Brandon Casey may be busy peeling back decades worth of grease and good times from his new dive bar in Tempe, but fall is already just a few weeks away — and with the new season comes new cocktail menus.
Casey's Chandler craft cocktail bar, The Ostrich, is already a little ahead of the curve, having debuted a new menu at the tail end of August. Located downstairs, beneath Crust pizzeria, the bar is one of the darkest in town, a perfect setting for the dark spirits and spices of fall.
Casey tells us that it’s The Ostrich’s unique identity as the "dark bar in the ‘burbs" that inspired the theme for the new menu, a story starring three cocktails: The Butcher, The Baker, and The Candlestick Maker. They are based off of characters from the old nursery rhyme, "Rub-A-Dub-Dub," in which three modest working men end their work days and wander off to the fair. Once there, we’re left to surmise, their actions become a bit more dubious. Later, they scrub themselves clean in a bathtub.
And if the Valley’s cocktail crowd are like the three characters, then Casey suggests The Ostrich is the fair, where anything can happen.
“We’re that weird attraction on the edge of town, where you can go to escape downtown, Old Town [Scottsdale], et cetera,” Casey says.
From the fall menu, The Butcher is served over “cut ice,” which The Ostrich achieves through a hand-cranked ice chipper. (The result is like coarse snow.) The drink is inspired by the cobbler, America’s first cocktail, which is essentially sherry shaken with sugar and poured over crude chips of ice, garnished with seasonal fruit. Casey gets his version ready for fall by warming it up a healthy dose of nutty Don Zoilo Amontillado Sherry in front of the drinkable campfire that is rich Lagavulin 16 scotch. A spiced stone fruit syrup sweetens it up a bit, and it gets cool mint and cherry as garnish. If you’ve been enjoying juleps this summer, then this drink is your answer for the fall.
The Baker is a whiskey sour draped in baking spices. Bulleit Rye whiskey is darkened up with Montenegro, a bittersweet Italian amaro that’s been having a moment within the bartending crowd, and sweetened with something called King Cake Syrup, from a New Orleans company called Cocktail and Sons. It contains flavors of cinnamon, lemon, and pecan. The drink then gets shaken up with Figgy Pudding bitters, lemon, and egg white.
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Finally, the Candlestick Maker is a fiery, mezcal-filled take on the Last Word, a Prohibition-era classic built from gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice. Casey’s goes down easy as pie, thanks in part to some Apply Pie liqueur from Tempe’s CaskWerks Distillery, in place of maraschino liqueur. His recipe also subs out lime juice for lemon juice and green Chartreuse for yellow (sweeter and less alcoholic) in order to cool the flame of a hot and lively young Montelobos mezcal.
If you’re not feeling so dubious, or there’s a whole menu filled with some of the drinks for which The Ostrich has become known.