During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andy Beshear held five o’clock daily briefings from the Capitol. It became a routine time that Kentuckians sat down in their homes to watch and learn about the ever-changing pandemic and how their lives would be affected.
To ease the tension of the news the governor was sharing, many people watched the briefings with an alcoholic beverage in hand. Kentuckians’ after work happy hour sessions at the bar were replaced with “Beers with Beshear” and “Cocktails with Andy” in their homes.
Toward the end of March, Capital Cellars bartender Anna Latek took to Facebook to share her recipe for a drink she created called the “5 o’clock with Andy” in honor of “our fearless leader,” she said.
Since she’s been old enough to drink, Anna has been creating what she calls “mocktails.” She learned a lot from helping her mother Meri cater events.
“When I was old enough to drink and appreciate the complexities of alcohol, I started to learn how to make cocktails,” Anna said. “I’m learning the nuances of each spirit and how to show off every flavor profile for customers.”
Anna created the 5 o’clock with Andy using Ale-8, apple cider, orange bitters and Buffalo Trace Bourbon.
“Ale-8 blends itself well with mixing with bourbon,” Anna said. “The apple cider brightens it up and the orange bitter keeps it from being too sweet or too smoky. It’s a little sweet, a little smoky and tastes like a summer day in Kentucky.”
Another drink that Anna has created for the summer is the “Restoration Cocktail.”
Using strawberry rhubarb shrub she made, Wheatley vodka, club soda and fresh mint, Anna created the drink that she says was named in celebration of businesses reopening and because it restores your body.
“The strawberry rhubarb has lots of antioxidants,” she said. “Shrubs are known for being beneficial.”
Anna said the shrub offers the cocktail “umami,” which is a Japanese term for “the great unknown” — a richness that can be found in food and beverage.
“It can help balance things,” she said. “It’s a pleasing richness that you can provide to any beverage.”
Anna said another good shrub to make is one with apple cider and blueberries. You can make them with any herb or fruit. Anna likes to make them with whatever fruit and herbs are in season and growing in her “postage stamp victory” garden at her home.
You can also make savory shrubs with tomato and basil that can be used in Bloody Marys.
Shrubs last for up to three months on the shelf or a year in the refrigerator, she said.
Anna chose to make the Restoration Cocktail with Wheatley Vodka because it’s made in Frankfort and has a smooth flavor that doesn’t have a heavy bite, she said.
“Some vodkas are really strong,” she said. “Wheatley has a smooth, delicate flavor that works well by itself or in a cocktail.”
Overall, the Restoration Cocktail has an herbaceous taste, she said.
“It’s fresh, a little sweet from the balsamic and strawberry … it’s a satisfying afternoon back porch cocktail.”
For people looking to create their own summertime cocktails, Anna says not to be afraid to expand your horizon.
“Look for flavors that you know you love and look for spirits or wines that play off of that,” she said. “Look at the flavor notes. Use fresh ingredients. Anyone can make vodka tonic, but that with fresh cucumber is totally different.”
And, don’t forget the mint.
“Mint is a quintessential summer and Kentucky flavor.”
5 o’clock with Andy
1 ½ ounce Buffalo Trace
2 ounces good quality apple cider
Regan’s Orange Bitters
Add bourbon and cider to a shaker full of ice. Add three dashes of bitters. Stir until chilled. Top with strainer and strain into rocks glass full of ice. Top with Ale-8 and garnish with a sprig of mint.
1 ½ ounce Wheatley Vodka
1 ½ ounce strawberry-rhubarb balsamic shrub
Place vodka, shrub and a few leaves of mint in a shaker filled with ice. Top and shake vigorously to combine. Strain into an ice-filled Mason jar. Top with club soda and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Balsamic Shrub
2 cups chopped rhubarb (fresh or frozen)
1 cup chopped strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup sugar
1 sprig rosemary
2 sprigs mint
Add rhubarb, strawberries, lime zest and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Drop in sprigs of rosemary and mint. Simmer over low heat until rhubarb starts to soften, about 15-20 minutes.
Mash mixture with a potato masher. Cook down another 5-10 minutes. Strain out solids and allow to cool. Stir in vinegar and place in a jar or container.
The shrub will keep up to three months on the shelf or a year in the refrigerator.