In the 1990s, we bemoaned the death of cocktails, those spirited mixed drinks on which floated ancient images of country club patios, smoky bars and evenings in our arm chairs sipping before-dinner drinks while checking out the afternoon newspapers. Dead, all gone, we thought, as the older crowd pursued cult wines and 20-somethings drank craft beers.
Fortunately, the cocktail has roared back. Local mixologists are having a field day rediscovering classic drinks while playing Thomas Edison with their cocktail shakers. They’re even diving into the kitchen to whip up ingredients.
At The Buttery in Lewes, Diego Lescano carves and cooks his own pumpkin, cinnamon and brown sugar mix for “my personal creation”—the pumpkin pie martini with Mulata rum, vanilla vodka and whipped cream. “We are big on cocktails,” says Jamie Mullen of Harry’s Seafood Grill in Wilmington, who enlists the pastry chef to whip up handmade marshmallows to go with the chocolate vodka in HSG’s Gimme S’mores cocktail.
Sweet and fruity are in, says Michael Majewski of Brandywine Prime in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. His Italian pear martini with pear vodka, pear puree and limoncello is, he says, “a little bit on the sweet side, and the ladies love it.” Reflecting another trend—the cocktail snack—BPrime’s summery watermelon mojito is served with a healthy chunk of fruit on the rim of its glass.
“We do tons of mojitos, but I also like to do fruit-infusion cocktails,” says Christine Barkyoumb, bar manager at Buckley’s in Centreville, raising a large bottle of Patron tequila she has filled with dried cranberries, apricots and a touch of apricot brandy.
With the nostalgia craze sparked by TV’s “Mad Men,” and the search for quicker-to-make, less-expensive concoctions, “We’re getting back into classic cocktails, pre-Prohibition style,” Dustin Gros says, shaking a Manhattan straight up at Stone Balloon Winehouse in Newark while Sinatra sings “Witchcraft” in the background.
Bryony Zeigler reports that the mojito remains popular at her beach restaurants, but at Bluecoast in Bethany, she sells a lot of classic gimlets with a slight twist: Napa Valley-based 209 gin. Similarly, Nick Georigi of Capers & Lemons in Wilmington has twisted an old favorite, the cosmopolitan, into a Cosmo Blanco by pouring white cranberry juice with OJ, triple sec and sour mix.
But every trend has an outlier. At Domaine Hudson in Wilmington, you can order a few basic cocktails, but almost all its bar sales are of fine wines and craft beers. As owner Tom Hudson puts it, “I get chest pains when we are asked to make Mimosas with grower Champagnes.”—Roger Morris
Page 2: Cocoa Beach | There’s a reason Rehoboth’s chocolate festival is the best of the bunch.
There’s a reason Rehoboth’s chocolate festival is the best of the bunch.
What makes the Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival unlike other chocolate festivals? How about its all-star lineup, which draws bakers, chefs and cooks from the state’s most foodie-dense region into stiff, chocolate-coated competition? Or the price? Just two bucks admission and 50 cents per luscious taste. Or maybe it’s the fact that 3,000 spectators turn out to see mind-blowing showpieces crafted from solid chocolate.
On March 5 the town will host its 21st annual festival, and if past years are any indication, some 3,000 visitors to the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center will witness a cocoa throwdown between the likes of local luminaries like Dogfish Head, Abbott’s Grill, Pasqualini’s Bakery, the Bake Shoppe and many more.
Pros and amateurs alike compete in categories for cookies, brownies, pies, cheesecake, candy and cake, while the truly ambitious hit the festival guns a-blazin’ with a chocolate showpiece—a sculpture or piece of art made entirely of chocolate.
“I have seen everything from a chocolate mansion to a chocolate sculpture of a fish platter,” says executive director Jenny Barger of Rehoboth Main Street.
For the very latest, head to downtownrehoboth.com. —Matt Amis