Trends in the cocktail world can be fickle and fleeting, simultaneously driven by simplicity and a reverence for the classics. In 2019, the bar trends to watch range from Instagram-worthy hues and presentation to using unexpected herbs and spices to add elements of exoticism. Another trend gaining steam is the art of the nonalcoholic cocktail, driven by the craft of mixology and a growing empathy that not everyone can or wants to sip something with liquor in the mix.
Here are five creative, unusual and otherwise noteworthy experimentations found in a handful of bar programs across the Inland Northwest, which we definitely recommend trying.
Cherry Blossom ($7)
Kaiju Sushi & Spirits, 424 Sherman Ave., Coeur d'Alene
A sure sign of spring in Coeur d'Alene and elsewhere is the cherry tree's blossoms. Right now, they're morphing from burgundy branches and tiny buds to white and pink flowers wafting an intoxicating scent. How appropriate, then, is Kaiju's Cherry Blossom cocktail, intoxicating in a different way. Cranberry provides the saturated cherry red base, to which is added cherry vodka and coconut rum, while a layer of thick coconut milk simulates the evolving bloom. Drink this colorful creation from inside Kaiju's subterranean Japanese monster-themed restaurant or ask to be seated on the patio nearby to the trees that inspired the drink. Both are picture perfect. (CARRIE SCOZZARO)
Fat-Washed Old Fashioned ($12)
Prohibition Gastropub, 1914 N. Monroe
When we first heard of fat washing, we were a little confused. Is it a rinse on the glass? No. A way to clean a greasy frying pan? Also no. Instead, this technique essentially involves infusing spirits with a type of fat (butter, bacon, duck, etc.) and is quite succinctly explained with science (Serious Eats has a good overview). It's even easier to tip back. At Prohibition, chef-owner John Leonetti starts by straining off liquefied fat (usually from bacon), heating it up and pouring it into a bottle or mini barrel of whiskey. Next, he gives the mixture a good shake and lets the concoction cool overnight before straining out the solidified fat that rises to the top. The result, which Leonetti is currently barrel-aging for about a month, is whiskey without the bite; a smoothness that slides over the tongue, leaving a salty, savory and bacon-y note on the back end. Try a nibble of this drink's candied bacon garnish before a sip for the ultimate bourbon-meets-bacon experience. (CHEY SCOTT)
The Roxane; Grapefruit Old Fashion ($6/each)
First Avenue Coffee, 1011 W. First
While we've yet to stumble across any dedicated craft cocktail bars with nonalcoholic drinks listed on a printed menu (versus by request), the "slow bar" at this downtown cafe is giving this trend some seriously needed attention. It helps that it's a coffee bar and doesn't hold a liquor license, although neither of those details really matter once you try one of First Ave's featured slow bar beverages, sans spirits. Not all contain coffee, either, says general manager Kristen Scott-Silver, a conscious choice made with respect toward customers who don't always want a hit of caffeine. The Roxane, for example, is an effervescent concoction created for April's Get Lit! Festival, so popular it's since landed on the cafe's new summer menu. Made with Q Tonic Water, housemade juniper berry syrup, grenadine and a twist of lime, this pretty pink drink is summer in a glass, but without any regret if you down one too many. First Ave also consistently features its own take on the Old Fashioned, which they've dubbed the Old Fashion, using Roast House's F-Bomb cold brew nitro coffee instead of whiskey. Summer's version is citrusy and bright, with nonalcoholic angostura and grapefruit bitters and a housemade grapefruit-rosemary syrup. (CHEY SCOTT)
The Golden Rüt ($12)
Rüt Bar & Kitchen, 901 W. 14th Ave.
Thanks to its much-touted health benefits (antioxidants and immunity-boosting properties) turmeric as both a tasty spice and superfood has stretched its reach into the cocktail world. Even if drinking it mixed with alcohol may not be the most healthy intake, this vibrant spice adds a beautiful yellow-orange color to drinks that feature it, as well as notes of tannic bitterness that can be easily balanced or highlighted with other spices and ingredients. At Spokane's newly opened all-plant restaurant Rüt, this particular drink — inspired by "golden milk," another turmeric-based but nonalcoholic beverage — is served chilled but has a warm and nutty flavor profile that evokes the palate of a chai tea, with hints of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. With a coconut milk and rum base, it also goes down nice and smooth. (CHEY SCOTT)
Ruby Red Sipper ($12)
Smoke & Mirrors Saloon, 404 W. Main
If you're not looking carefully, it's easy to miss the subtle final ingredient in each of Smoke & Mirrors Saloon's house cocktails, five in total listed under its lengthy selection of classics. Beer is bar manager Simon Moorby's trick for creating a collection of effervescent yet familiar drinks, inspired by shandys, or beer plus lemon-lime or lemonade. Each is based around a central spirit (here, vodka) and is topped off with a different style of beer; for this drink about 2 ounces of pFriem's pilsner. The result is a bubbly mouth feel on the front that doesn't overpower the refreshing, sweet-meets-bitter concoction built with vodka, a house-made strawberry syrup, campari, maraschino and rhubarb bitters.
"I enjoy effervescence and I find beer to be a wonderful modifier that changes the flavor profile without overpowering it like a ginger beer would," Moorby explains.
Smoke & Mirrors' other house specialties by Moorby pair, among other ingredients, gin and an IPA, scotch and stout, bourbon and Rainier and gold rum with a sour. (CHEY SCOTT) ♦