In honor of Black History Month, we visited with Amas Muhammad at Selden Standard in Detroit. He has a drink recipe for us below, but we wanted to know more about the role of people of color in developing the craft cocktail industry.
Muhammad says for a craft that’s obsessed with the history of drinks and the bartenders who invented them, his colleagues miss a huge swath of contributors.
“People of color have been instrumental since the beginning of spirits in America,” Muhammad said.
Amas Muhammad says there’s a great example from the early 1800s. Cato Alexander was a freed slave who opened an inn about five miles from the New York city hall. It was a popular place for decades.
“There was a newspaper that said, ‘If you don’t know Cato Alexander’s, you don’t know the world,’” Muhammad said.
He’s sometimes credited with being the father of mixology, although there are other contenders for that honor. (You can find more information on African American bartenders here.)
Amas Muhammad will be joining Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings for a cocktail class which will outline the cocktail contributions of several African Americans. (You can find more information about that class here.)
The drink recipe Muhammad shared with us comes from the Selden Standard menu.
For a Fistful of Dollars
¼ oz simple syrup
¾ oz Dry Curacao
½ oz Laphroaig 10 year (or Two James Spirits’ J. Riddle Peated Bourbon)
1-1/2 oz of Bank Note Blended Scotch Whisky
Dry bay leaf
Pour the wet ingredients in a mixing glass full of ice. Stir 30 to 50 revolutions. Pour into a rocks glass containing a large ice cube. Flame an orange peel over the drink (instructions here). Using a blow torch (or a long-handled lighter like you’d use to light the grill) to toast the bay leaf. Place it in the drink. Enjoy!