Forget sweet — try these savory sippers

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By all accounts, Wisconsin’s favorite cocktail is still the Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet. The name alone should tell you what it’s about.

Without getting technical, a BOFS is most often a blend of 2 to 3 ounces of Korbel brandy, 7 Up, a dash or two of Angostura bitters offset by a sugar cube, and maybe a dash of cherry juice or grenadine. Garnish with orange slices and maraschino cherries (2, please) and you have a glass of dessert on the rocks.

But an increasing number of imbibers have discovered the joys of savory cocktails that embrace an entirely different flavor palette. In a collision of Foodie Nation and cocktail culture, mixologists are experimenting with a wider range of ingredients. The results of those efforts have generated a new generation of savvy savory sippers.

New flavor combinations emphasize the entire palate rather than just the sweet tooth. Here are a few you can try at home:

Smoking Mary

Smoke as a cocktail flavor has come a long way in the past few years, and some establishments, such as Madison’s Merchant, actually smoke some of their cocktails during the mixing process, much like adding a garnish. That takes time and its success depends on how adept you are with, shall we say, the smoking gun.

As you might guess, a Smoking Mary is a bloody mary — a base of tomato juice or V8 with spices and, in this case, a dash of chipotle sauce — blended with a smoked liqueur. The portions are the same as when using vodka, but here is a “smoking liqueur” recipe you can prepare ahead of time. 

INGREDIENTS

10 oz. vodka

10 oz. of a peat-smoked single malt scotch such as Laphroaig

2 Lapsang Souchong teabags

2 tbsp. smoked paprika

1 tsp. smoked ground black pepper

12 oz. simple syrup made from 1 part brown sugar and 1 part water

DIRECTIONS

Mix all ingredients except the simple syrup together in a jar with a lid and place it in a cool, dark place for at least 3 to 5 days, or until it tastes and smells of smoke. Strain ingredients through a mesh screen and add the simple syrup. Serve in place of vodka with the standard bloody mary mixture.

Cynar Toronto

Nothing refreshes the palate quite like the bitter flavor Cynar (pronounce “CHEE-nar.”) The Italian cordial is made from 13 herbs and plants, the principal of which is the artichoke. The Cynar Toronto is an exotic take on the more familiar Manhattan. 

INGREDIENTS

4 oz. rye whiskey

1½ oz. Cynar

2 tsps. simple syrup

4 dashes Angostura bitters

DIRECTIONS

Add all four ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake, then strain into the two cocktail glasses. Cynar’s bitterness nicely tempers the sweetness of the rye, making the cocktail interesting, balanced and ultimately refreshing.

Barbacoa

Mezcal was once considered the poor man’s tequila, but over the years it has developed a fan base all its own for brands bottled both with and without the worm. 

INGREDIENTS

3 slices bell pepper

3 lime wedges

½ tsp. pureed chipotle pepper

½ oz. lemon juice

½ oz. ginger syrup

¾ oz. Agave nectar

2 oz. Mezcal

DIRECTIONS

To make ginger syrup, combine 3 parts ginger juice, 2 parts sugar and 1 part water and shake until the sugar dissolves. Muddle bell pepper and lime wedges in a shaker, then add the remaining ingredients and fill with ice. Shake, then pour unstrained into a double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with beef jerky.

Tallulah

Few cocktails are named after famous screen actresses, but Tallulah Bankhead would have been proud to lay claim to this concoction that honors several elements of her Southern heritage. 

INGREDIENTS

2 oz. Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey or your favorite bourbon

1 oz. Coca-Cola

1 oz. peanut orgeat

Peanut halves for garnish

To make the orgeat, you need:

2 lbs. unsalted nuts

20 oz. water

2 cups sugar

1½ tsps. salt

2 oz. brandy or vodka 

½ tsp. orange flower water (optional)

½ tsp. rose water (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Soak peanuts in a large bowl of water and let stand for 30 minutes. Remove the peanuts, careful to save the liquid, and grind them in a food processor until finely chopped. (Do not purée.) Place the ground peanuts in a cheesecloth bag and place the bag in the saved liquid. Cover and let stand for 2 hours. Remove the bag and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Return the bag to the liquid and let stand for 6 more hours, squeezing every 2 hours. Strain the liquid, discarding any solids, and pour into a medium saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and salt, stirring until fully dissolved. Remove from the heat, let cool and add brandy or vodka, as well as the orange flower water and rose water if desired.

Classic Michelada

Somewhere along the line, Mexican beer lovers decided it would be a good idea to add flavors to their brews. But the classic michelada, as the concoctions are called, goes far beyond a lime wedge in your Corona. There are many variations, but for this one you need:

INGREDIENTS

1 bottle or draft of Mexican lager-style beer

1 lime wedge

Salt

Cayenne pepper

½ oz. fresh lime juice

2 drops Tabasco sauce

2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1 pinch ground black pepper

1 pinch celery salt

DIRECTIONS

Rub the rim of a pint glass with the lime wedge, then coat the rim with equal parts of salt and cayenne pepper. Add remaining ingredients to the glass and fill with the beer. Add a fresh lime wedge as garnish.