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Texas Brandy

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Fritts: the new face at Dorćol

Eric Fritts ( Dorćol Distilling + Brewing Co., Chavis Barron )

Eric Fritts (Dorćol Distilling + Brewing Co., Chavis Barron)

On the cusp of celebrating our fifth anniversary, Dorćol Distilling + Brewing Company has added a new face to the award-winning bar program. Starting today, Eric Fritts (just call him Fritts) is the team’s newest barman. Joining us from Paramour, he will run day-to-day operations at the South Flores tasting room and lead the creative direction for the spot’s robust cocktail menu. The Connecticut native has worked in the San Antonio bar scene for years. He got his start in scrappy dive bars and eventually worked his way into respected craft cocktails joints, learning the ins and outs of the craft. Aside from slinging cocktails and pouring beers, he’ll be helping to grow the Kinsman and HighWheel brands as a Brand Ambassador.

As a previous barkeep familiar with Dorćol from the start, I sat down with Fritts to chat about his new role at Dorćol, thoughts on the craft beer scene, and his take on using our award-winning apricot brandy. Let’s see what's in store:

Barmen usually have several base spirits to work with when slinging cocktails. What are your thoughts now that you only get to use one?

It’s exciting. I like that we feature just one spirit because I know the goal of every drink. Every cocktail that comes from behind this bar will feature Kinsman and feature it well.

How would you describe Kinsman’s versatility?

It’s only going to add to a cocktail and never take away anything from it. You can use it in a variety of cocktails and it’s going to compliment and accentuate the drink. As the main feature of a cocktail, you can’t go wrong. Kinsman is always going to make whatever you're concocting better. I like that it’s apricot based, which is something you don’t see everyday. I like that it’s unique and there’s nothing else out there like it. A spirit can be iconic because of the story it was inspired from. This spirit has a great family history and it’s part of what makes it special.

As the creative force behind the bar, what are your plans for the cocktail program?

I’m excited to come in and work to develop my own drinks and use such a great spirit while doing it. I want to develop different syrups, shrubs, and tinctures to compliment the brandy and not overwhelm it. I’ve worked with so many great mentors. I’m ready to take what I’ve learned and really create something special. But really, I want to help further establish and grow the identity of our brands.

What are your thoughts on HighWheel’s place in the craft beer scene?

There’s so much more to craft beer than hoppy IPAs and artificial flavorings. I think most breweries don’t get that. IPAs are great, I personally love the one we have, but you don’t need nine of them. I love that we take it back to the beginning, embracing the classic styles. It’s handcrafted beer, but it’s not pretentious, it’s not excessive flavors for the sake of excessive flavors. It’s just really good beer.

Aside from the gig behind the bar, what else excites you about this opportunity?

I’m excited to experience the entire process, both spirits and beer, getting out from behind the bar and help grow a brand beyond the tasting room. I’ve been behind the bar for six years and now it’s exciting to have the opportunity to sell beer and spirits in another way. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about, so I’m ready to learn everything from production, to sales, to consumption.

What can people expect with you behind the bar?

I always want to make sure you’re going to have a good time. That’s the whole point. You’re coming here to relax and enjoy yourself. Every time I get back here I’m ready to have fun. This is my passion. I enjoy this. I want to make drinks people will really enjoy and develop a relationship with them over time. I want to be their bartender.

Describe your approach to cocktail making?

It’s versatile and quick. I like to adapt to each guest and make sure I give them what they are looking for.

How would you describe Dorćol to someone who hasn’t visited?

You have to know it to find it. There’s relaxed identity here. The whole place has this cool industrial feel that’s refined, but not pretentious. It exemplifies the spirit it was inspired by. We are makers of the world's highest-rated brandy, that needs to be shared. 

Where does brandy fit into the craft cocktail scene?

Brandy is one of the oldest spirits and it's starting to re-emerge in its own niche. Not many people know brandy was America's original spirit, long before whiskey and vodka, so it’s going to take a little education, but that’s part of the fun. We’re bringing something different to the table and that changes things.

 

by Valentino Lucio

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Kinsman Rakia 2017 Brandy Alexander Tour: Signature

2017 Brandy Alexander Tour: Signature

2017 Brandy Alexander Tour: Signature

Signature's take on this classic dessert cocktail is equal parts culinary creativity and bar execution. Chef Andrew Weissman's bar team built this libation to be a perfect after meal addition, with a balanced build and a rich mouth-feel.

