that malört is a favorite quaff among bartenders, who gift it to industry friends outside the city. "So it's defi nitely making its way out there." Thomas Henry Strenk is a Brooklyn-based freelance beverage writer who will try any drink once, and most of them twice. India House's Chicago location recently added two cocktails made with feni, an Indian spirit distilled from fermented ca- shew apples: the Feni Sunrise (left) and the Goan Colada. " The typical American consumer isn't accustomed to the anise, or 'licorice' fl avor, so we incorporate arak cocktails, which are delicious and approachable." — Chad Spangler, director of operations, Lebanese Taverna

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