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A Note from Long Road: Recently, we launched a Guest Blog series, “Behind the Bar with Long Road”, to take you on a journey behind the bar with our talented team and to give you a glimpse into the creative process behind innovative and enticing cocktails that feature our spirits. Be sure to check out our earlier posts by Jenney Grant, Joey Robles-Zepeda, Carley from Cocktails with Carley, Connor Everhart and Rob Hanks of Nightwatch Lounge. This week’s post comes to us from another talented Long Road bartender, Hayley Bogner. You can find Hayley mixing it up behind the bar at the distillery on Leonard Street and at Less Traveled on the East side of town. 

Behind the Bar with Long Road: A Brother’s Favorite Order Inspires Hayley
by Hayley Bogner, Bartender, Long Road Distillers & Less Traveled 

Oooh, sweet summertime. Out of all the places I’ve been, nothing compares to warm, sunny days in West Michigan. Fresh Lake Michigan water, bare feet in the sand, burgers on the grill, backyard bonfires, the lake breeze blowing through your hair, friends with boats-you just can’t beat it.

The warmer weather has me reminiscing on all the summer memories I’ve made throughout my life here in the mitten. 

One of my all time favorite childhood memories would have to be trips to the local ice cream shop with my siblings. The excitement that lit up our eyes and our sun-kissed, rosy cheeks was always enough to make my mom give in and load us up into the car-even if it would be the third ice cream run of the week.

We would all carefully examine the menu posted up next to the ordering window, changing our minds a thousand times before finally making a decision.

My little brother, on the other hand, always knew exactly what he wanted well before we arrived-a chocolate banana malt. Time after time, his order never changed. Soon enough, his order, tried-and-true, became my frequent order, too. 

Fast forward to our adult years, this milkshake is still my brother’s go-to ice cream order, and a core memory of warm summer days with loved ones. When I think of summertime in Western Michigan, a banana malt is one of the very first things to cross my mind.

So obviously, with my ever growing passion for contemporary cocktail creation, I needed to reimagine and recreate this summer treat. Maintaining that nostalgic, bold, rich banana flavor profile-without the sugar and dairy overload-is just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth and leave you longing for another.

After lots of contemplation, trial and error, and a slight obsession to create the perfect representation of my brother’s favorite indulgence, my vision became reality. That’s when “Oh Brother” was born.

Oh Brother Recipe

  • 2oz Roasted Banana Bourbon
  • .75oz Banana Almond Milk
  • .5oz Malted Barley Syrup
  • 2 dashes Vanilla Cacao Nib Tincture

Build all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and double strain into a rocks glass over a single large ice cube (or a king cube as the LR fam calls it).

For the garnish, sprinkle sugar atop a frozen skewered banana slice and torch the sugar until it’s golden brown and brûléed to perfection.

Close your eyes, take a sip, and imagine a summer filled with all the chocolate banana malts you could possibly dream of.

Cheers!

A Note from Long Road: Recently, we launched a Guest Blog series, “Behind the Bar with Long Road”, to take you on a journey behind the bar with our talented team and to give you a glimpse into the creative process behind innovative and enticing cocktails that feature our spirits. Be sure to check out our earlier posts by Jenney Grant, Joey Robles-Zepeda, Carley from Cocktails with Carley, and Connor Everhart. This week’s post comes to us from Rob Hanks. No stranger to the cocktail scene in West Michigan, Rob has been a leader in the industry for many years, including an active stint with the Grand Rapids chapter of the US Bartender’s Guild. Follow along with Rob’s work on Instagram @rhanks23

Behind the Bar with Long Road: Rob Hanks Shares His Love of Bitter with the Autostrada Highball
by Rob Hanks, Proprietor, Nightwatch Lounge

Long Road Distillers opened in 2015 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has been embracing long held drinking cultures from around the world since then. My favorite is in their Amaro Pazzo.

Amaro is a category of Italian bittersweet liqueurs that range in flavor anywhere from bright and citrusy to dark, rich, and brooding, depending on the particular family recipe. Partnering with Long Road on this product is another widely celebrated Grand Rapids based beverage company, Madcap Coffee Roasters. By working together to create the list of botanicals that complement the specific roast of coffee selected, Amaro Pazzo was born with its rich and distinctive coffee-forward flavor, bolstered with rhubarb, citrus peel, and other proprietary herbs and spices.

Amaro can be difficult to use for people newer to the category, though its uses are broad. It can commonly be swapped in for sweet vermouth in cocktails such as a Manhattan or a Red Hook and brings a more bitter backbone to the cocktail while adding more depth and intensity. It can conversely be used in tropical cocktails effectively for cocktails similar to a Jungle Bird which combines pineapple, lime, dark rum, and Italian Aperitif such as Campari as a substitute for the aperitif, or even simply with Tonic water and a lemon wedge for a low ABV highball.

To enjoy this spirit for a long time try one of my favorites, the Autostrada Highball.

