Recently, I had an odd confluence of invites to an event. You see, it’s not every day when I get notices of a special event from (a) the mailing list of the Tamworth Lyceum, a small NH events center (b) the mailing list of a local distillery, (c) a notice from a mixologist I follow on twitter, the “Cocktail Whisperer” and (d) a specific mention of the event by Klaus the Soused Gnome. I figured that the confluence was a sign that I simply had to attend the event: an evening of cocktails at the Corner House Inn in Center Samdwich, NH, hosted by the Tamworth Lyceum and Art in the Age distilled spirits. Despite the rather remote (for us) location, we decided to make a day of it, check out some sights around Lake Winnipesaukee, and end up at what’s basically a pleasant country tavern in the quiet back roads of rural NH.
I’m usually a bit reluctant to review a place that I’ve only attended for a special event, since special events usually don’t show what a normal visit to a place is like (and often, especially for holidays, show places when they don’t have their A game). But this particular event was so remarkably, well, awesome, that it required a writeup.
The concept was simple: a four course tasting menu, with each course paired with a custom cocktail. But therein lies the secret: these weren’t your regular cocktails, but custom-crafted concoctions made by Warren Bobrow, author of Apothecary Cocktails, and featuring high-end ingredients, hand-chipped block ice, unusual infusions, and, bitters. Indeed, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another collection of bitters as extensive as that brought by Warren (and that includes visits to such well-stocked stores as Boston Shaker in Somerville, MA). All available for tasting and customization of your cocktails.
The event was off to a solid start right away, with us arriving in the dining room to Warren chipping away at a block of ice and making Root and Ryes: a pleasant cocktail based upon Knob Creek Rye and Root, an herbal-infused neutral spirit with a taste similar to root beer (sassafras, birch, and other botanicals), with a splash of ginger beer. Topped with a few drops of Abbott’s Bitters from the “Extinct Chemical Company”, and this was a wonderful herbal cocktail, and paired with a small chorizo and asparagus pigs-in-a-blanket appetizer, this was a great opening note.
Next up was the Thai Basil fizz. This was an intriguingly effervescent cocktail. The primary ingredients were Squamscot Birch Beer, Sage-infused Vodka from Art in the Age, fresh Thai basil, and some Thai bitters. This was probably my favorite cocktail of the night, combining one of my favorite herbals (Birch) with sage in a pleasant manner, with the basil adding a nice note.
This, in turn, was nicely accompanied by a nice bowl of steamed clams and mussels, served up in a rich Thai lemongrass broth. The mussels and clams were nicely done, and, most importantly, this combined very nicely with accompanying Thai basil fizz.
This was followed with the intriguing pairing of a turkey pot pie served up with a Mead refresher. The turkey pot pie was pleasant: with a rich turkey-stew like interior and a flaky top coat. The mead refresher, a combination of mead (from local producer Sap Hill Meadery), fresh lemonade, bitters, and a bit of seltzer. This was both delicious, and a very pleasant matchup.
The final course was dessert: an English-style trifle, paired up with hot buttered rum (with actual butter). The latter was made with black tea, brown sugar, Cruzan aged rum, and a healthy dollop of fresh butter. This was a nice way to warm up a cold winter evening, and a delicious finish to a pleasant meal.
It wasn’t just about the cocktails, either: two other local producers brought their wares to the dinner: the above-mentioned Sap House Meadery, and Caledonia Spirits (indeed, we were the odd ones in the guest list, in that a large fraction of attendees were associated with one part of the beverage industry or another). Both were also gracious enough to bring several of their own products for sampling, including a most excellent, not-yet-on-the-market, barrel-aged genever-style gin from Caledonia, that I’m really looking forward to having show up at my local spirits shop.
As an aside, any recommendations for Chesapeake Bay bitters? I managed to score a bottle due to Warren’s generosity.
Overall, this was an outstanding evening. The food was good. The company interesting. And the cocktails outstanding. I need to return to Corner House to try their regular menu, and will keep an eye on their special events calendar as well.