You know how to EAT THIS CITY. With top chefs as tour guides, you’ve learned how to scout out hot spots for breakfast and brunch, where to go for a delicious date night, and how to feast like a local liege in the cities you love. But where do you wash it all down? Do you know how to find the best brewpub? Uncover who makes the meanest bloody marys and the most sparkling mimosas?
You’re about to find out. Welcome to DRINK THIS CITY!
This week, we’re heading to Milwaukee, a city known for its breweries and its role in the beer industry. Not a bad start, right? You could certainly spend an entire weekend exploring this Wisconsin city’s ales, lagers, and stouts, but frankly, you’d be missing out if you didn’t raise a collins, flute, or rocks glass to the city’s thriving cocktail culture as well. And that’s where Bittercube Bitters founders Nick Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz come in.
Both Kosevich and Koplowitz know their way around a drink. With a solid background in bartending and managing (Nick at Town Talk Diner and Ira at The Violet Hour), they developed their passion project in 2009, a bitters company dedicated to handcrafting their product (which takes up to 25 days to complete) using real botanicals and quality spirits. The result? Intensely flavored bitters in creative and intriguing flavors, like Cherry Bark Vanilla — an excellent addition to a classic Tom Collins — and Jamaican No. 2 — an indispensable addition to the bar of any tiki aficionado. Though the company has grown since its inception and has been featured everywhere from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food to Imbibe, its founders remain deeply committed to each step of the process. It’s this passion and integrity that ensures they continue to create a product that enhances the cocktails and bar programs that feature them.
How can you know what enhancements a cocktail may need to really make it pop? The answer is simple. Get out there and drink them!
With Nick and Ira at the helm, let’s do just that and drink this city!
BRUNCH COCKTAIL OR HAIR OF THE DOG
A Bloody Mary and a snit of Spotted Cow. I’m hoping wherever I am has Gamle Ode Dill Aquavit so I can substitute that for Vodka, and I’m also hoping I can get a slider as a garnish! Milwaukee is known for crazy Bloody Marys. Go to Sobelman’s for the most famous or try Blue’s Egg for a great house-made mix.
I really love this mariscos restaurant, Fiesta Garibaldi. The food is delicious. As a bonus to a setup of chips & salsa, you also get an empanada and ceviche complimentary when you sit down. They make a mean no-frills margarita and have some decent tequilas. For spiffed up margaritas, I’ll head to Café Corazón.
I take almost everyone that comes to Milwaukee to Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge. It’s like walking into a time machine. But don’t let the retro decor fool you, the bartenders are super knowledgeable. They don’t have a menu but can make any number of classics, from the blended Pink Squirrel (which was invented at Bryant’s) to a more boozy Negroni riff (if that is more your speed). I always have two cocktails there, one blended ice cream drink to start and one boozy and bitter libation to finish.
I really dig the cocktail menu at Movida. Gettin Figgy Wit It (Not crazy about the name! But the drink is great) has fig-infused Torres 10yr Spanish Brandy, Dolin Dry Vermouth, Warre’s Ruby Port, Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur, and Bittercube Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters. It is a solid Manhattan riff with some unique ingredients.
Vermuteria at Hotel Madrid always has a couple of interesting large format cocktails on the menu. Their riff on the Mai Tai was delicious. Don’t just go for the punches, the entire cocktail menu is delicious as are the house-made vermouths.
Shot of Jim Beam and a PBR at The Cactus Club. The bar doubles as a music venue that hosts some great bands from all over the country.
PUB, TAVERN, OR BREWERY
Miller High Life while filling up on the Friday Fish Fry at Baby Boomers – a no-frills, cash only watering hole with a classic fish fry. Gotta get the potato pancakes!
Full disclosure: We consult on the cocktail program at The Iron Horse Hotel so I love all the cocktails! But I’m especially fond of the revolving seasonal Manhattan. We like to experiment with that cocktail but also stay somewhat true to the classic ingredients. One of my favorites was the Renaissance Man with Bourbon, Carpano Antica, Fernet, and Amaro Nonino. I also loved the Rosso Rio, a Tequila Manhattan riff with a house-made sweet vermouth.
It isn’t the time of year for it right now, but I’ve been fond of the hot drinks at Boone & Crockett. I remember a Mulled Wine a while back that was spicy and delicious!
THEMED COCKTAIL at IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE BAR
Demerara Daiquiri at Foundation Tiki Bar. It’s boozy, simple, and delicious. The Foundation is a fun time and close to some great restaurants. There’s always a good night to be had at Foundation!
Day Walker – Midwest Gin, Lemon, Quince Tea, Bitters, Sparkling Wine. This cocktail hails from Braise, which has long been my favorite restaurant in Milwaukee. This is a nice palate cleanser to have before a meal. The owner of Braise also owns an RSA that supports local agriculture and supplies farm products to many local restaurants.
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Wolfgang says this tastes like a "Christmas Morning." That could be the abridged version of his words, but we digress. Speaking of mornings, start your Christmas Eve off with Brunch! Reservations are being taken from 10-2 on Sunday the 24th. "Czech your Head" before you go off to spend time with family. 👌
The Root Down at Buckley’s. Primitivo Quiles Vermouth, Del Professore Vermouth, Dolin Blanc, and Trinity Bitters. This is a nice palate cleanser before a great meal — which you are certain to get at Buckley’s.
Trust us you’ll like. Vermouth – Dolin Blanc, Cocchi Americano, Yellow Chartreuse, Lemon, and Bitters. Sessionable, herbaceous cocktail at Morel, one of my favorite restaurants in Milwaukee.
UNUSUAL COCKTAIL or COCKTAIL WITH SURPRISING INGREDIENTS
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Thursday September 28th we have all night Happy Hour, $1 off cocktails all night long! We will have the Packers game on for those that are interested…Come in and give Trish and Danielle a hard time and grab some grub from our kitchen! #craftcocktails #happyhour #greenbaypackers
Gold Rush of 94 has State Line Gin, Lemon, Golden Beet Syrup, Sage Oil, Bolivar Bitters, Cava, is available at Lucky Joe’s Eatery in Wauwatosa, and comes from Joey Houghtaling and Mike McDonald. I love the use of golden beets and sage. They bring a savory quality to the cocktail and make this Gin Fizz riff very surprising.
COCKTAIL MADE BY A FRIEND
One More thing with Feeling – Rehorst Gin, Acidified OJ, Grilled Pineapple Syrup, Averna. One part tiki, one part bitter, one part local. This cocktail is a creation of Cameron McKenzie. He has an infectious laugh and is a great bartender. Find him at The Original or Izzy Hops to try this unique libation.
Thank you, Nick and Ira for taking us on a tour of Milwaukee’s best bars!
Like what you read? Check out Drink This City: Return to Chicago Downtown LA, Drink This City: Return To ManhattanDrink This City: San Francisco, Drink This City: New Orleans Drink This City: Miami, Drink This City: Honolulu, Drink This City: Detroit, Drink This City: Chicago, Drink This City: New York, Drink This City: Nashville and more!
Join us next week for more DRINK THIS CITY! Meanwhile, hit us in the comments — where should we travel next?