They don’t call him the “bar witch” for nothing. Hastings Cameron, the sorcerer behind the fabled cocktails at Underground Kitchen, uses ingredients like beet juice, cardamom and lemon curd to satisfy the thirsty legions that flock to his bar. His menu changes frequently, with an emphasis on seasonal produce and locally crafted spirits.
New for summer is the #44, a breezy sparkler made with cava and sweet, citrusy rhubarb liqueur. Cameron batched the liqueur this spring, using a vintage Italian recipe as a template. “The idea was to make an aromatic bitter,” he says, “but also a digestif that can be sipped on its own.”
The cocktail is fizzy and refreshing, just the thing you’d want on a hot summer day. And the pale pink liqueur, served over ice in a cordial glass, is sublime.
For the rhubarb liqueur:
17 oz. (500 ml) vodka
8.5 oz. (250 ml) sauvignon blanc
1 lb. rhubarb, finely chopped
Zest of 1 orange
6 artichoke leaves
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 star anise
For the cocktail:
Sparkling wine, such as cava
Lemon twist, for garnish
To make the liqueur, combine all ingredients in a wide-mouthed glass jar. Seal and let macerate five to seven days in a cool place (no need to refrigerate). To make the cocktail, combine 1 1/2 to 2 oz. liqueur with 2 to 3 oz. sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Note: I visited Underground Kitchen in May 2011 to write about their cocktails for Madison Magazine. Sadly, the restaurant was destroyed by a fire the following month. Underground is accepting donations to rebuild; you can also visit their Facebook page to find more ways to help. This column would have appeared in the magazine’s August issue.