|Distil’s Triumphant Revival | A Return To Their Craft Cocktail Roots|
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Distil’s Triumphant Revival
A Return To Their Craft Cocktail Roots
By Dave McGraw | Photos by Brian West
Cocktails in America have a storied and troubled past. First invented in America while we were still a bit "wild," the art of the cocktail was almost entirely killed off during Prohibition and has been in a state of recovery since. It really started with America’s use of grape varietals, which quite literally changing the face of the wine world. Then we changed the meaning of beer, creating the Craft Beer movement. The last third of the trinity, our cocktail culture, has yet to recover. But the movement is starting.
Akin to the rise, fall and rebirth of America’s drink history, Distil Milwaukee’s story is remarkably similar. In the beginning, Distil’s concept was built around the craft cocktail. Highly skilled bartenders crafted each and every cocktail specially—infused with the essence of unique flavors and the complexity of fine art. Mathias Simonis pointed the way for the first few years, but when he left to pursue his career beyond Milwaukee, the craft cocktail focus became a bit unfocused. Without the consistency and continuity guiding the bartenders, Distil wandered for a while. That is, until Daniel Beres took over.
Returning to their original conceptual roots, Distil premiered their brand new craft cocktail menu this summer. All of the bartenders are highly skilled and capable of making drinks for any type of customer—from the avid enthusiast to the casual imbiber. With a knowledge of basic cocktail theory, the bartenders at Distil will build the perfect custom drink based on your tastes.
They are looking to attract those who have an education and enthusiasm in craft cocktails, but also aim to educate and encourage all clientele to learn and expand their palates. The last thing Distil wants is to alienate people because of the pretentiousness and snobbery that can sometimes be found in the cocktail culture. This is about so much more than that. The craft cocktail is the next big thing, just like craft beer is now, and wine was before it.
Did I mention they also feature my favorite spirit: whiskey? Featuring a whiskey (mostly Bourbon) menu that is among the best in town, they have a reserve Bourbon-whiskey menu most people don't know exists but really should. Allowing you to try legendary rare spirits at 1-ounce pours with attractive pricing (Stagg 2010 for $14, for example), Distil definitely aims for the “recreational education.”
Distil is blazing a hard trail to show Milwaukee just what a craft cocktail can be. All that being said, here are a few of the standout new craft cocktails featured on Distil’s summer menu.
Distil Sangaree | Here’s a sangria that doesn't use steeped fruit. This one uses three different types of wine and brandy. I don’t know how else to say this: It tastes like a cocktail. Unlike common sangrias that taste like juice with a touch of dryness from wine, this drink is sweet without being syrupy, light and refreshing. An orange twist garnish adds a slightly tart citrus peel character to to the scent. Riesling is pronounced and accented by the fresh juices. Rhubarb and apple brandy add a semi-tart finish.
For Dukes and Gods | Smells like basil in the garden. Refreshing, crisp and scholarly, this drink begs the question, "this is what gin can do?!" A lemon chrome color, the botanical aromatics of the gin are complemented by the basil garnish. A subtle tang and unforgettable bitters experience, the flavors are perfectly balanced.
Stalking the Far Away Places | A pale ruby color, the mustiness of the sage garnish mingles with the rose hip and cherry aromatics. Rum is lurking just below the surface in the aroma but becomes more and more pronounced as the drink evolves on your palate. Starts luscious and subtlety sweet, and the rum grows as it finishes.
Forbidden Flight | A golden mango yellow with a nasturtium flower garnish, the aroma is low-key. A sweet mango profile enlivens the palate with a dryness of vanilla and buttery candy. Sweet but not syrupy, delicious and sings of summer.
Paloma | A cloudy, clean white color that literally vibrates with an inner glow. The ruby grapefruit garnish offsets the pale color with a burst of color. The vegetal smell of true Tequila blends with the grapefruit to create a dichotomy of tropical flavors. With the Tequila being a bit grassy and the dominant flavor of this drink, squeezing the grapefruit into the drink gives a totally different flavor profile that is more sweet with just a bit of bell pepper from the agave. This one is for the real Tequila lover.
Have you been to Distil? If you haven’t been there in the past few years, then it’s time you revisit. It’s a new bar for all intents and purposes. And if you haven’t been there yet ... well, now you have no excuse to put it off any longer. Go to Distil and become a part of the craft cocktail movement!