CASPER, Wyo. ― Beginning Thursday, Dec. 12, a unique cocktail crafted by each bartender at Backwards Distilling Company’s downtown Tasting Room will be offered for the next twelve days.
Their “12 Days of Christmas Cocktails” event gives people the chance to get in the Christmas spirit by enjoying cocktails made with their specialty spirits.
Photographer and bartender Tawni Moore was putting the finishing touches on photos of each of the cocktails on Wednesday night. She’s been into photography since her junior year at Natrona County High School.
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“I started with the yearbook at NCHS and continued on with it and it’s brought me to this at Backwards,” she said while adjusting the drink she was shooting and adjusting the bright fluorescent lighting. “It’s the best way to do it with the white balance and the light.”
“I don’t really have to do a whole lot and it creates a nice, light vibrant feel without having to have like a big, bright window. “
She was also relying on a pink marble surface to highlight the “Nine Ladies Dancing” cocktail crafted by fellow bartender Katie Jo McGlade.
“I recently discovered this surface company called Replica Surfaces that create these photo surfaces for photographers, bloggers and foodies,” Moore explained. “They come in a variety of different styles like marble, wood, chip lap, slate, all sorts of different things. They’ve been really great for me and my product stuff that I’ve been doing lately.”
Both Moore and McGlade participated in the event last year. Each bartender is assigned a particular day to create a unique cocktail that fits the theme of the Christmas tune.
“Katie and I just celebrated one year [at Backwards] in October,” Moore said. “We are definitely taking more of a leadership role now. I feel a lot more comfortable doing like tastings with all of our spirits and feel more comfortable talking about the menu and, certain items, what they taste like and how to taste things.”
“When I first got hired I did not want to do any sort of tastings, I was way too scared. I didn’t feel confident enough to do it.”
McGlade says the process behind coming up with a cocktail is interesting and fun.
“Not as a detriment to my previous jobs, but it just wasn’t as much of a creative field and it is really nice here,” she said. “It’s fun that Amber [Pollock], you know, puts us together to take our creative side and play a little bit.”
Her “Nine Ladies Dancing” drink features Contortionist Gin, beet juice, apple juice and rosemary honey.
“I wanted to keep kind of a feminine flare to it since it’s the ‘Nine Ladies Dancing,'” McGlade said. “Kind of the warmer pink hues as far as what the drink would look like and I’ve just been dying to make something with beets. Beets are like my favorite vegetable.”
Backwards co-owner Mallory Pollock says that the idea for the event came from “probably Amber’s brain.”
“It is something interesting and fun and new and I really like it because it is really cool to be like, ‘Oh my gosh, I created this cocktail!'” she said. “It’s really hard actually to come up with a balanced and interesting cocktail that can appeal to everyone.”
“We all pretty much start with an idea, like a flavor that you want to work with. Then there’s a book called ‘The Flavor Bible; which we use a lot around here and it will tell you every other flavor that goes really well what what you’re looking at.”
Bartenders tend to get ideas from that and begin to work from there.
“Sometimes you have to scrap the entire idea because it just won’t work,” Mallory said. “But then it is fun to sit around and have people give you feedback because they might taste something a little different.”
Moore’s efforts to craft a “Partridge in a Pear Tree” cocktail saw some changes.
“I started out with a completely different concept coming into this,” she said. “I wanted to do a white chocolate matcha drink. Everything I tried really didn’t work out.”
“I wanted to do a horchata drink last year but I didn’t feel confident enough to do it. So I decided to look it up this year and one of the first articles I pulled up was about a prickly pear horchata they serve in Oaxaca, Mexico which is the first place I ever traveled to out of the country.”
“I was sold that was the drink I wanted to make. I made a horchata with rice, water, cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and a little bit of almond, let it soak overnight, strained out all of the excess and it makes a really creamy rice cinnamon, super yummy drink.”
She’s pairing that concoction with a prickly pear cactus syrup.
