Without a doubt, Big Orange has the deepest most craft heavy cocktail bar in talent-rich cocktail town. That is saying a lot compared to the other highly talented bars in town.
The latest fall/winter menu does a great job to capture the depth of experimentation, flavors and overall craft of the bar. It is perhaps the most mature overall menu the bar has put out and is a far cry from some of the playful experience menus of old.
The meadows of Alsace, for example, is a great estimate to the depth and thoughtfulness of the bar staff. Alsace here is referring to the land between France and Germany that has historically changed hands between the two nations many times. The cocktail is a reflection of that blending culture leaning hard on Cognac and Jagermeister as the spirit base for the cocktail. It includes orgeat syrup, which is traditionally French, and an upside-down bottle of Underberg bitters. As you drink more of the bitters come out, shifting from a very French cocktail to a distinctly German flavor.
While shifts in flavors are one thing, the Science Fair brings change on a more chemical reaction. The cocktail comes in more of a kit, with instructions on how to use it. You get a glass, a beaker, and a flask. You start by pouring the flask into the glass, then slowly mixing in the vitamin C solution in the beaker. As it is added the color changes from a dark purple to a light pink. Flavor wise it is just as interesting, bringing in a great combination of light, mildly fruity flavors that hold up even without the show.
Quite possibly the most interesting, and no doubt controversial, cocktail belongs to the Whiskey Umami. Throw out everything you know about cocktails for this one, it is something you very likely have never experienced. It uses Rye Whiskey and Snow Nigori Sake as the base, then blends in white miso. It is unbelievably savory, hitting a different note than any cocktail before it. It is a flavor that will not be for everyone, but for cocktail fans, it is a great experiment with what a cocktail can be.
Another savory option, but not nearly as savory as the one before, is the Apothecary. This gin and sage tea-based cocktail pulls in apricot preserves for a bit of sweetness, then golden chanterelle syrup which complements the apricots well while adding a nice richness to the drink.
My personal favorite for the season has to be the Speyside Lullaby. This Scotch-based cocktail brings Rumchata and cinnamon together for a rich, creamy, and flavorful cocktail. Even better this one can be served warm for a great sipper on a cold night.
Another very delicious cocktail out of one of their newcomers Saxon Ridgell called the Land of Wood and Fire was a surprise. It is great to see new bartenders learning the depth of flavor in ways that only Big Orange can teach. This rum and mezcal-based cocktail is a nice sipper, it has the balance of flavors that usually comes from a seasoned bartender.
Someone who is certainly not a novice, Lauran Pollock, continues her love affair with cloves in cocktails with her All My Clove drink. This uses Mckenna 10 year bourbon as the base, pear cognac, and clove syrup for a near cider like cocktail with the crispness it brings. While it is not listed as an option, this might be another good one to try warm with the flavor profile.
Big Orange is also ready to roll back out their barrel aging cocktail program hard and heavy, so be sure to ask if anything is currently tapped when you come in. These take a while to produce and go quickly once the barreling process is finished, but the flavor they bring to a cocktail is unique.
The menu is out now and will be until spring. It is one of the best overall seasonal cocktail menus produced in the state, so don’t miss it.