When Cindy and I got a chance to break away from the kids for the weekend and everyone knows it's time to try some new establishments and old haunts. We stayed close to home this time, kicking up our heels in Milwaukee, one of my favorite places to imbibe. And imbibe I did, so I will take you through my wonderful tour of downtown, Walker's Point, and Mitchell Street neighborhoods.
After a late afternoon start, we went to the oldest cocktail lounge in Milwaukee and our favorite, Bryant's. Located in the Historic Mitchell Street neighborhood, Bryant's has been serving the thirsty since 1938. Although we had many more destinations to go, it's so hard not to have at least one at Bryant's, so we ordered in customary fashion - Bryant's has no menu, only awesome bartenders - you tell them what you feel like, and the bartenders will match it with a cocktail. Cindy said 'gingery' and I asked for something classic in the Bryant's tradition with whiskey (which became a reoccurring motif, as you will see). Cindy received hers first, the bartender proclaimed it a 'Ginger Rogers' and I received the 'Railsplitter.' Now both of these drinks were Bryant's riffs off the cocktail's classic recipes; that's the mystique of Bryant's- you never know for sure what they are serving you - the bartenders hide their work and the place is coffin-dark (Esquire Magazine cocktail guru, David Wondrich, called Bryant's the best and darkest bar in America in 2012; he is right on both counts). All you know for sure is that you will get a professionally balanced, damn good drink. For this post's cocktail, I will attempt to copy the flavors in my Railsplitter, which likely was a combination of bourbon, cherry, and lemon.
In sacrilegious fashion, we left Bryant's after a single round (I actually audibly rebuked myself as I walked into the now-blinding last-of-the-afternoon sun) and we drove north into the Walker's Point neighborhood. Walker's Point is just south of the Third Ward and known for its society-challenging denizens - the neighborhood shares space with fattened hipsters, tatted nonconformists, and gay pub-crawlers - a world away from the speakeasy charm of Bryant's (even though they are only blocks away).
We went to the Sabbatic, a dive bar that the Misfits would have been proud to hang out at, if they were drunk... or gay... or high... or needed another tattoo. The first thing I saw sitting down at a bar stool was the gargoyle wearing a baby gas mask. This was going to be awesome. It was still Happy Hour (uh oh). I don't remember if our bartender asked if we wanted doubles, but I highly doubt that at Happy Hour at the Sabbatic that they have any other size glasses anyway. Cindy had a 7&7, I believe, and I had a Slow & Low Rock and Rye in 7. My second whiskey drink of the night was liquid horehound candy all they way down. Even though my Stoeffler friends are reflexively curling into a fetal ball of death as they read this, know that I drank the hell out of that glass of whiskey syrup and when I came out of my diabetic coma, an anorexic-looking dude joined our small motley crew at the bar and demanded shots for all present.
Now Cindy and I can't be prudish, so we accepted a shot from the young man - I asked for the Cazadores Reposado tequila. The bartender obliged. I had never had Cazadores before - frankly the deer label always reminded me of the tax-stamp swill of the supper club rails of my youth - so I'd never tried any. It's a shame, because the tequila went down sweetly smooth and citrusy, with a clean finish and a bit of edge somewhere in the background. I have found that it sells in the $26-$30 range. A nice price for a tasty tequila for juice cocktails.
Obviously this night is starting to be much too epic for one post, so I'll give you my riff of Bryant's riff of a Railsplitter (since no one will ever tell you a recipe at Bryant's!), and you can enjoy that until we meet again for Part II of our Milwaukee excursion.
Drinking Note Series
2 ounces bourbon (we used Rowan's Creek)
1 ounce cherry juice (we used Bada Bing)
1/2 ounce maraschino liqueur
1/4 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon
Splash of 7up
Stir all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. I know this has fruit juices, but the lemon juice is the only juice here that really requires a shake, and since we used so little, let's adjust the rules a bit so we get less air in the drink. While the ingredients are still in the mixer, add a splash of 7up. Strain over ice in your favorite glass. You'll thank Bryant's later.