By Alison Bailin Batz
Photo by Debby Wolvos
When Liberty Station American Tavern & Smokehouse DC Ranch opened last year, the beverage program was centered on classic, vintage cocktails.
“Over time, we evolved,” says Matt Keeler, Liberty Station’s director of operations. “Today, our cocktails are modern – and often cheeky – riffs on vintage varieties for today’s guests. Given they’re riffs, we even named each one after a classic rock album with great riffs of their own.”
For example, No Smoke Without Fire ($12), which is named after the 1988 Bad Company song, is a twist on the sazerac.
“Like a classic sazerac, we start by rinsing the mixing glass with absinthe,” Keeler says. “But rather than cognac or whiskey, which are the base spirits in a sazerac, we start with Sotol Por Siempre.”
Sotol is derived from the desert spoon plant, a relative of agave, making the spirit a cousin to mezcal and tequila.
“It’s almost as smoky as mezcal with more of a peppery earthiness,” says Keeler, who combines the sotol with housemade cherry anise liqueur to bring out the black licorice flavor of the absinthe rinse while enhancing the sweetness.
He then adds simple syrup and St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram, which pulls out the pepper and spice notes of the sotol and anise.
“We stir the ingredients and then pour them into a bucket glass over an artisanal ice cube,” Keeler says.
The cocktail is finished with rum-soaked cherries that have been dipped in cinnamon, skewered and lit on fire at the bar before being brought to the table.
According to Keeler, the final, fiery step isn’t just your average garnish – it’s a show.
Liberty Station DC Ranch, 20825 N. Pima Road, Scottsdale; 480.278.7044; www.libertystationtavern.com.