Sold on the Bait & Switchel

Liam Gilmore at Oakland’s Blind Tiger combines Madeira, Aperol, and apple butter for a soothing liquid hug.


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Liam Gilmore’s Bait & Switchel at Blind Tiger is like a liquid hug.

Lori Eanes

Late on a blustery day, leaves scatter across streets and clouds loom overhead. With a scarf tied around your neck, you yearn for warmth. It has been a long day at the office, and now home, you are about to settle in on the couch under a cozy blanket with a nuzzling cat. So what delicious, well-deserved cocktail is in your hand?

The Bait & Switchel. Like a liquid hug, this spiced creation is comforting in all the right ways. With flavors right out of grandma’s cookbook, it is orchard-fresh and tastes like homemade apple pie. That’s because one of its key ingredients is, ingeniously, apple butter. The drink comes from the imagination of Blind Tiger bar manager Liam Gilmore, who noted that everything served at this establishment is “kind of weird and will be purposefully left of center.” For example, you will never see regular white salt or traditional citrus wheels; instead, black lava salt and candied lime substitute. True to form, this invention is off the beaten path and garnished with a single Thai basil leaf. “It’s the little things,” Gilmore said. “Like dangling a leaf like no one else I’ve seen. It is not up in the drink; it’s kind of hanging on the rim.”

Contrasting the herbal fragrance of the basil is the rest of the ingredients that have a holiday kitchen aroma. “Apple butter is very fall-y,” Gilmore said. “It’s baked-down, boiled-down apple, sugar, and spices. You really wanna smear it on toast. It’s pretty rich and super thick. We cut it with Aperol to make it flow a little bit better and last a little longer. It just shouts apple. We lift it up with some lemon to cut the sweetness and add Prosecco: nice, bubbly, and light. It’s a lot of fall flavors. And I want a pitcher of it. It’s low alcohol, so it goes down real easy.”

For this beverage, Gilmore was inspired by a little-known classic from back in the day. “The Switchel is an old-school Colonial drink that had apples, generally some vinegar, and ginger, and spices,” he said. “You can either start with a silly name and work forward, or you make a drink and work backward.”

The cocktail resonates savory and pairs perfectly with lemongrass meatballs, steak and onion skewers, or a cheesy burger—all available at Blind Tiger. There are multiple reasons to return here and each time you do, Gilmore will have something else up his sleeve. “There’s too much to play with now days, too many schools of thought,” he said. “I want to get my nose into a lot of it.”

Blind Tiger, 2600 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-899-9694, www.BlindTigerOakland.com.

 

The Bait & Switchel

1 ounce Blandy’s 5-year-old Verdelho Madeira

0.5 ounce Aperol

0.5 ounce Apple Butter

Shy 0.5 ounce Lemon Juice

2 ounces Prosecco

Thai basil, for garnish

Combine all ingredients, except the Prosecco, to a shaker. Shake hard and fine-strain into a coupe. Add the Prosecco and garnish with a Thai basil leaf (on the rim, not in the drink to “make sure you get that good smell in there,” Gilmore said).

Published online on Oct. 28, 2016 at 8:00 a.m.

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