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A few months ago Aces on First welcomed new owners. One of those owners, Chaz Latson, was behind the bar when a few friends and I came in for a drink. As we would soon discover, we did not just have any old cocktail, we had an experience.
Latson moved to Duluth eight years ago for school and graduated from UMD with a geology degree. “Yeah, really good for owning a bar,” he joked. He and his partner Cade Grover had been bartending for a few years. Latson said it no longer made sense for them to work for anyone else, so they bought their own bar.
“It’s been a wild ride,” said Latson. “It happened really fast. It’s been really fun and challenging endeavor. Also really rewarding.”
The Smoked Manhattan is their way of taking the Manhattan cocktail up a few notches. It starts with buffalo trace bourbon, vermouth, a few dashes of bitters and “a secret ingredient I cannot tell you,” Latson said. He put some hickory wood chips into a smoker and set them on fire. The smoke moved into a decanter with the alcohol to blend in and give a smoky flavor. It is then poured directly over ice, garnished with a maraschino cherry and flared orange rind. The whole bar smells amazing after one of these is made.
How is it?
Here are some sample reactions from those I shared this drink with:
“It tastes like Christmas.”
“Like a bonfire in the middle of September. It’s toasty, and cinnamon-y.”
“It tastes complicated.”
The initial taste is somewhat sweet but the aftertaste is smoky and bitter. The hickory wood chips add a very noticeable flavor to the drink that I enjoyed quite a bit even if bourbon is not typically my drink of choice. This is definitely a drink to get for someone you want to impress, or when you want to treat yourself to the highest class of cocktails Duluth has to offer.
Cassandra and Will Bengston contributed to drinking this cocktail with me