Buy You a Drink: Cocktails for the Utah Beverage Control Board
Welcome to Buy You a Drink, wherein GOOD’s resident mixologist offers a tasty libation to a newsmaker in need of one. This week: Drinks to liquor up aspiring members of Utah’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
The state of Utah holds a special place in American drinking history. On December 5, 1933 at 5:32 p.m., Utah cast the deciding 36th vote in favor of the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition and allowing respectable Americans to once again get wet in public.
Bargoing has been rather bleak in the Beehive State since then. For most of my lifetime, Utah has been one of the few places where folks regularly consume 3.2 percent beer—a drink so weak it was once deemed both “nonintoxicating” and suitable for consumption by teenage girls. Every cocktail poured in the state must max out at 2.5 ounces of liquor. And bartenders in restaurants still mix drinks behind a “Zion curtain” to shield the eyes of impressionable patrons from the lascivious undulation of shakers and the suggestive popping of tops.
These picayune regulations are the byproduct of a state Beverage Control Commission historically populated by teetotaling members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Picture a United Nations composed entirely of John Boltons, or that viral image of the Penis Panel testifying about women’s access to birth control, and you start to get an idea of how Utah has manages its liquor sales.
But know hope, ye repressed Deseret drinkers! This week brings news that may begin to turn the tide in your favor. If Utah’s House Bill 193 passes, two of the five Utah Beverage Control commissioners will need to prove they have been “consumers of an alcoholic product” for “at least one year before being appointed and during their term.” That’s right—actual imbibers of alcohol may get a voice in the conversation over how Utahans consume alcohol. And according to the bill’s sponsor, Salt Lake City Rep. Brian Doughty, one honor code-violating drink in college won’t be enough to qualify prospective regulators.
I love this law to pieces. It’s like McCain-Feingold or Dodd-Frank for high-altitude tipplers. So this week, I’m buying a round for Rep. Doughty, and another for any aspiring Utah Booze Czar who needs to keep up his or her bona fides in case the bill becomes law. The New York Times reports that “Applicants for the two drinking slots […] would even have to sign an affidavit” that they’ve complied with the drinking requirement before serving. Signed affidavits call for serious drinks.
The Call: Cocktails Worth Swearing an Oath to
There will always be a soft spot in my heart, and a calcifying section in my liver, for booze made, blended, mixed, or served in Utah. One of my very fondest memories involves a bottle of Rittenhouse 100 Rye downed in a Park City hot tub. And it would be hard not to love the merry pranksters who created Polygamy Porter (slogan: “Bring some home for the wives!”) or the mighty chemistry nerds at High West Distillery, who barrel-aged a slew of Manhattans, bottled them, and named the product The 36th Vote.
I channeled that love as I devised drinks to help lubricate HB 193’s journey through the state legislature. I settled on one cocktail based on spirits distilled or blended in Utah, and one based on a recipe taught to me by a charming Mitt Romney supporter.
First, something sweet enough to sip during sweltering summers in Sandy:
Park City East, adapted from a recipe by Marilee Guinan:
1 ½ oz. cachaça (I like Sagatiba Pura)
¾ oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
Hard cider, to taste (look for a sweet, fizzy one—no need to go upscale)
Combine cachaça and St. Germain in an ice-filled shaker. Shake vigorously. Strain into an old-fashioned or other short glass. Top with cider. Garnish with a lychee fruit.
I wasn’t kidding about the Romney thing. Guinan was the head bartender for High West when I visited the distillery two years ago. We had a lovely conversation, in which she suggested the above combination. (The subject of Romney did not come up.) I like it because the fruitiness of the cider and the floral sweetness of the elderflower liqueur frolic gaily in your mouth, while the rich, grassy base spirit titters disapprovingly of their antics from a distance, but with a sympathetic glint in her eye that says she’s totally getting a kick out of it. Plus, it totally tastes like lychee when you put it all together—hence the garnish.
For my own carpetbagging foray into the mixology of state politics, I assembled a layered reminder to the state legislature that distillers pay taxes and employ Utah citizens, too:
The Velvet Underground
2 oz. High West Double Rye! or Rendezvous Rye (very different, both tasty)
1 3/4 oz. dry vermouth (Noilly Prat is nice)
Generous splash sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica, if humanly possible)
¼ oz. Ogden Underground bitter liqueur
Stir with cracked ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a flamed orange peel.
The VU combines the versatility of High West’s two flagship ryes with the sheer left-field ballsiness of Ogden Underground, a Jägermeister-like bitter crafted from the essence of 33 different foodstuffs and best suited for freezer storage and campfire drinking. I can only hope my Velvet Underground is half as challenging and rewarding as its musical namesake—and pray that it also works with one of High West’s silver whiskies, so I can call that variant White Light, White Heat.
Godspeed to you, Representative Doughty, whatever you’re drinking. Keep fighting the good fight, and remember the words of the great Mohandas Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they drive you to drink, then you win.” Or something like that.