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Arts & Life

Cheers! No suffering with the Suffering Bastard

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Tammy Coxen watches as Nate Blury mixes the featured drink.

You might know New Holland Brewing for its beer, but New Holland also is a distiller. Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings and I visited New Holland’s Grand Rapids brewpub called the Knickerbocker where the company also distills gin.

We met the New Holland Spirits Brand Manager Nate Blury in the Zeppelin Cocktail Lounge.

He planned to mix a drink for us called the Suffering Bastard (recipe below), but first he offered a tour of the rest of the Knickerbocker. It’s a big place.

“We have a massive capacity here that comes with three different bar areas distinctly," Blury said, pointing out the main bar where they primarily serve beer. “Then out here we have an outdoor beer garden and I'll walk you past that as well as upstairs, where our Zeppelin band cocktail room is. And of course, we have our Grand Hall, which I just think is magnificent,” he said, adding, “It pays homage to the local architecture, but also things of the area and these grand trees (copper clad structures), 40 foot ceilings. It's really magnificent.” (Photos of these areas can be seen in the slide show above.)

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
One of the many aromatics used to flavor Knickerbocker Gin.

After taking us behind the scenes to see where all the gin is made and things are brewing, Blury took us back up to the Zeppelin room to make a drink called the Suffering Bastard, a Tiki style drink. He told us it includes gin and a beer barrel aged rye whiskey.

“I don't even think I've heard of that. I've heard of your beer barrel bourbon,” Tammy said excitedly.

Tammy is a big fan of rye.

Blury noted the Beer Barrel Rye came out in 2018.  

“We make our rye. We pull it out (of the barrel) and we age our Dragon's Milk Barrel-aged Stout in that barrel. Once the stout is bottled, we actually put the rye back in that barrel and age it for at least 90 days before we bottle it,” Blury explained.

Tammy is also a fan of gin and this drink has both.

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio

Suffering Bastard

1 oz. New Holland Beer Barrel Rye

1 oz. New Holland Knickerbocker Gin

½ oz. lime juice

2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

ginger beer

Combine the rye, gin, lime juice, and bitters in a mixing glass. Add Ice. Shake. Strain into a glass (Blury used a tin cup which he manufactures). Top with ginger beer to taste

“One of the things astute listeners might notice from (reading) that recipe is that there isn't any simple syrup or any kind of sweetening ingredient,” Tammy said, adding, “This is a drier kind of cocktail. The only sweetness is coming from that ginger beer. And I think that's where the name Suffering Bastard came from, because it was a, you know, a little harsher (stiff) drink.”

After a sip she quipped, “I have to tell you, I didn't really feel very much like I was suffering when I drank that drink.”

Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham are the authors of Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers from the University of Michigan Press. The book is based on the Cheers! episodes heard on Michigan Radio.

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