Dutch Country Memories: Checking Out Sara Justice’s First Cocktail Tasting Menu

The only downside to going out for cocktails at the Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. is choosing which cocktail to have since, you know, opting for one of each would be a bad investment. Fortunately, head bartender Sara Justice is making that selection simpler with the addition to the menu of Dutch Country Memories, a cocktail tasting menu which we recently sampled.

Check out the descriptions (and the photos) below.

The menu begins, as any good tasting would, with an amuse bouche–in this case a delicate thimbleful of Amontillado sherry infused with Pennsylvania Dutch dried apples called schnitz, layering apple aroma upon the sherry’s already tangy flavor.

The first official drink, called Birch Beer, is a twist on the classic soda. But instead of an inexplicably red sugar bomb, it’s a refreshing little sipper delivered in a tiny stein capped off with a paper straw. The drink unites Navy strength gin with birch syrup. Made the same way maple syrup is, the birch lends molasses sweetness, but licorice root, lime, and the bubbles from a cap of club soda keep it refreshing.

The menu detours into toastier territory from there. Toasted milk infused rum, allspice dram, and plum butter (think apple butter, like your grandma might have made) make for a full-bodied cocktail with pronounced richness and caramel qualities. It’s easy to see why it’s called Plum Pudding.

Now that you’re thoroughly into the woods, you might as well do some Night Sledding. Though the drink arrives, unadorned, in a delicate coupe, it packs as much of a punch as the scent of a cedar closet swinging open. It’s the spice of rye whiskey and a sharp pine liquor, swathed in the the scent of a tincture Justice is making out of menthol cough drops. There’s just enough of a medicinal kick to mean business.

Roasting on an Open Fire, the next drink in the line-up is the menu’s apex of strong flavors. It arrives looking something like an Old Fashioned, but without any of that ridiculous fruit. Instead? Smoked bourbon countered with the faint sweetness of chestnut praline, a few rough ice cubes tossed on top.

A step back after that, but no less grandfatherly: Another little stein, this time of Buttermint Soda. At once richly flavored and refreshing, this is the transition from savory to sweet.

The finale is Shoofly Pie, in liquid form, but instead of a tooth-achingly sweet brown sugar concoction, this drink takes sweetness from ruby port and cognac and caramel notes from blackstrap molasses. The real pleasure of it is it’s contrast though, because it’s topped off with a few generous spoonfuls of a whipped oat milk, at once evoking the fluff of whipped cream and the toasty notes of pie crust.

While the menu remains best suited to cooler weather, it is Justice’s plan to update it periodically, which means that you’re likely running out of time to try it in this, its first iteration. Soon, spring will give way to summer heat, so crawl down the stairs to the Franklin and try these toasty, smoky, woodsy flavors while you still can.

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