The Bee’s Knees
I didn't sense a large chain restaurant presence at Tales of the Cocktail. In fact, the only one that seemed to participating in any of the programs was Bonefish Grill. Fortuitous, because they are one of my favorites.
"Bonefish Grill’s Search for the Best Cocktail Featuring a New Spirit" wasn't really for the public (I did poke my head in) or for the average bartender (I just can't say mixologist). The competition was for liquor brands that had been launched within the past year to come up with a cocktail to be featured on Bonefish's menu.
And that's the twisted thing about my relationship to Bonefish Grill. Highly suburban, the seafood chain (whose nearest location, Secaucus, is eight miles from my apartment—I prefer to drive the 17 miles to Iselin) "invites guests to enjoy a 'big city bar' in their own backyards."
Yet, I live a short subway ride away from Manhattan's cocktail heavy hitters like this year's best cocktail bar in the country, Death & Co., and walking distance to Clover Club (also a nominee). There is no shortage of $12+ beverages using herbs, tinctures and homemade bitters in my environs.
The weekend before last, I took advantage of my free Bang Bang Shrimp birthday gift card in East Brunswick and was looking forward to some of their oddly priced $6.90 cocktails. I wouldn't necessarily call a list of martinis, all but one of the 12 sweet and/or fruity, "big city," though. Second-tier city?
I do see what they're going for. My Bee's Knees Martini was flavored with honey and lemon juice and garnished with a basil leaf. They'd only need to lose the martini glass and swap gin for the vodka to get something more appropriately old-timey and historic. But of course, fedoras, moustaches and suspenders aren't exactly de rigueur in Witchita or Boise (at least I hope not). Bonefish states that they are "blending our country's rich cocktail history with inventive, modern twists." They know their audience.
Square One Botanical Spirit, a vodka made from organic American rye and infused with "pear, rose, chamomile, lemon verbena, lavender, rosemary, coriander and citrus peel," won their sponsored contest. The winning cocktail, however, wasn't announced. I'd love to know what it is and I'd order one even though it will likely be sweet and fruity.