Last week I met Mike McCarron, owner of Gamle Ode Aquavit, for a couple of drinks at Parlour in Minneapolis. We met there partly because of the bar’s acclaim and partly because that fame involves some aquavit cocktails.
Full disclosure: I’ve been helping Mike with the Gamle Ode website. We recently updated the site to include more Gamle Ode cocktails that bars created on their own, and Parlour’s two looked great.
Parlour and the restaurant it sits under, Borough, opened in January this year and have already gained some notoriety outside the Twin Cities. In August, they made Bon Apetit‘s “50 Top New Restaurants” list. In July, they were mentioned –along with one of their Gamle Ode Aquavit cocktails—in a Wall Street Journal travel article about Minneapolis.
Parlour has two Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit cocktails on the menu: the Pickle in the Middle and the Panty Dropper. Since Mike was already sipping a Pickle in the Middle when I arrived, I had the dubious pleasure of saying out loud that I’d like a drink called a “Panty Dropper.”
I sympathize with any man who’s hesitant to order a cocktail that sounds this girly but I must say, it’s delicious. It’s more or less a Collins variation: aquavit, lemon juice, a dash of orange bitters, and Hana Hou Hou Shu sparkling sake. Hana Hou Hou Shu, a sweet, pink sake, is flavored with rose petals and hibiscus; these somehow combine very smoothly with the dill notes of the aquavit. In fact, it may be the most balanced Dill Aquavit cocktail I’ve had yet. It’s one of the two cocktails on the menu that reach $14 (most range from $9 to $12), and it’s worth it.
The Pickle in the Middle ($12) is a mix of Bombay Sapphire, Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit, Lillet Blanc, lemon juice and salt solution. Unlike the Panty Dropper, this is a more dill-forward drink, despite the addition of gin.
Since I sampled both Gamle Ode cocktails on the menu, I asked for something different for my next round. The Parlour Old Fashioned ($10; Old Grand-Dad 114, Jim Beam Rye, piloncillo syrup, Bittercube Trinity bitters) piqued my interest but I wanted to try it with Gamle Ode’s Holiday Aquavit. The bartender obliged and it was superb.
Gamle Ode’s Holiday Aquavit takes the Dill aquavit’s dill, caraway, and juniper and adds orange peel, allspice, and mint. It’s also barrel-aged. Because of this, it’s easier to treat it more like bourbon in a drink like an Old Fashioned. The bartender used the piloncillo syrup (a sort of Mexican brown sugar), which added a slight caramel-like note. He said he used three kinds of bitters; I didn’t ask, but I assume he used the Trinity bitters that normally go into the Parlour Old Fashioned. It’s a mix of Bittercube’s Cherry Bark, Orange, and Bolívar bitters.
In the end, that’s a whole lot of herbs in one humble Old Fashioned. The aquavit has a handful, and then you add three kinds of bitters. But it worked well — really well.