Bartending as a Craft
FROM INDIVIDUALLY CUT ICE TO OVER-GROWN BLOODY MARYS
There’s a resurgence of bartending as a craft in bigger cities now moving to this area, according to Tony Oczus, master bartender at The Libertine in downtown Green Bay.
Oczus opened the Libertine almost four years ago featuring handcrafted cocktails with details not found in most other bars or restaurants. The unique way The Libertine’s drinks are prepared and served proved so successful Oczus opened a second establishment, Proof, in De Pere last year with his sites set on more in the future.
These aren’t the kind of cocktail bars to breeze in for a quick one.
There won’t be any “Malibu rum” and the taste of a classic Manhattan or old fashioned may not be familiar. Each drink is taken seriously — right down to details like ice that is individually cut for that concoction. The juices, syrups and tinctures are handmade and half of the cocktails are their own concoctions so they can’t be found anywhere else. They also have non-alcoholic drinks like their own ginger beer. The menu ebbs and flows throughout the year.
“We’re trying to create an experience as well as satiate your thirst,” he said. “We want people to come in for the atmosphere so we can showcase our talents.”
The speakeasy-style bar resembles an apothecary and bartenders spend time educating customers about their drink as well as taking great pains making it.
“It’s a step up,” he said. “Very focused and detailed.”
There is no one “signature” drink for either The Libertine or the newer De Pere bar, Proof, but a popular request is a Wisconsin-style old fashioned. They muddle fresh orange (no cherry) and use syrup in place of granulated sugar as it mixes better in the solution, Oczus said. They are working on a spin-off of a margarita for the summer.
If you happen to be in Northern Door County in the mood for a margarita, there’s a spot overlooking the bay where you can relax with both a drink and a view. Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar & Grill in Sister Bay has been delighting customers with their signature cherry margaritas for more than 15 years.
In the 60s, Greg Sunstrom, a Sister Bay native, grew up just a couple miles away from the bar and restaurant he now runs with his wife, Sue. Back then, Greg had a lot of long and curly hair and the nickname followed him when he entered a partnership with Fred Luber in the 1970s. Fred, 90, died in January this year, but his legacy lives on at the resort.
Fuzzy can be spotted greeting people as they arrive after a climb down the hill or he sometimes is a cook or maybe makes that famous cherry margarita produced with 100-percent Door County cherry juice. “The important thing is it’s tart like a regular margarita, not sweet like a strawberry margarita,” he said. “And we use gold tequila as it’s smoother than regular or clear.”
The tart Montmorency cherries used in the drink are grown just down the road at either Lautenbach or Seaquist orchards. The margaritas are served with a lime on a 16-ounce plastic glass. There is no sugar or salt on the rim unless requested. Cherry margaritas seem to pair well with the whitefish sandwiches making it their top-selling drink.
A little further south in Door County another great summertime drink can be found at Parador in Egg Harbor. Parador’s handcrafted sangria is a wine-based drink mixed with soda or seltzer then fortified with some type of liqueur, adding fruits to infuse flavor into the drink.
Rebecca Majewski and her husband, Larry, were inspired by Spanish cuisine during a trip to Spain in 2010. Rebecca was born in Portugal and studied in Spain but got the bug to start a family-run business during their honeymoon six years ago.
“We went to this little pizzeria and saw this mom making the crust and their son was there and dad. It was just a very idyllic scene and we thought, ‘Wow! Wouldn’t it be great if we could make people happy who are on vacation and work together?’” she said.
Larry had previously worked at Trump Tower and at Hilton in Chicago, at Valentino in the Venetian in Las Vegas and as a server at Hacienda del Sol in Tucson before starting Parador.
Rebecca makes all the sangria flavors that have become their signature drink at Parador.
“We have our red sangria which is traditional,” she said. “We frequently change our featured white sangrias which we make with Spanish Chardonnay to reflect the season or new combinations we want to try.”
Some favorites have been Door County rhubarb, cucumber mojito, strawberry jalapeno and sparkling Door County cherry.
“I think what makes our sangria unique is that we make everything ourselves,” she said. “We change flavors frequently and we sometimes use unusual flavor combinations.”
Parador serves tapas — small plates designed for sharing, a style of eating that started in Spain, she said. Sangria is also from Spain so it was a natural fit for their drink list, she added. The tapas are a mix of traditional Spanish items with their Wisconsin spin with local ingredients. They serve all Spanish wines and Wisconsin beers along with their sangrias.
“It’s fun for us to work together as it’s something we made together and enjoy doing,” Rebecca said.
Another couple who decided to open a bar and restaurant in Door County and has a following for their signature drink is Kitty O’Reillys Irish Pub in Sturgeon Bay. “When people think of Kitty’s, it’s the Bloody Mary that comes to mind,” said Amy Crook, who opened Kitty’s with her husband, Buster, almost seven years ago.
The drink that’s almost a meal is served with a beer chaser — any of the 13 beers on tap including the craft and imported beer.
What inspired this fully-loaded cocktail?
“Buster and I traveled a lot prior to owning Kitty’s,” Amy explained.
“We both lived in the Milwaukee area. I worked at Wicked Hops and they had a good Bloody Mary. That’s where I got the idea with the cheese and garnishes.”
Amy is from Sturgeon Bay so they added the locally produced garnishes — the mozzarella cheese whips come from Renards. There’s a sausage beef stick, pickled mushroom and asparagus, olives, a pickle, a lemon slice and celery salt. Kitty’s signature taste is made by topping it off with Guinness stout.
“That stout gives it great color and flavor,” she said.
It’s served in a whopping 20-ounce goblet that takes two hands to lift. On a Sunday, a popular day for Bloody Mary’s, Amy said they easily make from 100-150.
“We’ll make 10 of them all at once,” she said. “We’re continuing the $5 Bloody Mary’s on Sundays. Our regular price is $7.”
They purchase and also sell jugs of their spiced-up tomato juice used for the drinks which is thick with spices and horseradish. Kitty’s adds one-and-a-half ounces of vodka but they sell a lot of virgin Bloody Marys as well.
Parador White Sangria Base:
1 bottle Spanish Chardonnay
20 oz. lemon-lime soda
10 oz. sour soda (such as 50/50 or lemon Fanta)
5 oz. brandy or other grape-based liquor
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher.
Stir and serve over ice with your favorite toppings.
Sparkling Cherry Sangria:
Parador White Sangria Base (recipe above), chilled Spanish cava (sparkling wine)
1½ cup Door County cherry juice
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup water
4 tbsp sugar
4-6 leaves fresh mint
1 cup fresh or frozen Door County cherries
2 oz. brandy or other grape liquor
Make boozy cherries – In a small bowl, combine Door County cherries, liquor, and 2 tbsp sugar. Stir, cover and set aside to soak for at least 1 hour, overnight if possible.
Make cherry syrup – In a medium saucepan, combine cherry juice, lemon juice, water, 2 tbsp sugar, and mint. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove mint leaves and cool completely.
Assemble and serve sangria – Fill a champagne flute just over half way with white sangria base. Add cherry syrup, top with Spanish cava and garnish with boozy cherries.