Sunday, February 19, 2017

Dubuque, Iowa

Is this (drinking) heaven? No, it’s Iowa. I know, Dubuque isn’t a drinking Mecca like New Orleans, New York, or San Francisco, but if you are going ‘Around America,’ you have to eventually hit every state, so you wind up in places like Rapid City, South Dakota and Dubuque, Iowa. That said, I do love Mississippi River towns. No matter how far south you go, there is a bit of home in places like St. Louis, Memphis, and New Orleans. Dubuque is a little like that; a rich history of old industry and trade whose buildings are washed ‘til worn by Ol’ Man River.

We started at 1st & Main, an elongated downtown watering hole that caters mostly to the twenty-something crowd. It has a sports bar/hip club feel, but the bartenders were friendly and so we decided to test some of their signature cocktails. Unfortunately, the 1st & Main experience was way too much of a 1980s-college-club sort of feel- the cocktails were prohibitively fruity, it took too long to get them and, the most criminal of all- the weak drinks were too weak and the strong drinks were too strong.

Unimpressed, we paid for our one round and left to see if we could find an older watering hole. So we headed up the street to venerable Hotel Julien, the Dubuque landmark whose history dates back to 1839. Inside its Riverboat Lounge, we looked for a night cap or two and ordered Kentucky Mules made with an Iowa bourbon named Cody Road. Despite being deep into the winter holiday season, our drinks came cold as ice in their traditional hammered copper mugs. We settled into the oversized-cushion booths in the back of the bar, situated among the burgundy wall padding that subbed for art. We enjoyed the Cody Road so much we had to order more.

Drink: Kentucky Mule
Establishment: Riverboat Lounge at the Hotel Julien
Location: Dubuque, Iowa
First Connoisseur: Cindy

2 ounces bourbon (try Cody Road)
½ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
4 ounces ginger beer

Pour bourbon and lime juice over ice in a mule mug. Stir slightly to combine. Add ginger beer. Stir gently to conserve the carbonization. Garnish with a lime wheel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Forester's American Whiskey Punch

Christmas is a special time here in the Firewater Lounge. It would be safe to say that the best drinks that we have poured have their genesis in the holidays. These drinks are not just good, they have history, their creation requires attention and reflection, and they are attached to the memories of the ones we love. This year we are remembering Cindy’s cousin Mike’s grandpa. As I knew him, John Callaghan Sr. never went anywhere without a smile, ribbing anyone within earshot about anything he could think of. When he passed away, we asked to picture some of his drinkware in the Lounge.

What we choose to shoot was a monogrammed bowl and glass set, bedecked with a whimsical man with top hat askew, betraying a bit of tipsiness from the night’s frivolities. We asked Mike what his grandpa liked to drink and he said, ‘Old Fitzgerald.’

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Winter's Ghost

A lot of people will be really happy to see 2016 end. For many, they can’t stand the negativity in local and national politics. For us, though, 2016 has been hard because of all the people that left us too soon like Prince, Rickman, Bowie, Cole, Yelchin, Cohen, Ali, Wilder and many others. The bartending world lost a young talent as well- Robert J. Cooper. You may not know the name, but if you spent any time in the Firewater Lounge (and Lord knows, most of you have), chances are good that you tasted his mighty contribution to the world of spirits.