For this week’s Thirsty Thursday, AY About You sits down with Brendon Glidden, the beverage director at Fox Trail Distillery. Fox Trail has been open to the public since spring 2019, but the concept of the business as a whole had been in the works for many years. With an array of craft beer and spirits, Fox Trail Distillery makes for a great addition to the community in Rogers.
The distillery currently has a summer cocktail menu that has been running since April and will continue through mid-September.
Glidden is excited about the opportunities that the menu presents.
“It’s a really fun menu that I’m really excited about, with a lot of familiar classics, and some unfamiliar ones, utilizing our spirits,” he says. “There are also a number of original cocktails that have some familiar elements. All across this menu, you can find unique flavors, ingredients and processes. Refreshing summery drinks heavily featuring some of our newest products.”
Glidden shares that with the diverse drink selection, there’s something for everyone.
Blue Suede is a drink that utilizes bourbon finished in scotch whiskey barrels, as well as fresh blueberries, paired with lemon and smoked vanilla bean, and a syrup made from toasted rice in an homage to the state’s exports.
This mixture is then garnished with a house-made blueberry fruit leather. Glidden also uses atomizers in drinks like this one, which allows for the aroma profile of a smokey scent on top without altering the flavor of the drink, stimulating all of your senses.
Glidden shares that he has a personal affinity for the gin and tonics, which got him into cocktails.
“It can be a lot of things, but it’s always familiar,” he says.
One of Fox Trail Distillery’s mainstays is called the Stereo G&T. Glidden makes the tonic from scratch at the distillery catered to the flavor profile of the distillery’s gin. The flavor profile is based on a nerdy chemistry idea of stereoisomers. The chemical compound responsible for the smell of the spearmint is a mirror of the chemical compound for caraway. This means that their structures make a very good pairing. Ginger, grapefruit and rose are highlighted and played up in this tonic, as well as the duality of masculine and feminine aromas. These flavors support the spearmint and caraway, creating an array of more masculine and feminine flavors.
“I have a replica of fresh lime juice that I’ve created from scratch with all of the same sensory components of lime juice, and the result is crystal clear and the flavor is very consistent over time, as opposed to fresh lime juice which degrades very quickly,” Glidden says. “The replica is called ‘sub—lime,’ and the ingredients are put in a glass chiller that cools to a specific temperature between that of a freezer and a refrigerator. Because of the alcohol content, we’re able to make it super cold without it freezing. Then I top it off with soda water. I downplay the drink on the menu so that when you receive it it’s a lot more special than expected.”
The Slow Burn itself is a relatively simple reference to a classic cocktail called a Corpse Reviver No. 2, typically made with gin and aperitif wine, orange liqueur, lemon juice and a touch of absinthe.
“For the Slow Burn, the only element we’ve changed is absinthe replaced with fresh serrano tincture. An ingredient that we draw attention to in this drink is something we call spicy ice,” Glidden explains. “It’s flavored ice that is pretty labor-intensive. This ice is made from cold-pressed green bell pepper juice, blended serrano peppers, an ancho chili liquor, local honey, as well as cold-pressed ginger, and a little bit of salt that all goes into the ice cubes. As the ice cube melts, the drink gets spicier and a little sweeter. It transforms into a totally different drink — time is one of the ingredients here. The drink starts as a pale straw color and becomes greener over time. We utilize this concept of flavored ice and can essentially have two different drinks represented here. The two verge and transform each other over time, allowing for a multiple-drink experience in one glass.”
The Full Circle is a drink that is a long time in the making.
“We can’t re-use a bourbon barrel anymore after we harvest the bourbon, but it can be used for other spirits or sold to other beverage producers,” Glidden details. “Once we’ve harvested the bourbon, we gave the barrels to a local brewery, Natural State Beer Company. They age a dark beer called a Schwartzbier in the barrel for several months, then they give the barrel back to us. Then we put bourbon back into the barrel using the beer left behind as a seasoning. So now we have a beer barrel finished bourbon — hence the name of the drink. That’s the base. I wanted to utilize the beer itself as an ingredient in a cocktail, looking at a classic Old Fashioned which consists of a spirit base with a sweet component, bitter component, and some dilution. I wanted to get the balance right and find the most intentional ratio of whiskey to beer, so I can get away with calling it an Old Fashioned. The two are mixed in a thoughtful ratio with a touch of brown sugar syrup. The drink is very rich, spicy and malt-forward.”
The Smash refers to a category of cocktails, but this one is non-alcoholic.
“What we’ve done is made a non-alcoholic gin based on the flavor profile of Artanical Gin and replicated the experience of drinking it without alcohol, creating the same texture and balance of all the botanicals. There are over a dozen ingredients in this, and we call it Zero Gin since it’s non-alcoholic. Zero is also an homage to a notable cocktail book that inspired this recipe,” Glidden says. This “spirit” is tailored to recreate the perfumed gin produced in the distillery with rose water, grapefruit, elderberry, cinnamon and ginger, creating a delicious, thoughtful, non-alcoholic base.
“As a bar manager, I think it’s important to have something for everyone whether they want to or can drink alcohol,” Glidden asserts. “All reasons are valid that someone might not want alcohol, and these people should not have a lesser experience when they come into a bar with family and friends. It’s like when a vegan person goes into a restaurant. I didn’t want anyone to have a lesser version of a drink, I wanted to have ones that are specifically designed for these customers. This drink, in particular, is a base of the Zero gin with fresh berries and citrus, yielding a delicious and complex cocktail experience.”
Glidden says that you have to be knowledgeable about ingredients, profiles and drinks in order to make colorful drinks like these. He advises the creation of a unique drink menu.
“A complicated drink with a story is great, but the drink shouldn’t lean on a thorough explanation to be enjoyed,” Glidden shares. He wants to make sure that Fox Trail’s drinks are delicious and special without having to hear why they’re special. And given the wide array of colorful beverages, Glidden and Fox Trail have accomplished just that.
Thirsty? Be sure to visit Fox Trail Distillery’s website for more information.
Photos courtesy Fox Trail Distillery.