On the town in Milwaukee: Sneaking into Bittercube's "Speakeasy"
For the last three weeks, Bryant's Cocktail Lounge hid a Speakeasy on Monday nights. And in true speakeasy form, it's the kind of thing you aren't sure you want to expose. No, not because the local police might knock down the door but because you'd be potentially risking sudden mainstream popularity and ultimately changing the perfection it was last Monday evening.
Well, I'm up for taking that risk.
"Speakeasy," happening on the second floor of Bryant's at 1579 S. 9th St., is the creation of Bittercube, a new cocktail consultancy and liqueur producer in Milwaukee. Bittercube Founders Ira Koplowitz and Nick Kosevich come from The Violet Hour in Chicago and Town Talk Diner in Minneapolis respectively, to fill Milwaukee with a new sense of drinking.
"It's not that we're the only ones making good drinks in this town but the approach and the technique and the level of education that goes into each cocktail, I think is superior. It's kind of giving people what they need rather than what they want and exposing something new," Kosevich says.
One look at the weekly changing "Speakeasy" cocktail menu and undoubtedly, it is an introduction to something altogether new.
Listing five Classic and five Neo-Classic cocktails, the Classics combine old school liquors like Bulleit Bourbon and Plymouth Gin with a newly spirited approach. Bittercube's own Cherry Liqueur and Orange Bitters also make the menu, inviting drinkers to sample truly original flavors.
"We come from two different areas of the cocktail world-- Ira has definitely studied the classics a lot more and I came from the farm to glass ideology; our liqueurs really are a combination of that. When you're making your own bitters and liqueurs, you're creating flavor profiles and drink combinations that can't be re-created anywhere else. They're very unique to what we do," Kosevich says.
Bittercube makes both aromatic and citrus bitters, several liqueurs including Limoncello, Apple Brandy and Triple Sec plus sours and tonics all from scratch. Utilizing only materials of the highest quality, Bittercube's concoctions stick to minimalist recipes of natural ingredients.
"Especially when you're talking about Classic or Neo-classic cocktails, the recipes we're working with were all created at a time when they were only using fresh ingredients. We stick to that formula," Koplowitz says.
"Basically what we are is a cocktail consulting company but we're a little different; we do a lot of handmade products and so we have a little broader range of things to offer," Kosevich continues.
As consultants, the duo aims to increase the hands on connection with area restaurants. Unlike other short-term cocktail consultancies, Bittercubes' programs implement themselves for three or six months of menu creation and staff training.
"Milwaukee specifically and Wisconsin in general has a pretty storied cocktail history. It's a little bit different than what we're doing but there is a backbone for cocktails here. "Speakeasy" is the only place we're serving our drinks right now; you can't imagine how much research is going into that menu every week. It's stuff that's never been done here before," Koplowitz says.
Milwaukee is extremely lucky to have Nick & Ira. I'm beyond excited.
I like it. Need to get back to Bryant's soon; very soon.
Ive been to Bryants for Monday nights Speakeasy and I think what Nick and Ira are doing is awesome. The atmosphere at Bryants is perfect to come with friends to enjoy good company and good drinks. Hearing them further explain what goes into each cocktail and the products they make is really amazing, definitely something I havent found anywhere else in Milwaukee. The knowledge, technique, and passion poured into every drink is extraordinary and something to be valued. I will definitely be returning and looking forward to see where else they take their cocktails.
Hey all, we're Nick and Ira from Bittercube. We just wanted to clear a few things up. A fellow bartender told us that we came across in this article as not respecting the Milwaukee bartending and drinking culture. And that's just not true. We wouldn't be living in this city if we didn't respect what has already happened in Milwaukee. There are bartenders creating great cocktails all over the city and they challenge us and our palettes whenever we sit in front of them. When Nick spoke of superior quality and technique at the beginning of the article he was in the middle of talking about the house-made products that we create, like our Cherry liqueur being superior to many of the cherry-flavored brandy's on the market or our orange bitters as better than store bought bitters like Fee's Orange Bitters. We truly hope we didn't offend anyone because that was never our intent. We want to again thank Maureen for writing the article, she did a great job. And we hope to see you all at Speakeasy. Nick and Ira
Actually, I think they are on to something. A new sense of drinking is just what we need, moderation of really good tasting drinks instead of indulging on crappy tasting drinks. Oh yeah, and of course a cigarette.
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