“A lot of times when you get highballs they’re not executed well. If you sip it through the straw you only get the spirit and if you sip it from the glass you just get soda. And then you’re forced to stir it all together and you lose the intensity of the bubbles,” says Rockey.
To avoid this dilemma, Rockey layers the soda and the spirit—in this case, Zubrowka, Polish bison grass vodka—as he builds the cocktail. Aperol, lemon juice, lemon oleo saccharum, and celery bitters join the mix, adding more layers of flavor to this bright, prickly-effervescent sipper.
“The last few years I’ve been obsessed with this preparation called oleo saccharum (literally, sacred oil) which involves macerating the peels of citrus fruit in sugar for long enough to extract out all the essential oils,” explains Rockey. “It’s part candying, part maceration, part something else—magic—and the result is this sweet, über-concentrated sugared oil.” An orange version stars alongside spicy rye whiskey in this Julep, built over crushed ice in the traditional silver cup.
Kaffir Lime Mojito
“Technically, the Mojito is a swizzle. A lot of people do the soda thing and I’ve never really understood why—all the dilution should come from the ice,” says Rockey. He notes that while Betony's spring menu focuses on refreshing drinks, he likes to add playful contrast by interjecting dark flavors. In this case, opting for a Demerara-based simple syrup and Rhum Barbancourt, a dark rum from Haïti made from free-run sugar cane juice (“it gives a more robust, fresh cane flavor”). The cocktail is built over crushed ice, with fresh lime juice and lightly tamped Kaffir lime leaves adding a one-two punch of zesty citrus flavor and aromatics.
Blanco tequila from the Highlands gets the spotlight in this variation on a classic sour. “Blanco is my favorite incarnation of tequila because it doesn’t get covered up, the tequila tastes like tequila and less like wood.” Here it’s paired with grapefruit juice, grapefruit liqueur, and tarragon to create a dry yet intensely juicy refresher.
Rockey is a fan of offering shandies year-round, says this one was inspired by one of the restaurant’s desserts. “I got excited about one of the desserts that has almonds and apricots in it and thought, ‘What goes well with apricots? Almonds. Almonds and apricots are kind of a tapas bar snack, what do you normally drink with tapas? Beer, or sherry. Why not try both together?’” The result is a pilsner-based shandy that pairs nutty housemade orgeat and juicy-sweet apricot liqueur with tart sherry vinegar.
Rockey is quick to note that the program here is the result of a collaborative effort between the bar staff. “I built a box—quality, efficiency, accuracy, good glassware, good ice—as long as the drinks have all those things they’re able to run free.” One byproduct of this freedom: the intensely briny pickled onions in their off-the-menu Gibson.