Zachary Blair is the Head Barkeep and Beverage Supervisor at KANU LOUNGE at the award-winning Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York. Recognized as a top mixologist of NY, Zachary turns to the current seasons and the resort’s environment when creating his cocktails, which have been featured in USA Today, Cigar Aficionado, and Cheers among other publications. He has also been a featured mixologist in Chilled and head judge at Barred: The Adirondack Bartenders Challenge.
What cocktail trends are currently shaking up the Upstate NY bar scene?
In Upstate NY cocktails that are always trending tend to be made with our fresh local ingredients. An apple martini isn’t just an apple martini until it’s made with Rulfs Orchard Granny Smith or Macintosh apples. Sourcing flavors is as easy as walking out the back door to our chef’s garden, or walking through a field to pick a handful of lavender. The Adirondacks are full of flavors from birch, maple and evergreen to nuts and berries. On any given night it’s easy to find a roaring campfire, so using smoke in cocktails always brings a new flavor to a drink. I use a lot of smoked cinnamon, nutmeg and clove in cocktail juices, syrups, and as an aromatic by filling the glass with smoke. Also, coming into winter we were always taught to can and use “root” cellars to preserve your summer/fall fruits and veggies. So using canning methodd to preserve is also a great way to pull flavors out of season.
You’ve been noted for putting azure-colored cocktails back on the map, what can you tell us about the revival of 1980s favorite, Blue Curaçao?
I use it because it’s a cool color. When I play my bespoke style game at the bar a question I throw in what color do you want the drink and blues purples and greens are all answers that I hear a lot. The Orange flavored blue liquid is a great way to catch the eye and ask “What the hell is that?” or “oh that’s pretty” and I always believe that a drink is sold by the way it looks. I can sell anybody a drink by showing them a picture of it without them knowing the ingredients.
And finally, what’s one of your signature fall cocktails and why?
Sherman’s Bow is one of my favorite cocktails to make and tastes like fall. It’s warming with hints of fresh fruit, but also slightly bitter with a little hit of Thanksgiving flavors like nutmeg, cinnamon and apple. This drink looks dark and thick but it is actually light and bubbly.
5 muddled Blackberries
2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
1 oz. *Evergreen Simple
*white tips of evergreens picked in the spring make a great simple
1 Rosemary Sprig
Muddle above ingredients
2 oz. Singani 63
Shake/double strain in coupe
Top with Sparkling Cider
Garnish with Blackberries and Rosemary Sprig