50 Shots of America–North Carolina


Poor North Carolina–it’s turn came during my week-when-nothing-got-done and then was further complicated by a serious case of cocktail block (much like writer’s block but instead of staring at a blank page you gaze at an unused bar). But, good things come to those who wait…

North Carolina, the Tar Heel State, was the 12th state to ratify the US Constitution on November 21, 1789. Another one of our original 13, it had it’s share of rocky starts before the colony really got it’s feet on the ground. One early attempt at settlement, the Roanoke Colony, disappeared without a trace and it’s still not clear what happened. They did get to record the first English birth in the New World, a Miss Virginia Dare, but like the rest of her fellow colonists her life is unknown. I considered creating a cocktail, the Truth or Dare, but it, too, wandered into the ether before taking root.

The Wright Brothers put Kitty Hawk on the map when they managed the first manned, powered heavier-than-air flight in 1903 (hence one of the state’s mottoes: First in Flight). Even though I’ve lost most of my fear of flying (I still get a little antsy on take-off and landing) I had mixed feelings about making a take-off (hah!) of the classic Aviator cocktail.

It’s not every state that has their own designated Carnivorous Plant, now is it? (They may, in fact, be the only one–cursory searches failed to find another.) Turns out the Venus Fly Trap is native to the Carolinas, specifically an area approximately 60-75 miles around Wilmington, NC. This, coupled with the plant’s resemblance to a slice of watermelon (the theme of two of their official state festivals, despite being the #1 producer of sweet potatoes in the US) finally put me on the path to a potential cocktail.

But wait! Despite an idea that took much experimentation (totally ruining my got-it-in-one streak from previous states, by the way) I have achieved an homage to a wonderful delicacy for which we can all thank Vernon Rudolph of Winston-Salem:

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing the wonder that is the pillowy, hot, yeast-raised doughnut goodness fresh from the glazing curtain you just haven’t lived. I remember taking a field trip in elementary school and getting to see how they made the doughnuts, the pale wheels of dough bobbing their way through the hot oil and then traveling on a conveyor belt through the glaze and, oh, mmm, mmph…

*pardon me while I drool*

Now, then! Creating the alcoholic equivalent of this decadence was not easy. It took 3 batches of experiments over 2 nights and I was just about to give up and go another direction when, discouraged, I switched gears to making some beer biscuits to go with the soup simmering on the stove when the first round of inspiration struck.

You could have knocked me over with a bottle cap.

Of course! I was looking for that distinct yeasty flavor and what better way to get that but from a yeasty beverage! While some may cringe at the thought, the results were encouraging but far from perfect. Part of it was the beer I was using (I only had Heineken on hand) and then we just couldn’t get it sweet enough. I tossed in some of the nutmeg sugar syrup I had on hand but, again, it just wasn’t right.

The next morning in the inspiration chamber (aka, the shower) the missing piece snapped into place. After a trip to the store and some more experiments we humbly present the following:

The Glazed Doughnut

2 oz Honey Wheat beer*
1 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
1/4 oz Vanilla Vodka

Combine over ice in a sturdy mixing glass and shake as if the fryer’s broken and the pre-church crowd is about to descend. Strain into 2 small cordial glasses (or 1 martini glass) and steel yourself for the oncoming rush.

Using a different beer definitely helped but the condensed milk was the clincher: it added a richness that milk + sugar syrup couldn’t match. The vanilla vodka, on the other hand, managed to smooth out the schnapps just enough when we found that lessening the schnapps made the beer too bossy but leaving it untamed took away from the yeast.

I could totally see this customized with a splash of chocolate or raspberry liqueur, too, for the specialty doughnut of your choice.

*I used Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss, a Pale Wheat Ale, and it seemed to do quite well for this application. If you’ve got more beer smarts than I and know of others that might work well in this sort of drink, by all means, let me know in the comments!

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