What’s in that cocktail?

Natalie’s award-winning bartender deconstructs the Camden Hike
Wed, 09/12/2012 - 1:00pm

Natalie’s award-winning bartender Tom Laslavic isn’t about to flip some bottles for you and re-enact a scene from the 1988 movie, Cocktail. He’s just not that kind of guy. He’s more the quiet, methodical type, the kind of bartender who truly hones in on the needs of his customer. What he’ll do for you instead is construct a cocktail that will make you slam your open palm onto the bar and say, "Now that's what I call a drink!"

His signature cocktail, Camden Hike, was recently featured in the 2012 book, The American Cocktail. The prominent ingredients feature Cold River vodka, a puree of native blueberries, blackberries, black currents and a syrup of Maine wild flower honey that he gets from Fresh Off The Farm. The result is refreshingly tart, loaded with antioxidants and topped with a spear of blackberries and blueberries.

The drink originated from a 2010 Maine Restaurant Week contest sponsored by Cold River Vodka whose logo is “The Spirit of Maine.” The competition took that logo to be its motto.  “I thought, what ingredients would you find in Camden on a hike on an August summer day?" Laslavic said. "You’re going to find the berries, the honey, and if you’re nice enough, you can knock on someone’s door and get the lemon.”

The idea of the Camden Hike, he explains, was inspired by a college friend whose father made homemade wines.  “He called his varieties, ‘The Country Meal,’ ‘The County Mile’ and ‘The Country Walk,’” said Laslavic. “Each one had the flavor of what you’d find on respectively in a country meal or on a long walk, such as honey and berries and that was what led me to the idea of the Camden Hike.”

From the publicity generated from this contest, the editors of Imbibe Magazine got in touch with Laslavic and asked if he’d like his cocktail featured in The American Cocktail.  The editors interacted with Laslavic by email, so the cocktail in the book is not actually the one that Laslavic makes — it’s an approximation.

We set out to see how the real cocktail is made and what it really looks like.

First you add a ½ oz each of the wildflower honey, crème de cassis and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Then, you add 1 oz each of the purees of blueberry and blackberry. Finally, add 2 oz of Cold River vodka. Shake with ice and strain off the ice into a cocktail glass. Top with soda water and garnish with a lemon twist and spear of blackberries and blueberries. To see how to make one, watch the video.

“I think most people expect this to be sweeter than it is,” said Laslavic.”It’s a very well-balanced cocktail and the flavors are very fresh. It’s all those properties of Maine and very soothing.”

Just drink it with a straw or else you’ll look like a kid who just finished a grape popsicle.