Autostrada Highball Recipe:

  • 1.5oz Long Road Distillers Amaro Pazzo
  • .5oz Long Road Distillers Vodka
  • .25oz Limoncello
  • High Quality Tonic water (I use Fever Tree)
  • Half pinch of salt

Combine Amaro Pazzo, limoncello, and half pinch of salt to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously for 10 seconds and strain into a Highball glass on fresh ice. Top with Tonic water and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Cheers!

A Note from Long Road: Recently, we launched a Guest Blog series, “Behind the Bar with Long Road”, to take you on a journey behind the bar with our talented team and to give you a glimpse into the creative process behind innovative and enticing cocktails that feature our spirits. Be sure to check out our earlier posts by Jenney Grant, Joey Robles-Zepeda and Carley from Cocktails with Carley. This week’s post comes to us from Long Road Bartender Connor Everhart. You can find him behind the stick several nights a week at the distillery on Leonard Street. 

Gotta Light?: A Split-Base Pleaser from Connor
by Connor Everhart, Bartender, Long Road Distillers

I remember sitting next to my new coworkers with my cocktail notebook in hand, eager and excited to share my drink ideas. This was not just my first cocktail meeting while working at Long Road, but my first cocktail meeting ever! At thirty years of age, I moved to Grand Rapids only four months prior, and I had never been a bartender before in my life, only an at-home bartender and cocktail enthusiast. I left a five-year Personal Training career behind in order to pursue my passion for cocktails and hospitality. With no experience in the food and drink industry, Long Road decided to take a chance on me and see what I was capable of.

“So, I was thinking of combining our Apple Brandy, which I really love, and our Nocino together in a cocktail because I think it would be a perfect blend of flavors for the fall menu,” I said nervously to the seven other bartenders, all of whom possessed years of experience behind the bar and have no idea who I am.

“Oh yeah, I was thinking of possibly doing something like that too! That’s a great idea!” said one of my colleagues.

My nerves vanished as I was immediately encouraged and praised for my one (and only) idea I had prepared for the meeting. At that moment, I knew I needed to prove my idea was worth executing, so it was time to go to work!

After several attempts at trying different ratios, spirits, syrups, glassware, and listening to advice from coworkers, I created my very first cocktail that would be featured on the Long Road Fall menu of 2022!

I named the cocktail “Gotta Light?”, a reference to the notorious episode of the same name from my favorite TV show “Twin Peaks” (if you have seen the show, you know the episode).

The cocktail features a split base of Bourbon and Apple Brandy as the star of the show with Nocino and Cinnamon Brown Sugar simple syrup to round out the booziness. It’s then topped with a dehydrated apple slice and a cinnamon stick. Before the drink is given to a guest, the glass is smoked with apple wood chips and then covered to bring more complexity and depth to the flavors. Not only was it my first cocktail to ever be featured on a menu, it was one of the best-selling cocktails of the season! While still new to the world of cocktails and spirits, I’m filled with excitement to learn more and improve my skills as a bartender.

Gotta Light? Recipe

  • 1.5oz Apple Brandy
  • .5oz Bourbon
  • .5oz Nocino
  • .5oz Cinnamon Brown Sugar Simple Syrup

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir and single strain into a smoked (preferably apple wood chips) snifter glass topped with a dehydrated apple slice and cinnamon stick.

Cheers!

A Note from Long Road: Recently, we launched a Guest Blog series, “Behind the Bar with Long Road”, to take you on a journey behind the bar with our talented team and to give you a glimpse into the creative process behind innovative and enticing cocktails that feature our spirits. Be sure to check out our earlier posts by Jenney Grant and Joey Robles-Zepeda. This week’s post comes to us from SE Michigan cocktail creator Carley Bologna. We’ve admired her creations from afar – and so should you – by following her on Instagram @cocktails.with.carley

All MI Love: A Sunny Day Cocktail with Carley
by Carley Bologna, Craft Cocktail Recipe Creator & Menu Consultant, Cocktails with Carley

All MI Love is a warm, sunny-day-inspired cocktail filled with herbaceous and floral notes, honey, and fresh citrus. It is meant to embody all of the best parts of Michigan summers. If you’re from here, you know what I mean. The parts of the year we all wish we could bottle up and save. The golden hour sunshine, the fresh lake air, the wild flowers in the woods. This drink tastes like that.

For spirits, I used Long Road Sovereign Gin and Aquavit, as well as Yellow Chartreuse, St. Germain, and Crème de Violette. Non spirit ingredients include: fresh lemon juice, plum bitters, a homemade cardamom honey syrup, and an orange for garnish.

