About three years ago, Stone Hill Kitchen and Bar Head Chef Earl Reynolds started experimenting with cocktails, making drinks with ingredients like celery juice and other unusual combinations.
“When COVID hit, I especially started exploring and seeing what I was capable of dreaming up and trying out-of-the-box cocktails,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds has been working with Stone Hill’s wine director, Shyamali Malakar, to form an eclectic drinks menu at the Bigfork restaurant with six alcoholic cocktails and three to four nonalcoholic mocktails that rotate every three to four months.
Combining fresh carrot juice, roasted golden raisin and cinnamon simple syrups and Spotted Bear Spirits vodka topped with carrot garnish and nutmeg, Reynolds created the Carrot Cake cocktail. To top off the sweet drink, bartender Robert Denison handcrafts a carrot garnish that rests on the egg-flipped froth.
During his downtime at the bar, Denison experiments with a variety of garnishes with help from YouTube, repurposing cucumbers, herb leaves and other fruits.
“He’s just breathing life into old school garnishes,” Reynolds said.
Denison recently formulated his own cocktail, which is tentatively called the Plum Diggity, and is made with Hudson Whiskey, cherry nectar and a shrub made from a hybrid of plums and apricot called a pluot.
Denison tops the gin based Shiso Smash cocktail with a shiso leaf, a Japanese herb similar to basil, and is a tweaked version of the classic Basil Smash. The unique drinks illustrate Stone Hill’s philosophy of fresh ingredients with different flavors.
“We like to challenge what people’s expectations are with how ingredients are used in different flavor combinations,” general manager Stephanie Meyers said. “Using shiso in a drink is unusual and a lot of people ask what it is and it’s an opportunity to talk about it and educate people and introduce them to new flavors.”
In addition to cocktails, the restaurant launched a mocktail menu in January to coincide with Dry January, a common New Year’s resolution where some abstain from alcohol for the first month of the year.
“We’ve wanted to do a dedicated mocktail program for a while and January is dry for some people who do that New Year’s resolution,” Meyers said. “If you’ve chosen to have something nonalcoholic, you should still be able to get something that’s very tasty. We have a variety of flavor profiles for someone who wants something sweet or savory.”
The Huckleberry Spiced Soda uses Montana’s staple wild berry combined with fresh lemon juice, club soda and Abstinence Spirits, a nonalcoholic line of botanical mixers that use flavors like juniper, geranium, coriander and lemon.
“It’s really simple, clean and crisp,” Meyers said.