After searching through Yelp for the craftiest cocktail place in downtown Boise, I decided to give the Press & Pony a try. Aided by my daughter and hubby as the designated driver, we passed through the velvet curtained entryway into a small speakeasy environment with a copper-topped bar and tin-tiled ceiling. Score-atmosphere galore where the bartenders were knowledgeable and downright hardcore in their stance to serve only the most unique craft cocktails to their customers.
Of course, after reviewing the menu of cocktails (no food here-serious drinking only), I interviewed the bartenders on their most popular drinks and ingredients. Boy did I get an earful of passionate discourse on the ingredients needed to create cocktail masterpieces. Settling on the classic Old Fashioned to try first, it did not disappoint. Eric the Bartender proclaimed their Old Fashioned to be the best in Boise and with the essence of lemon and orange mixed with simple syrup, bourbon and 8 dashes of two types of bitters served in a classic old fashioned tumbler with a big ass ice cube, the better not to melt and dilute the drink I was told, I contently sat back to sip and enjoy this masterpiece of alcohol. As I brought my nose to the glass, the lemon and orange oils diffused the smell of booze and lightened the bourbon taste. Delightful!
Next up on the cocktail tasting menu for me was the Corpse Reviver No. 2 that combined gin, lillet blanc, Cointreau, lemon juice and an absinthe rinse for good measure. The name alone compelled me to give it a try plus I had never tried absinthe so the Corpse Reviver was perfect! Shaken not stirred, it arrived in a short goblet with tiny floats of ice on top. Delicious with a kick! Eric pointed out that absinthe is 53 proof and not to be trifled with. As Hannah put it so aptly when she tasted her Dark + Stormy (dark rum+ginger beer+lime juice) cocktail, “Oh Jesus!”
In asking Eric about the focused assortment of their liquors behind the bar, he expressed disdain for the standard popular brands like Maker’s Mark and Jack Daniels-not even available at their establishment, thank you very much. As he put it, if customers come in and ask for vodka or “regular” drinks like Jack & coke, he directs them to the “douche kiddie bars” down the street where it’s all about cheap booze vs. refined cocktails. Tell us how you really feel, Eric. I like a bartender with principles.
Next up on the cocktail research tour, we met up with our friend Ryan H. and walked quickly on this single digit frigid night to the Red Feather Lounge, a more mainstream alcohol emporium but with a late night happy hour (yes, we were out that late believe it or not) so we could enjoy hot beignets with warm butterscotch dipping sauce with our cocktails. Paired with a “Fever of the Mad” (Extra Dry Gin, Herbsaint Pastis, Fresh Lemon, Fee Bros. Peach Bitters, and Egg Whites) the beignets soaked up all the alcohol just fine. I had wanted to try a drink featuring egg whites as this is a hot trend now. The Fever was light, frothy and a perfect way to end a night of intensive cocktail research. Taking the Red Feather motto to heart, “A bar without bitters is like a kitchen without spice.”, it’s back to Seattle today to continue the research at Canon, one of the top cocktails bars in the nation. Watch out!