When you walk into Buffalo Traders Lounge in Grand Rapids, it’s the kind of space that just begs you to get comfortable, relax, and sip a drink.
“I have to say this is a gorgeous space, kind of mid-century modern decor. And I love it,” Tammy Coxen of Tammy’s Tastings said as she looked around.
We were there to visit with the lead bartender, Tony Jones and to sample one of his craft cocktails.
“This is the Two Horse Town. It's kind of an aquavit and tropical-spiced sour,” Jones said.
“We were at Eastern Kille (see story here) and Brandon (Voorhees) was talking about how as soon as you have two distilleries in a town, people want to pit them against each other. ‘Oh, do you like theirs better?’ And so he loved the fact that the bartenders in town are like, no, we're going to mix and match,” Tammy said.
When Jones mentioned it also had Falernum, I thought of a tiki drink. Falernum is a syrupy liqueur with Caribbean spices. It's often used in tiki drinks.
“I was kind of inspired by tiki recipes with this one. Just wanted to take it in a little bit different direction than I had before,” Jones explained.
Tammy was curious about the Bartender’s Spiced Rum. She’d not run into it before.
“This is a rum that they released a couple of years ago under the Gray Skies name. It was kind of a one-time release. So, the bottles do exist, but it's not something they principally sell,” Jones said.
He added that the white rum is infused with a selection of spices that was specifically picked out by some Grand Rapids bartenders.
“It has like a nice heavy caraway note up front, which is why it fits into this drink so well with the aquavit. They kind of complement each other, especially with the Falernum to kind of bridge the gap,” Jones said.
Two Horse Town
1 oz Long Road Aquavit
¾ oz Eastern Kille's, Bartenders Blend Rum
¾ oz Falernum
¾ oz lime juice
Add just a little bit of sugar to taste
1 egg white
Put egg white in a shaking tin and shake vigorously to froth it. Add a couple of large ice cubes and other ingredients to the tin. Give it a heavy shake.
“I know that Buffalo Traders is a sister bar to Sidebar. And the last time we were in Grand Rapids we loved Sidebar (see story here). One of the things that we talked about was Duncan (McCargar) who had this really interesting shake. You, too, had a really interesting shake. It was fun to watch you. It's one of my favorite things that I come to a bar is to see how people move,” Tammy said.
Tony Jones laughed and said he didn’t put too much thought into it.
The way bartenders shake a drink is kind of like their fingerprint. Everyone has a unique one.
The Two Horse Town has survived a couple of menu changes at Buffalo Traders Lounge. Jones says some people are put off by the egg white, but generally it gets really positive responses from patrons.
By the way, the drink did remind me of the tiki style. Tammy and I both liked it.
Update: This was edited to correct the spelling of Falernum.
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.