Friends invited my wife and me to join them for dinner at Halyards recently. (Don’t you love friends like that?). I’ve never had anything but a stellar meal at Halyards, so I was looking forward to the evening. I was also looking forward to grabbing a seat at the excellent bar and chatting a bit with long-time bartender Maxie before our meal. I assume Maxie gets time off on occasion, but it seems he’s always behind the bar whenever I’m there.
The place was bustling, as usual, but one of Maxie’s admirable traits is he’s never too busy to chat – often making you feel as if you are his lone customer despite the surrounding throng. We had six in our group, so we took up quite a bit of bar space. Naturally, Maxie took the ladies’ orders first and then proceeded to the guys. As it turns out I was last. All five heads in our group turned to hear my order – as the only columnist in our group, and with well-known expertise in the finer points of cocktails, my selection was a thing of interest. At least that was my thinking.
I inquired if there was a bottle of Monkey 47 Gin available. I had experienced this exquisite German gin a month prior and was eager to enjoy another excellent martini. Maxie looked stricken and he replied that, regrettably, Halyards did not stock Monkey 47. However, he was quick to add, he DID have an interesting gin I might like from Ireland called Drumshanbo Gunpowder. Naturally, I was intrigued. He produced the fluted blue bottle, with a bit of flourish I thought, and began to regale me with the why behind the unusual name.
He offered me a small sip to consider as he assured me that actual gunpowder was not involved, but rather the gin was infused with a type of tea (yes – tea!) the leaves of which dry into tight grey cylinders reminiscent of gunpowder. And that is how I came to be savoring an excellent martini at the Halyards bar, crafted exactly as I like – since Maxie asked all the relevant questions. Shaken or stirred? Dry? Twist or olive? Good bartenders make these inquiries; great ones know the backstory of their libations so they can amuse and educate as they craft your drink.
With all of us settled and drinks in hand we turned our attention to appetizers. I opted for a shrimp taco that was absolutely divine. Halyards uses local Georgia shrimp and the chili butter and pico de gallo made this tasty tidbit a perfect accompaniment to an icy martini. I encourage you to try a bit of Irish gin, and if you’d rather use your Drumshanbo in a mixed cocktail here’s a good one with an intriguing name.
THE CURIOUS JACKALOPE
1-3/4 oz. Drumshanbo Gunpowder gin
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
1/3 oz. simple syrup
2 or 3 mint leaves
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice; shake vigorously. Strain into a glass with fresh ice and garnish with mint and a wedge of grapefruit.
As much as I enjoy a good bar scene there’s something to be said for relaxing on your own sunporch, with an ice-cold chiller like this one, Kindle in hand, and a couple of lazy dogs at your feet.
But back to Halyards. And dinner. An excellent dinner. I was pretty well-sated after my taco, so I carefully considered the good selection of small plates, and decided on the crab and dumplings. It was a decision I will always cherish, as I enjoyed one of the most exquisite dishes I have ever tasted. First, there are lumps of crab surrounded by ricotta gnocchi. Then there’s a creamy sauce with Parmigiano Reggiano, oyster mushrooms and truffle oil that perfectly coats each morsel. With a crisp Caesar salad and some warm bread it was a meal to remember. Oh, and of course I required a glass of wine to accompany my crab and our server suggest Chalk Hill Chardonnay – which was perfect.
The next day I made a point of purchasing a bottle of Drumshanbo Irish Gin so I could experiment. It makes a quite different gin and tonic, especially if you splurge on one of those pricey tonics in the tiny bottle (you know the ones). If you can find elderflower tonic you can create this G&T version featured on the brand’s website.
THE DAVEY MAC
1-1/2 oz. Drumshanbo Irish gin
5 oz. elderflower tonic
Simply add gin to a tall glass with ice and top with tonic. It’s the garnish that is interesting – a wedge of ruby red grapefruit and a skewer of three raspberries. Grapefruit and gin are a well-known pairing but when you taste the raspberries with this tea-infused gin … it’s a flavor sensation.
Next time I’m at the Halyards bar I’ll look around to see if Maxie has raspberries on hand. Then I can regale him with my new recipe suggestions.