Jacqueline Monahan

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By Jacqueline Monahan

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Think nothing good can possibly come out of a can? Think again!

The Velveteen Rabbit, a vintage lounge on Main Street, Las Vegas, hosted the launch of three new canned cocktails created by acclaimed mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler, in partnership with Jamie Floyd of The Ninkasi Brewing Company, based in Eugene Oregon. The event took place in VR’s flame-heated outdoor patio amid tables topped with umbrellas and a painted, flower mural along one wall.

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Velveteen Rabbit Lounge, 1218 S. Main ST, Las Vegas


The Product

The cocktails come in vibrant pop-top cans, are high-end creations using real spirits, and can be served chilled or on ice.  Taste wise, the sparkling cocktail goes down so easily a teetotaler might be inspired to imbibe. Aficionados will appreciate the quality. Launching this month in Nevada are Morgenthaler’s latest creations:

• Gin Rickey, a gin cocktail with cooling mint and a splash of lime 

• Bourbon Renewal, a bold spin on a bourbon classic with zesty lemon and sweet black currant

• Agave Paloma, a mezcal paloma with tangy grapefruit and crushed jalapeno

Traditionally, a rickey is a highball made from gin or bourbon, lime juice, and carbonated water.  Morgenthaler’s Gin Rickey is a sweeter version, with refreshing lime and mint components front and center.

Morgenthaler invented the bourbon renewal, a spin on a traditional whiskey sour served at his former bar, Clyde Common, in Portland Oregon. It’s canned counterpart has a distinct color (light orange) and unmistakable aroma. Bourbon is definitely the star, but lemon and black currant notes tame the spirit with sweet undertones that form a pleasant, carbonated sip and swallow.

A traditional paloma cocktail consists of tequila, lime juice, and grapefruit soda. Morgenthaler’s recipe is a jalapeno kissed, agave-forward version of this classic combination. Think liquid candy with a kick.

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Bourbon and Mezcal and Gin, Oh My!

Photo Credit: John Hardin


The Mixologist

Morgenthaler, who was on-hand to greet attendees, is an acclaimed Portland-based bartender (formerly of Clyde Common and Pepe Le Moko) and world-class mixologist. A seven-time James Beard nominee, he was gracious to members of the media, revealing a personality as effervescent as his products. Recounting his early years, he enthusiastically declared that he’s tended bar “everywhere” and has come up through the ranks, mixing it all, serving it all, and creating it all. While sheltering in place during the pandemic, he began to experiment with drink recipes and crafted the ingredients for his three cocktails right in his own kitchen. The aim was to create a more potent, authentically spirit-based cocktail for the market, superior to weaker, malt-based “imposters” (my words).

Morgenthaler accomplishments:

• Named top ten mixologists in U.S., (Playboy Magazine)

• Named one of the ten most influential bartenders in the last decade (Food and Wine Magazine)

• Voted ninth most influential bartender in the world (Drinks International)

• Named one of the 15 most influential bartenders of the past hundred years (Thrillist)

• Regular contributor to The Daily Beast (an American news website focused on politics, media, and pop culture, founded in 2008).

• Authored two books (The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique and Drinking Distilled)

• Guest spot on Late Night with Seth Meyers, demonstrating his version of Spanish Coffee, a flaming drink that caramelizes the sugar on the rim of the glass it’s served in. (see it on YouTube). Morgenthaler joked that “the camera adds 10 ounces” to any drink on TV, proving he’s got that bartender’s legendary gift of gab.

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Jeffrey Morgenthaler

Photo Credit:  John Hardin

 

How it all started

Morgenthaler was approached by the independently owned Ninkasi Brewing Company, a microbrewery based in Eugene, Oregon. Named after the Sumerian goddess of fermentation, Ninkasi was founded in 2006 by Jamie Floyd and Nikos Ridge. Their first product, Total Domination IPA, along with other beer varieties, has been distributed throughout Nevada since 2014.

Morgenthaler and Ninkasi co-founder Floyd have known each other since Morgenthaler’s first bartending job in Oregon more than 20 years ago. When Ninkasi wanted to enter the canned cocktail market, they reached out to Morgenthaler to see if they could collaborate on a unique venture.

The pandemic gave Morgenthaler abundant time to concoct these recipes in his home, with sparkling results. The Market (according to beverage companies and industry experts)

• The ready-to-drink cocktail is the fastest growing alcohol category, with more growth predicted in the next decade.

• The segment currently accounts for only 3% of U.S. spirits volume.

• Hard seltzer helped fuel the rise of canned cocktails appeal to consumers who are looking for more alcohol or a stronger taste.

• In the last two years, the premixed cocktail category grew by 50% in the United States. (Distilled Spirits Council of the United States).

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Photo Credit:  John Hardin


The Future

Be on the lookout for Morgenthaler-created rum and vodka-based cocktails to hit the market in the coming year. They’ll appear in Nevada stores that feature Ninkasi products (Lee’s Discount Liquor, Total Wine and More, Liquor World, etc.). Do not be fooled by the pretty flowers and the pop-top aluminum container. These cans kick back!


 

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Photo Credit:  John Hardin

 

 

 

 



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