We’ve done something new for the launch of the Lost Lantern Single Distillery Series, which debuted on April 26th. For the first time, we’ve created specialty Lost Lantern cocktails themed around each release. But by “we,” we really mean “Drew created them.” Drew Record is our California state manager, and has deep experience in hospitality and as a mixologist (and bar owner and many other things besides). We are excited to share our first Lost Lantern specialty cocktails, and asked Drew to explain how each one came to be.
Two of the three releases in the Lost Lantern Single Distillery Series come from Whiskey Del Bac in Tucson, Arizona. And Tucson just happens to be Drew’s hometown. We think the signature cocktails Drew has created for both “Desert Dessert” and “Mega Mesquite” reflect that, and could only come from someone who grew up in the desert. The signature cocktail for Lost Lantern Desert Dessert, In the Shadow of the Sentinel, truly proves that. Now here’s Drew:
Lost Lantern Desert Dessert Signature Cocktail: In The Shadow of the Sentinel
For our signature cocktail for Lost Lantern Desert Dessert, we collaborated with Karl Goranowski of BATA and Tough Luck Club in Tucson, Arizona. It’s named for Sentinel peak just west of the historic heart of Tucson. The peak shades the Santa Cruz river and is adjacent to one of North America’s oldest agricultural sites. The Meyer lemons in this cocktail were grown in a loamy patch of soil next to the river and “In the shadow of the Sentinel.” Karl has been using citrus cordials at the bar to help eliminate kitchen waste and has relied on locally grown citrus to stock his pantry for the entire year. This classically inspired simple sour, combines the sweet, smoky nature of Lost Lantern Desert Dessert with the brightness of Meyer lemon and a touch of bitterness from St George Bruto Americano to balance each other out. But first, the story.
In The Shadow of the Sentinel: The Story
When I lived in Tucson, all of my bar friends would volunteer for the food bank every winter as gleaners. If you haven’t heard that word outside the context of art history or Sunday School you can be forgiven. A gleaner is someone who usually comes to an agricultural site after a harvest and picks the leftovers in the field. Historically this was done as a way of providing food for those who couldn’t afford it themselves. That left the not-so ripe fruits to be picked later when they are ready or allowing the commercial harvest to focus on the easier spots to pick and leaving the more difficult areas to be picked by gleaners. This is a practice that has held for eons and still persists to this day with organizations trying to eliminate food waste. Those unpretty produce companies now could be seen as a way to monetize gleaning. Dumpster diving behind the grocery story could also be considered a form of gleaning. However you cut it, getting fresh, unwanted food into the hands of the hungry is the single most direct way to impact food insecurity the world over.
Arizona might not be the first state to jump to mind when you think of citrus. But it has a perfect climate for the freeze-adverse late winter blooming trees, if not lacking in a little of the natural rainfall these trees require to fully fruit. Any house built in the hills of the Catalina Mountains 70 years ago was almost required to have a citrus tree in their backyard. Some are there because the houses replaced citrus orchards and former homesteads as cities in Arizona rapidly expanded due to post-war suburban sprawl and Chicagoans looking for a respite from the cold.
Outside of a Berkeley farmers market, I have never seen so many varieties of citrus in one place. To volunteer as a gleaner you called the food bank and they connected you with residents that had prodigious trees and more citrus than they could pick. Armed with a map, buckets and long pick-sticks your job was to bring back all the oranges, grapefruits and breakfast citrus you could. Typically after the first few trips of the season the food bank had its fill of limes and lemons. They’d tell you to leave those. This is where the bar friends come in.
After you’ve cleared the edible trees of the unwanted fruit, you’d ask the homeowner what they wanted to do with the lemons and limes. More often than not these folks were happy to unload the citrus and appreciative of the free labor, and even if the lemons and limes weren’t making it into pantry boxes they were happy to see them go to use. The more meticulous among the bar friends would keep copious notes of which fruits came from which trees. While some of the fruit looks like the average grocery store find, most are unidentifiable crosses and forgotten heirlooms. Some lemons are huge and pithy. Some have the thinnest, oiliest skin and start to seep juice at the merest touch. Others are closer to Meyer lemons in their unique combination of tart and sweet. Some like a Buddha’s hand have morphed over the years, and hardly resemble the lemons we mostly picture. They looked more like candle drippings than citrus. –Sweet limes, key limes, persian limes, odd desiccated green shells with the most pungent floral aromatics, giant finger limes brimming with tart citrus caviar beads, the list goes on and on.
A friend who runs a native plant shop in Tucson has been trying to track down all the cultivars found in Arizona but notes the oldest variety planted in Tucson was the Seville orange brought by the Spanish. Jared McKinley of Spadefoot Nursery says, “When the anglos later arrived and found the old trees they just called them sour oranges, because they didn’t know what to do with them. The Spanish used them for marmalade, liqueurs and cooking.”
