A Drink With... Pete Venuto from Charlie Was A Sinner
131 S 13th Street
Street: What do you like about bartending in Philadelphia?
Pete Venuto: Making great drinks is wonderful and fulfilling, and that’s such a great part of it, but the thing I like best about being a bartender is the happiness I give people. Whether it’s a cocktail I make that makes them smile or the interaction and conversation, that’s the best part.
Street: What’s your favorite drink to make?
PV: My favorite drink to make is the right drink for that person. That's something we do at Charlie Was A Sinner, we talk to our guests and try to ascertain what they're in the mood for, what kind of flavors they like, so we get the right cocktail for them.
Street: What is your advice for new drinkers to discover what they like?
PV: Don't fall into any hard and fast rules. Be open minded. Let your tongue be your guide instead of your mind. A lot of times you read a drink on the menu and think, “that sounds really weird,” or ‘'that sounds horrible,” but that’s when you should say: “I have to try it.” And then you try it, and it's delicious. Keep experimenting with tastes.
Ask him to make you…
(Ed. note: The first two drinks are so new, Street got a first taste of them before they even have names. Pete says they'll be on the menu in the next few weeks.)
To Be Named #1 ($12) (Butternut squash, apple juice, ginger, cinnamon–infused simple syrup, lemon juice, Bison Grass vodka)
Just like fall so poetically bridges the fading of one season into the next, this first drink echoes summer with a citrus twang, while a sprinkle of nutmeg hints at promises of winter. This golden beverage lives harmoniously in the autumnal transition between the seasons with the crisp warmth of butternut squash that will make you wonder how pumpkin ever beat it out as the king of fall. Meticulously made with a drop of homemade fruity syrups and a sprinkle of warm spices at a time, it's perhaps the best fall cocktail in Philadelphia.
To Be Named #2 ($12) (Celery juice, lime juice, celery seed, thyme–infused simple syrup, vodka)
Put down the SkinnyGirl and give this cocktail a taste. This cocktail has a mix of celery and lime juices that provide a cool, refreshing taste that will certainly quench your thirst. And the addition of celery seed and thyme–infused simple syrup helps mask the flavor of an otherwise strong vodka. Plus, if we say celery one more time, it legally becomes a healthy drink.
The Great Dictator ($12) (Lemon, pear–ginger shrub, averna, mezcal, reposado tequila)
Made with one of the bar’s hand–carved rocks, this drink includes lemon, pear–ginger shrub, a little bit of averna, mezcal and reposado tequila. The mezcal and tequila command the auxiliary flavors, packing a strong punch to an otherwise sweet and tangy mix. It’s no wonder that Pete named this drink the Great Dictator!
A Drink With... Simmone Bray from Revolution House
200 Market Street
Street: Is there a particular drink you like to make?
Simmone Bray: About a season ago we did a little in–house competition with all the bartenders to come up with a specialty drink, and we had a tally to see which drink sold the most. My drink had cinnamon whiskey, ginger beer, different juices. I really like it for this season.
Street: What’s special about Revolution House?
SB: We do great cocktails, but we also have a great craft beer selection. We have eight different kinds on tap, and they change all the time. My favorite of the moment is the Victor Pilsner.
Street: What’s your favorite place to drink in Philly that isn’t Revolution House?
SB: I like craft beer, so I like places that have changing lists. Khyber Pass Pub would be my favorite. Plus the kitchen’s open until 1am, so you can stumble in there and have a beer and a burger.
Ask her to make you…
FREEEEDDOOMM! ($8) (Grey Goose Vodka, St. Germain, red grapefruit juice, lemon, orange)
The name of the freedom game is fruity and citrus. Crafted to be light and bright, the flavors of lemon and orange are supporting acts to the bold, dominating grapefruit zest. Complemented nicely by the presence of St. Germain and Grey Goose, this Revolution House standard cocktail is gently tart and sweet and doesn’t overdo it.
Tennessee Mule ($12) (Jack Daniels, ginger beer, lime juice)
Channel your inner southern belle or gentleman with the Tennessee Mule. Named for the origin state of the whiskey and the silver Moscow mule glass it’s served in, the Jack Daniels and refreshing touch of lime spark fantasies of warmer autumn days below the Mason Dixon Line. The sweet ginger beer cuts the harshness of the whiskey, making this the perfect cocktail for Whiskey–101 drinkers.
A Drink With... Kyle Darrow from Red Owl Tavern
433 Chestnut Street
Street: When creating a cocktail, how do you choose your combination of ingredients?
KD: A lot of it is intuition, just experimenting with foods you think will pair well together. Recently, I took a trip to Colombia, and I tried a lot of fruits that I’ve never had before and can’t get here. So I had to try recreating the flavors I sampled over there. I had one fruit called mora, and it tasted kind of like a cherry, strawberry, peach combination. I knew I had all three of those fruits in Philly, so I could make something that sort of captured that flavor.
Street: What’s one bizarre ingredient you’ve had to work with for a drink?
KD: During the summer, we had a drink called the Bossa Nova, and one of the ingredients was passion fruit. I’d never had fresh passion fruit before, and it’s really weird. I imagine it’s what alien scum looks like. It’s goopy and sticky, and it’s got a lot of little seeds. I never used it in a drink before, so I had to do a little improvisation. We had some purée downstairs, so I mixed the fruit in with that along with some serrano peppers and Leblon Cachaca rum. It turned out awesome and was one of my favorite drinks on the menu.
Street: Can you tell us about any of the upcoming fall cocktails at Red Owl Tavern?
KD: There’s one that’s going to have red pepper jam in it, which I’m really excited about. I don’t have an official name for it yet. Right now, it’s called the Red Pepper Jawn. All my drinks start off with the word “jawn” in them. It’s going to be barrel–aged Bluecoat gin, red pepper jam and lemon juice, and then we’ll go from there after I test it.
Ask him to make you…
Fireside Chat (High West Double Rye, house smoked apple cider, maple syrup, house made cinnamon, black pepper tincture)
This cocktail has the perfect harmony of sweet and spicy flavors. The apple cider and maple syrup will immediately hit you on your first sip, but they blend well with the whiskey’s anise and honey. The black pepper and cinnamon give the aftertaste a nice kick, adding a crispness to an otherwise smooth drink. FDR would have certainly approved of this Fireside Chat!
Old Fashioned (Buffalo Trace, demerara syrup, angostura bitters)
This version of an Old Fashioned is designed for those who prefer sweeter drinks. The bourbon is strong, but hints of vanilla and toffee give it a smoother taste. This is further enhanced by the almost caramel–like flavor of the syrup. So, if you want to expand your drink palette, but you’re hesitant to dive into the powerful flavors of whiskey or bourbon, this candied spin on the classic Old Fashioned will start you off nice and easy.