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Cheers! A lovers' quarrel can be a good thing

Jun 16, 2017

Reserve Wine & Food in downtown Grand Rapids.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week, Cheers! is out of the studio and on the road. We visited Reserve Wine & Food to learn about a new addition to its cocktail menu.

Rob Hanks named it the “Lovers’ Quarrel” because he and fellow bartender Megan Knapp had a spat about whether to add a vodka cocktail. Some bartenders are not fond of vodka because it brings no flavor to the drink, just alcohol.

“(I) fought her tooth and nail,” Hanks said, adding, “Then I got bored one night, started using some stuff left over in the kitchen and here we are.”

Hanks doesn’t like to call it a “vodka cocktail,” because that’s not the central character in the Lovers’ Quarrel. Fresh produce and a vermouth that’s not often used are the featured elements of this drink.

“It’s a Dolin Blanc Vermouth infused with strawberry and rhubarb pulp that’s left over from the juicing process in the kitchen,” Hanks said.

Rhubarb, strawberries, all the products that Reserve can get from Michigan farms it uses.

Reserve's Rob Hanks got bored and started experimenting with kitchen leftovers to make the cocktail.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

“All of the produce used here comes from within fifty miles of the restaurant,” Hanks noted.

“I’m really excited about these Michigan strawberries,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings and the Cheers! team said. “They are beautiful right now. This is the season. Beautiful and red and luscious. I’m really looking forward to this cocktail,” Coxen added.

If you don’t have a juicer at home, you can muddle the rhubarb and strawberry with the Dolin Blanc Vermouth. Leave it about 30 minutes to infuse the flavors into the alcohol.

Lovers’ Quarrel

The Lovers' Quarrel.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

1-1/2 oz Dolin Blanc Vermouth

¾ oz Ketel One vodka (or a Michigan vodka)

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz 2:1 simple syrup (if using 1:1 simple syrup, use 1 oz)

3 dashes Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters

Strain strawberry and rhubarb infused vermouth into mixing cup with ice (see paragraph above recipe for instructions to make infusion). Add vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup, and bitters. Shake mixture until well chilled. Strain into a coupe or martini glass.

Relative to most cocktails, the Lovers’ Quarrel is a fairly low alcohol content cocktail.

“One of the things I think is really neat about this cocktail is that it not only embodies farm to glass, but farm to table to glass,” Coxen observed. “I love that you’re using something left over from the kitchen, adding to a cocktail and sort of completing that whole circuit,” she said.

“We try to do our best here to have the lowest impact on nature surrounding us. We try to use absolutely everything possible,” Hanks said.

For example, before Reserve juices lemons, it will peel them and make oleo (see how here), after juicing there’s the juice for cocktails and then the pith might be dehydrated, ground to powder and used to make house-made bitters.

Interior of Reserve Wine & Food.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Little is thrown away.

Now, about that blanc vermouth. Most of us have heard about dry vermouth and sweet vermouth. Vermouth gets a bad reputation because it is so often abused. Vermouth is a wine. Its shelf life is short. It needs to be refrigerated and used quickly. Too many bars leave it sitting on the shelf like a whiskey or liquor. It does not fare well. So, when it’s then used in mixed drinks, cocktails, or martinis, it can taste bad. Blanc vermouth uses the same amount of sugar as sweet vermouth, but instead of caramel, it uses cane sugar. It’s a much different taste.

“This one, specifically, has, to me, a pretty bubblegummy kind of a flavor off of it, which is really kind of pretty, especially for the summer,” Hanks said.

After tasting the Lovers’ Quarrel, Coxen said, “I really love vermouth in cocktails. I think people have a lot of bad associations with vermouth because of the way it’s been stored.” She added, “Fresh vermouth is really such a delicious thing and I love seeing it as a base for a cocktail.”

Look for the Lovers’ Quarrel on the cocktail menu at Reserve Wine & Food soon.