“I found prickly pears at the east side Albertson’s and chopped them up, cooked them down into a syrup that made it a fluorescent bubblegum pink color,” Moore explained. “It’s gorgeous, tastes like very sweet cinnamon with a little bit of tang. I don’t even know, it is very wild. I has a little bit of mole bitters spiced honey. A lot of that cinnamon creaminess yuminess. It looks like an ornament just in time for the holidays.”
“It’s a pretty up-and-coming trend to use prickly pear because it’s got such a fluorescent pink color. It just makes drinks look so pretty and vibrant and gorgeous. I hope my horchata lives up to the test. It’s my first ever time making it so please be nice.”
Mallory crafted the “Five Golden Rings” cocktail this year.
“I got ‘Five Golden Rings’ and I went with all gold, yellow ingredients,” she said. “So I’ve got 307 Vodka, pineapple, spiced honey, lemon and egg white just for texture and then it’s got sparkly passionfruit flakes on top.”
“I picked the 307 Vodka because brown and gold, it’s the colors of the bottle and 307 is made from corn. Then I looked at the juices we had…did lemon and pineapple and I thought honey would count. And then I just found a bag, I don’t know what we were using for, of these passionfruit flakes. It’s kind of wild.”
Bartender Mary Sommers created a “modern twist on the classic White Russion” for her “Seven Swans of Swimming” assignment.
“What I did is I made a coffee liqueur with the Backwards Rum and then I infused the Ringleader Vodka with both cocoa and mint and then I added an egg white to the mix to shake it up and make it frothy on top,” she said. “I’m garnishing it with crushed up Andes mints.”
“I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve helped with making drinks at other jobs, but I’ve never been solely responsible for making my own cocktail.”
Bartender Matt Mellot has enjoyed working with colleagues on the cocktails.
“Everyboy is trying to come up with something creative,” he said. “It’s a lot more engaging when you have other people to bounce ideas off of constantly. You get someone to taste and say like, ‘Maybe we could to this. Maybe that’ll work. Maybe this will pair better.'”
“It just works a lot better in an environment where everyone is equally trying to be creative and bouncing ideas off of each other and it just makes the ideas kind of flow.”
Mellot created a Negroni-style drink featuring orange liqueur, an espresso tincture, Strongman Gin, orange bitters and bitter soda.
He originally tried to make an infusion, but instead shifted to the espresso tincture.
“The first infusion we did, the gin flavor was kind of getting lost even though you can still taste the alcohol, you just lost that little bit of flavor of what the Juniper adds to it,” Mellot said. “So I was going from there, creating different infusions until arriving at making it in a tincture. That way we can just add little by little dashes or drops so that way you can still have that roastiness from the coffee and keep the flavor of the orange as well.”
McGlade said that tasting each other’s drink is helpful.
“Each of us would make up like 10 different variants of our drink to try to figure out what we like best,” she said, adding that a few customers have also gotten to test the cocktails in experimental-stage. “It’s super helpful having everybody come in and try the drinks, to have the perspective of somebody who does not drink this very often.”
Moore says that what is needed in a great cocktail is a balance of flavors.
“You don’t want it to be too sweet, you don’t want it to be too alcohol forward,” she said. “You want to find that nice balance between like, yes, there’s alcohol in this but you can also taste every other flavor element whether it be a juice or a bitters or a syrup. You want to be able to taste everything and have it all mesh together perfectly because if it doesn’t it can be really bad.”
“I tried to do a drink with a soy sauce incorporation and it just did not work out. Went through a lot of soy sauce, not a lot of success.”
Mallory says that getting to see everyone’s process lets their personalities shine through.
“It’s really cool to see their personalities come out even in just the way they like to think about the cocktail and prepped for it all the way to the final product,” she said. “It’s super cool to go from an idea all the way to like glassware and garnish.”
“You have to come every day starting today until the 23rd if you want to taste all the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas.'”