 

SIGNATURE // CREMOSA

1 oz. Kinsman Rakia

1 oz. crème de cacao

1 oz. heavy whipping cream

Combine ingredients in a tin over ice. Shake. Double strain into a coup. Top the cocktail with house-made whipped cream made by combining and "dry" shaking in a tin heavy whipping cream and simple syrup. Pour over cocktail, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg. 

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Farm Feast at Dorcol (Spring 2017)

Our goal is to scour the world for greatest ingredients possible. From the fruit we distill, to the yeast we ferment with, each is native to its style and brewing or distilling region.

So when we hooked up with Chefs John and Elise Russ, Truckin' Tomato, and Texas farmers, ranchers and purveyors of dry goods, we knew damn well we'd be in for a culinary farm-to-table treat; a true Farm Feast! 

If you think you'd enjoy joining us, be sure to sign up to receive invites for future events!

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Behind the bar with Olaf Harmel

 

When Olaf Harmel arrived to San Antonio, he got here at a time when the craft cocktail revival was in its infancy. All these years later, the longtime barman is gearing up to relocate from his modest upstairs bar at Bluebox to Brigid, a modern American restaurant expected to open soon in Southtown, where Harmel will run a more culinary-driven cocktail menu. At the bar, Harmel said he wants to circulate spirits regularly to accommodate the always-changing food menu. Still, the one bottle he always wants to have on hand is Kinsman Rakia. 

How did you get into bartending? 

I didn't do it intentionally. A friend of mine opened a bar in Corpus Christi and I helped run the bar for awhile. But I needed to learn how to bartend. So I read a lot and applied myself. When I came to San Antonio I had to be full on focused. You can't be a bar manager without knowing how to bartend. 

What makes Kinsman Rakia an interesting spirit to use in cocktails? 

It's one of those spirits that elevates people. It's just so unique that it broadens people's drinking perspective. It has a unique flavor and texture but still has some heat to it. I love products that have a full-flavor profile. As a bartender I enjoy being in a position of introducing people to new things they haven't had before. 

What ingredients play well with the spirit? 

Gin, citrus go well with it. Raspberries, plums, grapefruit, mandarin, ginger. It blends really well with almonds, basil, pretty much anything that goes well with apricots. Just a small amount of Kinsman will enhance the cocktail. It's very supple. It's a year-round spirit you can use to make refreshing, luscious cocktails. 

Photos by Sara Ellis/Dorćol Distilling Company

Sunshine Daydream

1 1/4 ounces Kinsman Rakia

1/4 ounce apricot liqueur

1/4 ounce Amaretto

1 ounce cranberry juice

1/4 ounce lemon juice

Peach, quartered

Instructions: Lightly muddle peach quarter in the bottom of a rocks glass. Set aside. Assemble remaining ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake. Strain cocktail into the rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with peach slices and blackberry. 

Cocktail by Olaf Harmel of Blue Box

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Behind the bar with Don Marsh

 

Don Marsh is one of San Antonio's well-versed and creative barmen. Over the past two decades, Marsh has worked his way from an aspiring bartender at Bennigan's  to becoming the proprietor of Bar 1919. The San Antonio native was at the forefront of the craft cocktail renaissance, educating tipplers at time when they couldn't tell the difference between a Negroni and an Old Fashioned. Visit his South Town haunt and you'll quickly see his love for whiskey. Still, always behind the bar is Kinsman Rakia, one of the few Texas-made spirits he has on hand. 

How'd you get into bartending? 

One of my best friends who worked at Chili's told me that they were looking for people to wait tables at Bennigan's. I eventually was promoted to bartending. I just started studying. I sucked. I was horrible. They say you learn the most when you get thrown to the wolves. Back then Bennigan's would get packed as shit. I would get my ass kicked. One day I was by myself because they thought I was good enough to do it and I wasn't. This guy orders a Dewars White Label 10 Year and soda. So I'm looking for this bottle and I couldn't find it. So I grabbed some bottle of scotch and poured it fast and put some soda in it and handed it to the guy. He looked at me, pays his tab, shook his head and walked off. I was so embarrassed. I'm extremely competitive so I went out and bought the Bartender's Bible by Gary Regan. It was the very first cocktail book I ever bought and it's still behind this bar. It changed my life. It got me started.

