This article appeared in the Winter 2007 issue of Texoma Living!.
When people ask Barbara Akin what she does for a living, she asks them if they have ever been to a restaurant and seen one of those brightly colored drink menus with pictures of exotic libations. “That’s what I do,” she tells them. Barbara Akin is a beverage consultant.
She started as a bartender at the popular T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant chain in Dallas while she was going to school. When her young son started kindergarten, she decided she needed a job with regular hours, so she applied for a position at Friday’s corporate office in Big D.
Cut to the chase. After a winding trip through the management maze of the huge restaurant business, she found a home in the beverage department, where she reached the number two position in the chain of command. “The beverage department is responsible for purchasing, implementing, pricing—everything,” Akin said. “It’s a big job, an even bigger job as we also handled the business internationally.”
One of her responsibilities was the development of new drinks. Consider it an exercise in good cheer chemistry with a kick at the end of the experiment.
Akin’s boss at Friday’s, David Commer, left the company to start Commer Beverage Consulting based in Carrollton, Texas. When he got things up and going, he asked Akin to join him. She was living in Pottsboro then, raising a family, but the job was just too good to pass up. Cocktails are making a big comeback in the food and dining business, not only with new drinks, but with old standards given a new turn.
The Rosemary Cosmopolitan is a good example of this approach. Pomegranate replaces the cranberry of a typical Cosmopolitan, and a sprig of rosemary adds new fragrance and flavor. The popular Latin American drink, the Mojito made with rum, fresh lime and mint, is continually evolving, with new flavor combinations such as strawberry-mango and even pear with spicy pineapple chipotle.
Akin does most of her work from home, turning her kitchen into a laboratory of sorts where she concocts new drinks for the company’s clients. Those clients may be restaurants, or they may be distillers looking for a way to introduce a new product. One of the drinks served at the Texoma Living! New Year’s Eve Party grew out of the latter need. It is called Chocolate Covered Blueberi.
“We just start putting ideas together,” said Akin. “We think in terms of flavors that go together and what other kinds of drinks are popular. Actually, that idea started with Kahlúa,” she said, “Kahlúa French Vanilla. It’s still got a little bit of chocolate flavor, and I guess I thought of chocolate covered blueberries. Blueberries led to Stoli Blueberi Vodka.”
Kahlúa French Vanilla, Stoli Blueberi Vodka—humm, that sounds promising. When you add half-and-half you have a creamy smooth offering that is more than promising – it is spectacular.
Rangpur Blue Apple
-1½ oz. Rangpur Gin
-¾ oz. sour apple liqueur dash blue Curaçao liqueur
-1 oz. fresh lemon sour
Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and fill 2/3 with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass.* Garnish with a twist of lemon or a thin slice of green apple on top of the drink.
-1½ oz. Imperia Vodka
-½ oz. Cointreau
-½ oz. Monin Pomegranate Syrup juice of 2 lime wedges (1/6 of a lime each)
Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and fill 2/3 with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled martini glass.* Garnish with a 4” sprig of rosemary; swirl the rosemary in the glass and leave in.
Zen & Zang
-3 cucumber slices
-1¼ oz. Zen Green Tea Liqueur
-¾ oz. SKYY Melon Vodka juice of 3 lime wedges (1/6 of a lime each)
-½ oz. simple syrup
-5 drops Asian hot chili sauce
Muddle the 2 cucumber slices in the bottom of the cocktail shaker.** Pour remaining ingredients, except Sprite, into the shaker and fill 2/3 with ice.
Shake vigorously and strain into a 14 oz. glass with crushed ice. Top with a splash of Sprite. For garnish that you can dip into the drink and enjoy, roll the edge of a thick slice of cucumber in red pepper flakes. Nibble carefully, it’s hot.
1800 Midori Rita
-1¼ oz. Sauza Tres Blanco,
-100% Blue Agave Tequila
-¾ oz. Midori melon liqueur
-3 oz. fresh sour mix
Salt the rim of a 14 oz. glass and fill with ice. Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker and fill 2/3 with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into the glass. Garnish with a lime wedge (1/6 of a lime) or squeeze into the drink for an extra burst of fresh lime.
La Poire Spicy Pineapple Mojito
-juice of 3 lime wedges (1/6 of a lime each)
-6 fresh mint leaves
-½ oz. Monin Pineapple Chipolte Syrup
-1½ oz. Grey Goose La Poire
-¾ oz. simple syrup
-1 oz. club soda
Pour all ingredients except soda into a cocktail shaker and fill 2/3 with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a 14 oz. glass with ice. Top with soda. Garnish with a twist of lime and a festive pineapple leaf skewered around a fresh pineapple cube.
Woodford Peach Old Fashioned
-1¼ oz. Woodford Reserve bourbon
-¾ oz. peach schnapps
-¾ oz. fresh sour mix
-Top with 2-3 dashes of Angostura bitters
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker, except Angostura bitters, and fill 2/3 with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a highball or old fashioned glass with ice. Top with Angostura bitters. Serve with a frozen peach slice and a cherry floating in the drink.
Chocolate Covered Blueberi
-1 oz. Kahlúa French Vanilla
-1 oz. Stoli Blueberi
-¾ oz. half & half
Rim a chilled martini glass with cocoa powder. Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker and fill 2/3 with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into the martini glass. Serve with 3 frozen blueberries floating in the drink.
*To chill martini glass, fill it with ice and let it sit until it forms a good condensation, and then pour the ice out.
**To muddle, take a muddler and press the cucumber to break it up into pieces, extracting the flavorful juice. In lieu of a muddler, use mortar and pestle, or the butt end of a large spoon, or a lemon reamer.