ALL MI Love Cocktail Recipe:

This is a complex sour style cocktail, so we’re going to do a bit of a balancing act in the base of the drink:

  • The Base:
    • 1 oz Long Road Aquavit
    • 3/4 oz St. Germain
    • 3/4 oz Yellow Chartreuse
    • 2 dashes plum bitters
    • 1 oz cardamom infused honey simple syrup *
    • 1 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Shake all of the base ingredients with plenty of ice
  • Strain the base mixture into a Collins glass or a highball glass filled with ice
  • The Float:
    • 1 1/2 oz Long Road Sovereign Gin
    • 1/4 oz Crème de Violette
  • To complete the cocktail, pour the ‘float’ ingredients directly on top of you base cocktail
  • The reason the float works so well is because we’ve created a base cocktail that is more dense than the ingredients floating on top.  Playing with density allows us to create the gorgeous layering effect.
  • Garnish with a fresh orange slice

*Cardamom Infused Honey Syrup: 

To make the honey syrup recipe you will need honey, hot water, and green cardamom pods. Pick your favorite honey with the most flavor. I recommend a raw Michigan honey.

  • In a glass jar combine:
    • 1/4 cup raw Michigan honey
    • 8-10 green cardamom pods
    • 1/4 cup hot water
  • Stir ingredients until combined
  • Let cool until the syrup is room temperature, about 20-30 minutes
  • Remove cardamom pods and store syrup in a glass bottle for 5-7 days in the fridge

All of these ingredients play so nicely together.  The savory cardamom pairs so well with the savory components of the aquavit such as the dill, fennel, and caraway.  The honey compliments all of the floral notes in the Sovereign Gin, the St. Germain, and the Crème de Violette. The Yellow Chartreuse adds a vegetal and herbaceous note that helps to marry the savory, sweet, and floral. And of course, the acidity from the fresh citrus and the sweetness of the honey both help to brighten, elevate, and balance the entirety of the cocktail.

This cocktail pairs phenomenally with sharp white cheese and jams, charcuterie, and fresh summer fruit.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!

The Aquavit Gimlet: My Deserted Island Cocktail
by Jenney Grant, Director of Operations and Education, Long Road Distillers

When leading tours or teaching a class, folks love to ask me about my favorite spirit that we make or my favorite cocktail. My answer is usually: “This is like asking me which of my three children is my favorite; I like all our spirits, different days call for different flavors.”

Although this is not an outright lie – I do have a taste for different Long Road spirits at different times – unlike forcing me to choose between my kids, if I could only take one drink to a deserted island there is always a spirit and cocktail that jump into my mind: the Aquavit Gimlet.

When I was trying to convince Jon and Kyle that they should hire me at Long Road, I remember Jon showing me around the distillery and sharing a sample of Aquavit with me. I had worked in the craft distilling and brewing industry for 5 or 6 years and was always inspired by the growth, product development and quality this young Michigan industry was putting out. Then I tasted Aquavit, with a slight sweetness of red winter wheat, savory spice of dill, caraway, fennel and anise and the bold confidence of a 90 proof spirit. It was beautiful, different than anything I’d tasted from a Midwest distillery. And so, so well done.

It solidified my mission to work at Long Road Distillers. Not only are we a company that chooses to make 100% of our spirits from start to finish with a commitment to using Michigan-grown agriculture, but Aquavit showed me we would also take risks, not settle for doing things half-cooked, and be inspired by the world around us to make world class spirits in Michigan. 

So after leaving my director level job and taking a part-time position at Long Road, I started training and trying cocktails. Long Road has built its award-winning bar program through making every alcohol-based and non alcohol- based ingredient in our bar kitchen. It allows us to pair the distinct flavors of our spirits with one of a kind mixers and flavors.

When it was suggested that I try the Aquavit Gimlet I wasn’t super excited. My grandma used to make pitchers of gimlets; she used the Collins brand powdered gimlet mix and vodka (think Tang, or Kool-aid for alcohol).  A gimlet is usually gin or vodka, fresh lime juice and simple syrup. It’s a 2:1:1 cocktail. I like a traditional gimlet, but with vodka or gin, it’s not the most exciting cocktail on a menu. But it’s always nice, balanced and refreshing. A gimlet with Aquavit on the other hand…

Balance. Simple. Enough. That is what the Aquavit Gimlet is to me. The depth of aquavit paired with bright bitterness of fresh lime and rounded with a subtle sweetness.

My preferred way to drink a gimlet is shaken and served up, in a chilled martini glass with a lime wheel. But in the summer, I enjoy batching it out on my grandma’s deck, and serving over crushed ice, still with a lime wheel. Most people would probably consider a gimlet a summer drink, and I think that is valid, but to me the simple balance of an aquavit gimlet represents an easy choice: uncomplicated, and enough any day of the year. 

Aquavit Gimlet Recipe

  • 2 oz Long Road Original Aquavit
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup

Add all ingredients to shaker with ice. Shake vigorously. Double strain into chilled martini glass and garnish with lime wheel.

Alternatively, shake all ingredients with ice and single strain into collins glass. Top with crushed ice and garnish with lime wheel.

Cheers!

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