The idea that cocktails could “cure what ails you” was once taken far more seriously. Local pharmacists in the mid-1800’s often healed with the aide of spirits like Chartreuse or Peychaud’s Bitters, taking advantage of their herbal remedies. At Justus Drugstore in Smithville, MO, this pharmacy and soda fountain turned farm-to-table restaurant packs its bar with housemade cordials, tinctures and bitters both as a nod to this era and as distinctive modifiers to their drinks.
Barman Zac Snyder first originated the Expert Advice cocktail by exploring the balance between sage and smoke. Though it’s easy to overlook today, sage has long been believed to ease tension, cleanse and promote alertness, in addition to a myriad of medicinal properties. Thankfully, it also plays well off of the handcrafted, terroir-driven Tequila Ocho, one of the best blancos I’ve tasted. The defining element in this drink though is the Italian Cappelletti, a citrusy bitter that gets its crimson color from carminic acid, used as far back as the Aztecs in dyes and medicine.
Essentially a margarita-spritz, this drink retains the brightness this classic is known for and adds a unique complexity through these herbal notes without burying the tequila base. As the cocktail evolves, the bitterness of the Cappelletti — which naturally rests at the bottom of the glass — becomes increasingly prominent, providing a welcome palate cleanse to the intricate flavors coming out of Justus’ kitchen. It’s a simple, yet memorable creation I certainly hope to experience again.
- 1 1/2 ounces tequila Ocho Blanco
- 3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
- 1/2 ounce sage syrup
- 1/2 ounce Cappelletti
- smoked salt
- Dehydrate a large bundle of sage leaves and add to a 2:1 simple syrup in a metal pot.
- Bring sage and simple to a boil, then strain to store for later use.
For the smoked salt:
- Put Kosher salt in an open-faced hotel pan and set in a smoker or grill with wood.
- Smoke the salt for one hour and let cool before storing for future use.
- Salt the rim of a Collins glass by using the juice from a lime wedge to adhere.
- Combine tequila, lime and sage syrup into a shaker tin and shake with ice for 10 seconds.
- Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice and gently pour Cappelletti over. Top with soda water to finish. No garnish.
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