What’s Behind House Specialty Drinks With All the Bells and Whistles

Our cocktail connoisseur delves into some rarified concoctions.

Someone orders a Bayside Coffee at the Bayside Tavern in Fish Creek, and out comes the box.

It’s a shallow wooden box, but its freight is heavy: bottles of Gosling’s Black Seal 151 rum, Grand Marnier, Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream, and salt shakers containing cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar.

With that, and the exchange of $14, the show begins: The bartender pours some rum into a tempered, tulip-shaped glass and lights it on fire. OK, this is already impressive. He then sprinkles some sugar on the inside of the glass and allows it to caramelize. Next in are healthy doses of the Grand Marnier, Kahlua and Bailey’s. Throughout, the bartender twirls the vessel this way and that so the heat from the flame is evenly distributed and doesn’t shatter the glass. A few shakes from the cinnamon and nutmeg containers draw sparks. A cascade of hot coffee finally douses the flame. The drink is topped with a crown of whipped cream and another sprinkle of nutmeg.

“There’s probably, when all is said and done, about five to six ounces of liquor in there,” says Bobby McDonald, manager of the Bayside, a fixture in Fish Creek for decades. His brother came up with the drink some 30 years ago, and his sister hatched the idea for the box. Why the big show? “Winters are long up there.” (Translation: plenty of spare time to experiment.)

Many Wisconsin bars boast a special bloody mary or old fashioned. But few risk their reputation by putting their name on an original cocktail. Mader’s is one that has taken that risk. The menu in its Knights Bar has a Mader’s Mimosa (peach schnapps added to Champagne and orange juice) and Mader’s Strawberry Wine (German wine infused with strawberries).

The Jackson Grill, a supper club on West Mitchell Street, boasts the Jackson Grill Snifter – the only cocktail on their dinner menu. Like the Bayside Coffee, it goes proudly overboard with ingredients: Frangelico, Irish Mist, Grand Marnier, Tia Maria and brandy.

Owner Heidi Schmidt says she introduced the drink when she and husband Jimmy Jackson opened the place in 2002. There’s no show with the Snifter. It’s mixed before each shift and then poured from decanter to snifter. Nor are the measurements set in stone.

“You know how your grandmother always knew how much of this and how much of that by just looking at it?” says Schmidt. “That’s what we do.” ◆

‘House Specialties’ appears in the February 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning January 29, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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