Food is wonderful, but old food is better. Not old in the sense of refrigerated cheese of questionable origin, but old in the unattainable, just out of reach allure of time’s fleeting passage. Pre-McRib release old. Original formula Coca-Cola, now with real cocaine. Hershey’s candy bars before chocolate flavoring became the norm. It seems that the foods of yore, simply because they’re no longer around, are so much more desired than what’s in front of us. The same could be said for cocktails, but like classic Jell-O salad recipes, many of them have simply faded away with the times. At Stockade Tavern in Kingston, NY, they’re preserving the essence of these vintage cocktails with a selection of curious drinks spanning over a century’s worth of red cheeks and stumbling, from 1806 to 1938. We checked it out last night with some friends and reported our drunken findings.
With a beautiful pressed tin ceiling and a friendly Standard Poodle greeting visitors, we made our way in. The Stockade boasts a selection of crazy drinks, all pre-World War I libations with funky ingredients and even funkier names. We ordered a selection of drinks, as well as a few sweet nibbles after dinner. Special cravings for the next time around included a Guadalajara, which I’d be ordering to work up the nerve to ask my girlfriend if I could take her down to Mexico- tequila, Fernet-Branca, agave syrup, mole bitters, and orange oil, or the Pink Stag, with horseradish vodka and tomato water forming a more masculine, nastier Bloody Mary. Regardless of the era of these drinks, they will really, really, really fuck you up. Honest to god.
We sampled four of these, two from the classic cocktail section and two from the vintage cocktails. Keepitcoming Love tried The Aqueduct, an original invention with vodka, Cointreau, apricot brandy, and lime juice. While booze heavy, it was tasty, but not incredibly lifechanging or mood-altering one way or another. We were hoping it would have more influence from the apricot, but mainly tasted sweet and tart from the lime juice and vaguely citrusy. Our friend D had a classic Mai Tai. One of the tastiest I’ve had, mainly because it was potently strong with a killer bite.
Our vintage cocktails were quite well-prepared, not that we’d tried any to compare it to. I tried their singular egg white cocktail, a Ramos Gin Fizz, from 1888, with a slew of ingredients practically designed to make it easy on the palate. With Beefeater Gin, cream, lemon and lime juice, egg white, orange flower water, and simple syrup, I expected it to be the adult equivalent of a milkshake. It was lighter than I expected, with a frothy texture from the egg white and a feminine set of flavors that I imagined set many a young lady giggling in days of yore, but unfortunately was bogged down with the rich dairy ingredients, masking the floral and citrusy flavors. Our last vintage selection was the Pendennis, from 1883, similar to the Aqueduct in that it utilized apricot brandy and lime juice, but swapped out the vodka for gin and the Cointreau for Peychaud’s bitters. This combination worked in its favor, and the sweet dried stonefruit flavors were much more prominent and deep in the cocktail, aided by the spices in the gin with a natural sweetness. Very seductive.
We nibbled on a few nightly specials, including a grilled apple cider doughnut and a bowl of dark chocolate covered Corn Nuts with jalapeno dust, an addictive bar peanut alternative for sweet teeth. The doughnut wasn’t really affected by the grilling. Its sweet, sugary interior maintained its flavor and didn’t absorb as much smoke as we’d originally anticipated. The outside was crispy and had a nice char from the grilling, but just seized up with a tough crustiness rather than taking on any woodsy or smoky flavors. Still delicious, and it sopped up all the booze we’d been drinking!
The other snack we had blew the standard pub mix right out of the water. Never again will I chomp stale miniature pretzels or salty peanuts again. These corn nuts were covered in dark chocolate and jalapeno dust, a tasty coating that added a bit of sweetness to the corn nut pieces. Unfortunately, the jalapeno dust was merely another layer of salt to contend with, and imparted absolutely no heat even when eaten in succession. The eating multiple corn nuts in a row was purely for experimental purposes, of course. While heat, sweet, and salt would have been ideal, they were quite tasty on their own. It’s a pleasant surprise to see a mignardises-style munchie with a cocktail, and it would be fun to see if there were other flavors to pair together. Candied pieces of jalapeno come to mind as a good snack, as do pieces of sweet candied bacon. Mmm. I wonder if there are any vintage bar snacks that have come and gone with the times? Something I’d be curious to find out. Overall, the drinks and food were more hit or miss than utter bliss, but it was better than a regular bar and made Beefeater fun again.