With the 2011 RAMMY Awards already at a close, I had intended on trying all of the finalists for the Mixology/Beverage Program. However, I ran into a little snag with the "Hop Skip" cocktail at Estadio. Eager to get my drink on, I stopped by a little over a week ago at the Spanish-themed restaurant and met with head bartender Adam Bernbach. He informed me that the RAMMY organizers made a mistake in listing the nominations and that the Hop Skip was actually at his other bar Proof. To add to my disappointment he also said that he had run out of its key ingredient, namely salt-cured limes, which he uses for the vodka-based cocktail. Alas, the Hop Skip did not join my reviews of Is He Sharpe?, Alewife, Perennial Tea and Citros Gengibre (the winning cocktail) before the June 26 awards. Bernbach did say that the salt-cured limes are on their way and the cocktail should be available at Proof in July.
However, Bernbach made up for the misunderstanding by personally preparing for me his Old Raj & House-made Orange Thyme Tonic, which is part of Estadio's menu. Old Raj is a 110 proof gin from Scotland infused with saffron giving it a pale yellow color and a spicy structure joined by strong juniper and citrus flavors. To that Bernbach adds his own tonic which he prepares by boiling water and steeping orange, thyme and dried bay leaf for one hour. He then adds a less processed red quinine (ground bark from the Cinchona tree) giving the tonic an amber hue. (Pictured: Ground red quinine)
On the nose the The Old Raj G&T smells of juniper with the tonic's orange aroma boosting the gin's citrus tones. It has a healthy dose of the gin (exactly how I prefer my G&Ts). The gin's botanicals and spice are matched well by the equally forward flavors of the herbal-orange-flavored tonic which also adds a nice bitter bite followed by a sweet, glossy flow and tart finish. (Pictured: The Old Raj Gin & Tonic)