Mobile, whose motto is “born to celebrate,” is a city of revelry. Visit us during Mardi Gras, and there is no doubt. One of the things I love most about the Gulf Coast in the summer is our seemingly unquenchable thirst. Sweet tea, mint juleps, lemonade, rum Old Fashioned, Sazeracs, Planter’s Punch, cocktail or mocktail, we will drink it all, especially when it’s still ninety degrees by the time the sun calls it quits.
For our most recent “night out”, on the rare occasions my husband and I get a sitter and get together with friends, we had the pleasure of attending a liquor tasting at a cocktail lounge in Fairhope, about 20 miles across the bay. This was a treat for me for two reasons: I had never visited Tongue & Groove Drinkery, and I got to meet the folks (and enjoy some fantastic cocktails) from John Emerald Distilling Company.
Tongue & Groove, in Downtown Fairhope, is a gem of a cocktail lounge. With plush, intimate booths, it has a strong speakeasy vibe, which is a perfect foil to the adjacent sunny, ivy-covered-brick patio. We tasted samples of each of John Emerald Distilling Company’s spirits, and Kyle, the outstanding mixologist at Tongue & Groove, made a specialty cocktail featuring John Emerald’s “Hugh Wesley’s Gin.” Alone, the gin lives up to John Emerald’s claim that it “tastes like no other gin on the market.” John Emerald Distilling Company attributes the gin’s unique flavor to the hand-picked Alabama juniper berries.
For the speciality cocktail offering, Kyle combined Hugh Wesley’s Gin with housemade charred jalapeño simple syrup, cucumber, lime, mint and club soda. It was delightfully refreshing; I wouldn’t call it spicy, but it certainly possessed a little kick, and it was the perfect way to start off the night.
After tasting all of the offerings from John Emerald Distilling Company, I asked Kyle to create something with their rum, which is named “Spurgeon’s Barrel Aged Rum.” Aging in whiskey barrels, as the name suggests, lends a unique, woodsy note to the spirit, which paired beautifully with the cocktail Kyle chose: the Rum Old Fashioned. Old Fashioneds are usually prepared with whiskey (rye or bourbon), but this barrel-aged rum was dynamite in its stead. Kyle was kind enough to share the recipe for this drink with me, and so, with you.
Rum Old Fashioned
- 2 ounces John Emerald rum
- 1 1/4 ounces Demerara Syrup simple syrup made with Turbinado sugar
- 3 dashes Regan's Orange Bitters
- 2 dashes Bitterman's Xocolatl Mole Bitters
- 1 orange slice
- 1 sliver of orange peel
- 2 brandied cherries Kyle makes his own, but Luxardo cherries would do in a pinch
n a shaker, muddle the orange and the cherry.
Add the syrup, bitters, rum and some ice and stir.
Strain with a julep strainer into an old fashioned (heavy, short) glass with an ice cube. Garnish with the orange peel and a cherry.
Bottom line: It was the perfect night out. Tongue & Groove blew us away with its atmosphere and fantastic cocktails, and if I’m ever in the Auburn/Opelika area, I know I’ll be stopping at John Emerald Distilling Co. for a tour and a taste.