Craft cocktail boom spreads to Foothills and Tahoe-Truckee

THE NEW-YORK BASED TELEVISION SHOW Sex and the City helped put craft cocktails on the map in the ’90s when Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Carrie Bradshaw, regularly ordered “Cosmos” with her girlfriends.

“The idea that it’s not a date without cocktails was created by Sex and the City,” as Dale DeGroff, America’s foremost mixologist and a 2015 James Beard Foundation honoree, told Eater.

Now “mixologists” throughout America are coming up with creative concoctions with imaginative names: “Kissyomama,” (Cazadores Reposado tequila, Domaine de Canton, mango puree, Thai basil leaves, lime juice and simple syrup); “Double Date” (date infused rye, George Dickel whiskey, Carpano Antica, amaro and bitters); and “Betty Draper” (an all-French lineup of spirits—Citadelle Gin, Drouin calvados—with dry Manzanilla sherry, apple syrup, fresh lime, apple and celery, and celery bitters). Betty Draper is a character from the “Mad Men” television series who enjoyed the cocktail scene.

Cocktails with a heritage are experiencing a resurgence too: the Martini, Manhattan, Sidecar, Margarita, Pisco Sour, Cosmopolitan, Tom Collins and others. The drinks are a draw to millennials as “everything old is new again.”

“Farm to Bar”

The craft cocktail movement has given rise to “farm to bar” cocktail programs, where mixologists create cocktail syrups from locally grown fruits, vegetables and bundles of herbs. Sacramento’s craft cocktail scene, with Midtown bars such as the Shady Lady, Hook & Ladder and Red Rabbit, have won notice from the San Francisco Chronicle and Sunset magazine.

“With proximity to the fertile soils of the Sacramento Valley, cocktails emphasize quality produce and pristine fruit,” noted the Chronicle. In addition, Sacramento is drawing more bartenders from San Francisco, thanks to a lower cost of living.

Now the craft cocktail boom has spread to the foothills. Last fall, the Golden Era opened on Broad Street—a stunning cocktail lounge with handcrafted cocktails. Friar Tuck’s restaurant and bar in Nevada City, Kane’s in Grass Valley, Monkey Cat in Auburn, and Moody’s Bistro, Bar & Beats in Truckee also feature handcrafted craft cocktails.

Along with the boom in innovative cocktail syrups, the number of small-batch U.S. distilleries now stands at more than 770, up from roughly 50 a decade ago. By 2018, an estimated 1,000 licensed craft distilleries will be in operation nationwide.

Auburn has its own craft distillery, called California Distilled Spirits. It was started by Ed Arnold, whose wife, Carol, is executive director of PlacerGROWN. Arnold’s Dargeeling gin won “best of show” for gin at the 2014-15 World Spirits Competition. “It is really a ‘gin fancier’s’ gin,” says Darrell Corti, owner of Corti Brothers in Sacramento, which carries the gin. Arnold also plans to release a whiskey called “Bold from Above.”

The growth of super premium brands of whiskey, bourbon, tequila and gin is the fastest-growing segment of the $23.1 billion-a-year liquor market. California lawmakers also are helping to fuel the growth of the craft cocktail business. Last fall, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that granted craft liquor distilleries similar rights to craft beer makers and winemakers.

Now a small craft distillery is allowed to sell spirits and make cocktails in their own tasting rooms. Some distillers are calling it the most significant legislation since the repeal of Prohibition in 1934.

Martini’s Gold Rush Origins
The martini’s origins can be traced back to a miner who struck gold in California during the Gold Rush, at least according to one popular theory. During the days of the Gold Rush, a miner struck it rich and walked into a bar—in Martinez—for a special drink to celebrate.

The bartender put together what he had on hand—one part of dry Sauternes wine and three parts of gin, stirred with ice and an olive—and called it a “Martinez Special.” “Over a period of time the name Martinez became martini,” according to The Martini Story.

(Photo: Kial James)

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