It doesn't take much to lure us to the cozy confines of the C&O bar these days. If you've perused the P+K body of work, maybe you're aware (and slightly suspicious?) of the many cameos made by this bastion.
What can we say? We know what's good for us, and more often than not, it's down those creaky stairs.
Recently, stylish barman Dustin Fleetwood conceptualized and executed a lovely newcomer cocktail that we hope finds a permanent home on the C&O menu -- Wise Blood.
1 + 1/2 oz Bulleit Rye
1 oz IPA syrup
1/2 oz Campari
1/4 oz lemon juice
2 dashes Bittermens hopped grapefruit bitters
Shake and strain. Garnish with grapefruit peel.
It's blasphemy to admit this in a town where so many craft operations thrive, but some of us are not much for beer and generally despise IPA. When we first encounter this drink on the menu, everything except the IPA syrup grips us, so we inquire. Dustin immediately cops to a disdain for IPA and tempers our concerns by breaking down the composition, which his own leery palate guided through several trials.
The syrup ratio is: 4 : 3 (21st Amendment Toaster Pastry IPA : sugar). At medium heat he brings the beer to a simmer, adds the sugar and cooks it down for about 20 min.
Will imbibes and tells: When it lands before me in a dainty, vintage Nick and Nora glass, I blush a little, for I don't feel quite worthy of soiling such a classy gal with these grimy mitts. Suddenly I'm transported to Paris in the 1920s where I'm a vagrant whose dumb luck lands him the charming and provocative Josephine Baker as a dance partner. At first I'm nothing but left feet, then she guides my cadence with each sip until I'm jigging The Charleston, second nature, momentarily forgetting any plight or sorrow. The whole song and dance inspires escape then gently drops me off at the corner where I shuffle back to the margins and replay it all on a loop.
Metaphors and time travel aside, on the literal palate, this potion, with its woodsy, smoky-sweet rye base is tamed perfectly by a bitter, citrus shine that finishes with an effervescence of tiny bubbles in your head. The delicate vessel, which feels like a tulip in your hands, is ideal because it encourages sipping and savoring.
When we ask about the name, we get an appropriately layered response. Dustin was really into this Weyes Blood album, Front Row Seat to Earth, at the time. He found the recipe for beer syrup on a beer forum that he checks for research when ordering for the bar. C&O has a beer cocktail on the menu called Fat Dazzler (IPA, Campari, grapefruit) so the Wise Blood cocktail is essentially an evolution of that. Added cultural inspiration is the Flannery O’Connor novel by the same title. And, of course, the color!
C&O has a habit of pushing quality and complexity that will never get old. The latest iteration of that, and our automatic drink order, is Wise Blood.