What makes Kinsman an interesting spirit to use in cocktails? 

I love it. It's a great spirit. We use it and it's a spirit we like to play around with. I think it's well made and if it wasn't I wouldn't use it.

What ingredients play well with the spirit? 

Juices, lemon go very well with it. You can do riffs on Aviations, Sidecars. It plays well with cordials. I like to use it with spice: ginger syrups, habaneros, serranos. We like to offset the sweetness in the brandy. We talk about the spice and the bitters, which help make the drink more approachable. 

Photos by Sara Ellis/Dorćol Distilling Company

River Romance

1 1/2 ounces Kinsman Rakia

1/2 ounce orange liqueur

1/4 ounce Maraschino liqueur

1/2 ounce lemon juice

2-3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Instructions: Assemble ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake. Double strain into the cocktail glass rimmed with sugar and garnish with a lemon zest.

Cocktail by Don Marsh of Bar 1919

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NYC-based culinary website gives nod to San Antonio's Kinsman Rakia

Via Tasting Table

Via Tasting Table

In 2013, Dorćol Distilling Co. introduced the South Side of San Antonio and the Lone Star State to a spirit with roots half a world away in the farms of Eastern Europe. 

Nearly two years later, Kinsman Rakia has become one of the premier spirits made in Texas. Sure the apricot brandy is unfamiliar to many folks but once they try it they find it has more body and depth than vodka while displaying all the complexity found in whiskey and gin. 

Last week, Tasting Table, a culinary website based in New York City, mentioned Dorćol's Kinsman Rakia in an article that looked at a handful of other U.S.-made spirits with roots from all over the word. After dinner, before dinner or whenever, at Dorćol we craft a traditional, old-world spirit for us all to enjoy. 

Here's what Kara Newman, spirits editor for Wine Enthusiast and New York-based writer, had to say about our award-winning brandy in her post: 

Kinsman Rakia: San Antonio, Texas
This small-batch apricot brandy is made by Dorćol Distillery; co-owner Boyan Kalusevic grew up in Serbia, where the spirit is sometimes referred to as "Serbian moonshine." This Lone Star version mingles stone fruit with almond for an after-dinner sipper that's nothing like firewater.

After dinner, before dinner or whenever, at Dorćol we craft a traditional, old-world spirit for us all to enjoy. 

Cheers. 

Valentino 

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American craft distillers embracing brandy

When we tell people we make brandy at the distillery, we often get looks of utter confusion. I certainly don't blame people, they're just not familiar with the spirit.

Over the years, whiskey, vodka and gin dominated the craft spirits landscape. That's nothing new. But American craft distillers, including us at Dorćol, are making a strong case for brandy. 

If you haven't seen it yet, Imbibe magazine just published a great story about American brandy, titled "Out of the dark: American brandy emerges from Europe's shadow." In the piece, author Max Watman looks at the history of the spirit and chats with craft distillers across the nation about brandy's future. And just as we are, distillers are deeply enthusiastic. 

"Brandy is the last undiscovered American drink,” Joe Heron, founder of Copper & Kings Distillery in Kentucky, said in the article.  

For starters, brandy is a spirit made from fruit including grapes, apples, pears, plums and apricots. Eau-de-vie is the French term for brandy while rakia (rakija) is the Balkan term for the spirit. Cognac and Armagnac are grape brandies named  for their specific regions of origin in France.

At Dorćol, we make Kinsman Rakia, an award-winning apricot brandy that's double distilled and unaged, giving the spirit big bursts of apricot and tropical fruit on the front, with a dry, slightly spicy finish. Kinsman's clean flavor makes the spirit extremely versatile. Heck, at the distillery's bar, we have a menu of more than 30 classic cocktails where Kinsman is used as the base spirit. 

And things don't end there. We've jump started our barrel-aging program and it's already smelling delicious. There's no timeline on a release but stay tuned to see what we have in store. 

Big props to Imbibe for giving brandy some love. While they believe brandy is the next best thing to happen in the craft spirits industry, we believe it's already here!

Cheers. 

Valentino 

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