Short of sending everything off to the lab for analysis, though, some of these fruits will remain completely unknown and uncataloged, save for a few smart bar folks who know how to unlock their magical flavors. And that’s what brings us to our Lost Lantern Desert Dessert cocktails.
Lost Lantern Desert Dessert Cocktail: Citrus in the Bar
Again, we created this cocktail in collaboration with Karl Goranowski of BATA and Tough Luck Club in Tucson. “In the Shadow of the Sentinel” is a classically inspired simple sour that combines Lost Lantern Desert Dessert with these unique varietals of citrus. Karl finds incredible ways to make this short lived bounty last for as much of the year as possible. Using cordials, jams and other preservation techniques, Karl can let each of these single citrus varietals sing on their own, or combine their flavors to create an even more nuanced flavor.
“But it’s summer,” you are yelling at your screen. “All the local citrus is gone from my market! How am I going to make this cordial at home?” You don’t have to find a magic lemon tree or wait until the next heirloom citrus season comes around again to try out this cocktail. You can apply Karl’s technique to any lemons you have around the house. What is great about this recipe is that it was also created to solve the massive waste problems that occur at cocktail bars. You all have surely gotten a cocktail served to you with a lemon or orange peel before. Did you ever think about what happens to that fruit once it has been completely peeled? Often they are thrown away because the bar doesn’t have a program in place to utilize that waste. The best bars will add those fruits into their juicing rotation, but that assumes they are juicing on property and not sourcing from a juice co-op that can more efficiently produce juice at scale than the average bar. At home we don’t end up with as much waste as a professional kitchen or bar, but it is always nice to find our own ways of mitigating what has to go into the trash or compost bin. If you are cooking with lemons already, save those off to the side to make this cordial later. If you can’t make it immediately you can throw the lemons in a gallon sized zipper bag in the fridge until you are ready for them and you’ve already completed a third of the recipe.
If you’d like to learn more about gleaning in Tucson or how you can help, Iskashitaa Refugee Network is an incredible organization that has taken over the gleaning project from the food bank. To look for gleaning opportunities in your own community, the National Gleaning Project is a great resource to connect you with organizations in your area.
Lost Lantern Desert Dessert Cocktail Recipe
In the Shadow of the Sentinel – Yield 1 cocktail
2 ounces Lost Lantern Desert Dessert Whiskey Del Bac Arizona Single Malt
½ ounce Citrus Cordial (see below)
½ ounce St. George Bruto Americano – If you don’t have this incredible red amaro in your area you can always use a trusty bottle of Campari or discover which American distilleries are making this style of spirit in your area.
- Combine ingredients with ice in a shaking tin. Shake vigorously.
- Strain into a small stemmed cocktail glass rimmed with a *citrus peel sugar.
Lemon Cordial Recipe – Yield will vary by how many lemons you start with
- Save juiced lemon halves from other cooking projects.
- Weigh the juiced halves on a kitchen scale, add to a gallon zipper bag or quart container and cover with an equal weight of white sugar. Seal and let stand at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours (or until the sugar has absorbed a significant amount of liquid).
- Add water equal to the original weight of sugar, stir to combine, and strain. Store refrigerated for up to 30 days.
Says Goranowski, “This is a great way to use something like a citrus rind that may be otherwise thrown away. This cordial, inspired by one of Arizona’s five “C’s,” is infinitely useful. Add it to salad dressings for balance, make a refreshing soda or use it in place of citrus in your favorite cocktail.”
“Any citrus works great, but for this cocktail, we used massive heirloom Meyer lemons which came into season right at the start of the year.”
Karl Góranowski is a career barman, serial restaurant opener, creative leader, and devoted friend. He has established himself by working at bars and restaurants in Tucson, Oakland, San Francisco, and Phoenix. A firm believer that the best drink a person can have is the drink that is in their hand, he focuses on creating delicious, well-balanced, and fast cocktails which are as complex as drinks that take far longer. When not writing menus or making new cocktails, Karl enjoys spending time at home with his family and exploring the world by bicycle.
Tough Luck Club is Tucson’s premier high-volume cocktail bar. TLC has been making some of the Southwest’s finest cocktails and slinging shots and beers since it opened in 2014. Striving to make Tucson and the world a better place, TLC has given over $10,000 to charities since it reopened after COVID-19. Always keeping its sense of humor intact, the bar, which is in the basement of a historic funeral home, invites its guests to “Taste the Fate.”
BATA is Tucson’s premier destination for an elevated dining experience and was named one of Bon Appétit’s 50 best new restaurants in America. BATA uses the best ingredients available in a small radius around the restaurant and strives to reduce and reuse as much as possible.