Our previous Nashville post expressed surprise at how many Music City bars make cocktails that sing. On hearing that a new bar there called Holland House serves particularly harmonious Tiki drinks, we hopped a freight back to Nashville to check the place out.
But first we had to catch up with our favorite Nashville bartender, Charles Fields of Rumba. Sure enough, he had new creations to try. Take his Cumberland Sidecar for a ride: 1 1/2 ounces Four Roses small-batch bourbon, shaken with 1/2 ounce each St. Germain elderflower liqueur, Pimms, and ginger beer, served on the rocks with a squeeze from an orange slice.
Halfway to Holland House, we remembered Patterson House — another Nashville bar that warranted a return visit. Our detour was rewarded with a Day Bell cocktail, by the Patterson’s Josh Habiger: 1 1/2 ounces Bulleit bourbon, 1/2 ounce Campari, and 1/4 ounce each Ramazotti amaro and Grand Marnier, topped with an ounce of champagne.
At Patterson House we heard about City House, a restaurant with a vaunted dessert drink menu. There we ordered a Herschel — Pisoni chocolate grappa, coffee, cream — and leaned back to eavesdrop on the next table, where President Clinton had just sat down. Our pal Nathan Way bought him a shot, but the secret service guys either didn’t like the look of Nathan or the brand of bourbon he chose for Bill, and put the kibosh on the gesture. The Herschel turned out to be much more amenable than the bodyguards — and, combined with the evening’s earlier drinks, a real impediment to walking in a straight line.
Why were we in Nashville again? Oh yeah, the Holland House. The place was equal parts drink haven and drink lab, with feverish inventiveness on display by proprietor Terrell Raley, who was in the kitchen with a test batch of toasted-almond orgeat, and barman Jeremiah Blake, in the back of the house perfecting what to our ears sounded like chai and coconut-infused Dolin Rouge vermouth.
Ryan Cramer and Jon Yeager were tending the front bar, shaking up Tiki-tinged Raley creations like the San Cristobal Sling (brown butter-washed Flor De Cana rum, coconut-lemon bitters, lime, ginger syrup, and sugar, with a Kraken spiced rum float). After two of these, Yeager’s own Smoking Jacket was a perfect fit; the name derives from the flamed applejack rinse that he applies to the cocktail. “What I discovered was, when you burn applejack, the whiskey bite leaves and you’re left with a nice roasted-apple finish,” says Yeager of this technique (pictured above; photo by Laurie Dallriva). Recipe: In a cocktail coupe, ignite a 1/2 ounce Lairds applejack rinse, letting the inside surface of the glass “roast” for about 20 seconds. Then pour a chilled, stirred combination of 1 1/2 ounces Scotch, 3/4 ounce sherry, 1/2 ounce dry vermouth, and 1/4 ounce sugar syrup. Garnish with orange zest.