NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

December 11, 2013

A cocktail that's sensational this time of year

With the exception of a good margarita, I’ve never been one for mixed drinks. Which doesn’t mean I don’t like a great cocktail.

I just tend to be very selective about the cocktails I love. And the ones I love tend to be simple and made mostly from brown liquors, such as bourbon and rye. The reason is simple. I don’t like lots of mixtures of unidentifiable alcohols. Not only are they usually overly sweet, but they are a headache — literally!

And I recently learned just how important each element is to making a terrific simple cocktail. Because when you’re working with just a few ingredients, everything — even the ice — matters.

I learned this when I visited Mike Hudman, Andy Ticer and Nick Talarico at Hog & Hominy in Memphis, Tenn. I loved Hog & Hominy before I ever walked through the front door just because of the name, which is an old moniker for the state of Tennessee, as in the “Hog & Hominy” state.

Everything they do in their fused-together American Southern and Italian restaurant, they do with care. But the real reason to visit Hog & Hominy is their artisanal cocktail bar, where handcrafted “ice balls” are put to very good use. Under the guise of ordering a drink to try one of their signature BIG ice balls, I asked them to make me whatever cocktail they thought I would like.

Talk about attention to detail: The ice balls are made from triple-distilled water and hand-carved by a local ice carver. They are perfectly clear like those sculptures you see in hotel ballrooms.

The balls are about 2 inches in diameter, and they literally fill the whole glass. They are priced a la carte for $3 each. But before you gasp in shock, I must tell you that the ball will last all night and hardly melts, thus preventing that awful dilution that cocktail lovers dread.

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