Feb 9, 2024 - News

Savory drinks shake up Indy cocktail scene

A drink on a wood counter with ceramic mug

The Tokyo Godfathers at Kan-Kan Brasserie is served hot, made with sesame oil-washed rum, amaretto, white miso, butter and brown sugar. Photo: Arika Herron/Axios

It's getting easier to drink your dinner.

What's shaken (or stirred): Savory cocktails featuring ingredients more frequently seen on the food side of the menu — think dill, roasted vegetables, and pepper — are popping up on menus across Indy.

State of play: "Meal-flavored" drinks are having a moment. The New York Times and Time magazine named them a top food trend to watch in 2024.

What to expect: Umami-forward drinks featuring lots of herbs and vegetal notes, plus twists on more traditional food flavors.

  • Ball and Biscuit has a butternut squash shrub in one of its seasonal cocktails, while Nowhere Special's current cocktail menu incorporates celery, pickles, chiles and Flaming Hot Cheetos-infused vodka. At Bodhi, caramelized red onion-infused gin is paired with pear and olive oil.

Between the lines: The concept of a savory cocktail isn't new — martinis and Bloody Marys have been around for ages.

Yes, but: They're having a moment — fueled by cocktail lovers who are getting more adventurous and bartenders pushed to get more creative, said Kayleigh Rayburn, bar manager at 8th Day Distillery, where the seasonal menu has a drink made with nori-infused gin.

What they're saying: "What I'm seeing is people are just getting really inventive with flavors and people who are going out to bars are challenging their palates a little bit more," Rayburn said.

  • "Places are moving toward craft cocktails that use in-season and fresh ingredients," she said. "In summers you'll see a lot more fruit-forward or basil-based cocktails and in the fall and winter, you'll see a lot more savoriness coming out."

Zoom in: Local juggernaut Cunningham Restaurant Group opened its newest restaurant, Commission Row, with a whiskey drink featuring duck fat on its speakeasy menu.

  • Modita, the group's fusion spot at Bottleworks, serves cocktails with flavors of Thai chili and white pepper, while their northside stalwart Provision serves a tequila drink made with curry and carrot.
  • Plus: Fine dining spot Vida's drink menu has chiles, dill, peppercorn, mustard seed and mushrooms.

Meanwhile, Kan-Kan Brasserie's cocktail menu includes plum salt, umami bitters, brown butter and a hot toddy made with sesame oil-washed rum, amaretto, white miso, butter and brown sugar.

  • 💭 Arika's thought bubble: It smells of amaretto and still has a sweet note from the sugar, so it's a good first foray into savory drinks.
  • It's delicious and smooth with enough umami to taste totally original.
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