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up front drinks

Mixing Up a Classic A riffed up, spiffed up twist on the Moscow Mule By M.B. SELLERS

H

og & Hominy, tucked securely away in the heart of Memphis, is a jewel of a restaurant. It’s on the small side but this only adds to its abundant charm. It’s the type of place you wish you’d discovered all on your own for bragging rights purposes, but it’s devotedly a word-of-mouth, not-so-secret establishment. With low ceilings and an elegant design, it’s an anytime atmosphere, good for mid-afternoon drinks to and nights-on-the-town. On Sunday afternoons, the place is cozily packed, and since spring is fast approaching, the Rumpini, Hog & Hominy’s rip on the classic “Mule,” is the most eye-catching. The dark rum from Prichard’s Distillery, based in Kelso, Tenn., adds warmth, while the ginger beer gives it a light frothiness. A dash of grapefruit juice makes for a sweet sip. “We really designed our drink program around the seven master cocktails," explains bartender Nick Talarico. " Everything comes off those cocktails. We try to have a very well-researched list. We look back at when they were first doing cocktails, what was the point, and then take that to kind of inspire us to do either a ‘riff’ or to come up with our own ideas about what a cocktail can be.” There are four sections to Hog & Hominy's extensive drink menu—the ever-present masters, which are the classic cocktails, the standards like the Aviation cocktail. "In the summer, we want lighter drinks, refreshing drinks, because people drink faster, and we don’t want to do anything that’s going to be too boozy— it’s part of our job to watch out for

30 MARCH 2014 | myclickmag.com

people," Talarico says. "Whereas in the winter, we try to do things that are going to be heavier. That’ll give you a chance to warm up while you eat.” When they are looking to change one of the lists on the menu, the team at Hog & Hominy sits down to discuss what is and isn’t working. True to their research, Talarico and his bartenders begin with looking at the original recipe for a certain drink before planning their own creative approach to it. “When we start looking to change a list, I’ll sit down with the bartenders and we kind of say, ‘alright, what are we selling, what are we not selling?’ And then we take the approach of what’s working, as far as behind the bars. On a Saturday night, we’re here four deep— some things work, some things don’t. So we’ll say, ‘is it working?’ And then, ‘let’s not do that again.’” Their system works. On Sunday afternoons, the place is cozily packed, and since spring is fast approaching, the Rumpini, Hog & Hominy’s riff on the classic Moscow Mule, is the most eye-catching. The Rumpini shares two major characteristics with its origin—it and the Mule are both refreshing and use ginger beer, but where the Mule has lime, the Rumpini features a splash of grapefruit juice. The dark rum from Prichard’s Distillery, based in Kelso, Tenn., adds warmth, while the ginger beer

gives it a light frothiness. The grapefruit juice makes for a sweet sip. In regards to his own origins, Talarico explains, “I started out as the GM (general manager) at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, across the street, about three years ago. I didn’t know how to bar tend, and it’s pretty important that if you’re the boss, you know how to do everything. I was studying all of these cocktail books and reading these old, old books, but I wouldn’t step back there and take a shift as a bartender because I was so scared of it. So one day, Andy and Michael sent me to the grocery store, and it was a Tuesday, slower. When I got back, they had cut the bartender and sent him home, and they were like ‘So you’re going to bar tend tonight. Good luck!’” He grins at this memory, joking that obviously he turned out to be awesome at it, but it isn’t surprising that he is, though. Talarico has the right amount of charisma and savvy to succeed at the restaurant business, be it coming up with new drinks or mixing them up. There’s a tangible atmosphere of controlled perfectionism. Hog


Click magazine- March 2014 Issue