Last month, I spent a few days in Indiana. Mostly, I was there on behalf of the distillery. However, in my free time, I went in search of a great cocktail. I had several good drinks, but a thoughtfully constructed cocktail was a bit harder to find than I anticipated (nothing wrong with being hopeful).
My new friend, Bruce Tomlinson from World Wide Drinks, came to visit me at a tasting event and gave me the scoop on bars in Indianapolis (including the fact that he buys bitters by the case so that he can leave them behind at favorite bars, to ensure they'll be able to make his Manhattans properly). In fact, we checked out a couple of them one night. Sadly, no orange bitters were to be found anywhere that night. So we settled for what we could get and made the best of it.
Purdue's Neck of the Woods
The best cocktail I had in Indiana was actually in downtown Lafayette at a new bar called The Black Sparrow. Full disclosure, I was there to sell them our products, and they decided to bring in a couple of them. Regardless, though, I was very impressed by what I saw there. This was a place I would hang out in, if it were closer to me (and that I will visit again when I am next in Lafayette).
I had the Satan's Soulpatch, and it was a balanced blend of Old Overholt Rye, sweet and dry vermouth, grand marnier, orange juice and orange bitters. Really a modification of the Satan's Whiskers recipe, but a great drink. Their menu at that time also included a classic Corpse Reviver No. 2, Dark & Stormy and a variant of the Pisco Sour. It's already been updated for the season.
Unfortunately, it was the middle of the day, and I still had work to do (and I wasn't in charge of the schedule). So I had to leave it at one drink and a sandwich, which was great too. But I'll be back.
They had just hosted an event, and had some really incredible balloon sculptures in the bar - here's a picture of one of them, along with Johnny the bartender.
Home of the Hoosiers
I also found some promising cocktails at Farm in Bloomington (ask to see the root cellar if you get a chance), and a truly impressive Scotch collection at the Irish Lion Pub in Bloomington - both are worth a visit if you're in the area. It was a beautiful day to stroll around the downtown square, and I visited some used book stores, a great bakery and a fantastic chocolate shop.
I guess the college towns are where the great cocktails are at in Indiana!