Trying out cocktails at The Bookcase & Barber in the spirit of 1920

by Nick Gonzales

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had us thinking a lot about the Spanish Flu epidemic, which ended in 1920. The virus killed between 17 million and 100 million people and may have even tipped the balance of power toward the end of World War I. Heavy stuff. To brighten our thoughts, we thought it only appropriate to entertain ourselves the way we would have 100 years ago — with a trip to the local speakeasy.

The Bookcase & Barber is definitely just a barbershop with a wall of bookcases featuring classic literature (*wink*). Reciting an easy-to-find password almost certainly won’t gain you secret entrance to a dimly-lit bar full of delicious cocktails (*winks harder*). And the bartending staff at this nonexistent establishment would never take pride in meticulously pairing tastes to invent new drinks (*strains eye from winking too hard*).

We arrived during happy hour and decided to start things off simple, with a $6 pairing of Hamms and Mellow Corn Whiskey. Hamm’s Premium is a perfectly serviceable pale lager from Milwaukee. In this combination, sipping it after sipping the whiskey produces a lingering effect, where the flavors of both — but mostly the whiskey — spread out and linger on the palate. This makes it a bit easier to pick up the flavors of the corn whiskey, itself from Heaven Hill in Kentucky, which are corn (obviously), vanilla, banana chips, nuts, and a bit of oakiness. It’s good.

We then moved on to one of our favorite drinks at the Bookcase: “The Inigo Montoya.” Much like the character in “The Princess Bride,” it wields its sword (in this case, cinnamon-infused Elvelo tequila), but turns out to be a bit of a softy on the palate, unless you’re the six-fingered man who killed his father, in which case you should prepare to die. Its other ingredients are curacao, Amaro Averna, Cocchi Americano, house orange bitters, and orange peel. Together, these components create a pleasant experience that leads with the cinnamon flavor, travels through a bittersweet phase, and lingers with a bit of citric bitterness. It’s quite pleasant.

Easily the best drink we had that night, though, was “The Butterfly Effect.” The featured cocktail of the week, its ingredients included butterfly pea blossom-infused Spring 44 gin, Fidencio mezcal, Dolin Genepy, Agwa de Bolivia, and house grapefruit bitters. We’re not sure to what extent we could taste the butterfly pea blossom infusion, as we don’t have a ton of experience with said blossoms. We know they’re super popular in teas in southeast Asia, and that they have the ability to give a beverage a strong color that changes with the drink’s pH as other ingredients are added. We’re pretty sure it was responsible for our cocktail’s beautiful purple hue.

As for taste, the cocktail was a slightly sweet very herbal concoction. The gin (which hails from Loveland) and the two liqueurs are all known for their herbal and floral flavorings, and even the mezcal brings with it hints of wood smoke and pine. Sipping The Butterfly Effect was like drinking a bouquet of flowers, in the best possible way. If we could set something like a Google Alert for when the cocktail is featured at the Bookcase, we would.

Nick Gonzales

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