On the wild, wild eastern frontier of the Crossroads sits an unassuming distillery facing an unruly grass-covered lot that could—if neglected for a summer—easily revert to a bit of open prairie. The rustic tasting room could just as easily be a saloon filled with goldminers and gunslingers. The spirits and cocktails, however, belong somewhere much more sophisticated. Opened more than a year and a half ago by president Kyle Claypool and head distiller Michael Stuckey, Lifted Spirits (1734 Cherry St) is producing some truly delicious distillations. The grains for their neutral spirits are selected and grown specifically for them in nearby Wellsville, Kansas, are then transformed into vodka, their “Bright” gin (referring to the brighter notes of the botanicals), whiskey (slated to be released this fall), and most recently, absinthe. They are all delicious straight-up and make fascinating cocktails like The Wild East. Says mixologist Devin Clay, “The Wild East cocktail is rooted in the familiar flavors of sweet/sour/spicy, but the smoked glass and the freshly toasted jalapeño pull all of the flavors together.” He couldn’t be more correct. No matter your mood, Lifted Spirits will certainly lift yours.
The Wild East from Lifted Spirits
- 2 ounces Lifted Spirits vodka
- ¾ ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce rich syrup*
- ¼ ounce jalapeño shrub**
- 1 jalapeño slice (for garnish)
- A few cherry-wood chips for smoking the glass
Twenty-four hours before making the cocktail, prepare the jalapeño shrub and the rich syrup.
Next, smoke a glass by lighting the cherry-wood chips with a small torch and covering the flame with your glass. It’s easier than it sounds! Add all the liquid ingredients to a shaker and fill with ice, then shake. Lift your glass off the wood chips and add fresh ice before straining your cocktail into the smoked glass. Grasping the jalapeño slice with tongs, lightly torch it as well to bring out its wonderful smoky, roasted flavor. Garnish the drink with the slice and serve.
*For the jalapeño shrub: Combine equal volumes (say two cups each) chopped jalapeños and sugar in a large bowl or jar. Stir or shake frequently until the peppers release their juices, keeping the mixture refrigerated. This can take as little as 24 hours or up to four days. When all of the sugar has dissolved (or if you can’t wait, drain off part of what has dissolved to make your cocktail), strain out the jalapeños and combine the syrup with an equal amount of white vinegar. Shake well and refrigerate indefinitely.
**For the rich syrup: Combine 3 1/3 oz. sugar (by volume) and 16 2/3 oz. water in a pan and heat to dissolve the sugar. Store covered in the refrigerator. It will last several months.