"Thank goodness people now can know the story, and can enjoy the labor and hard work put into making what it was intended to be then, and what it still is now."
Recently on one of the Uncle Nearest virtual broadcasts, our Master Blender, Victoria Eady Butler, made a delicious cocktail with a name and recipe that was super intriguing to me, so I decided to sit down and interview the Mixologist who created this drink, Adi Bastita of Parlor Cocktail Den in Atlanta.
"I knew right away what narrative I wanted to portray with my cocktail. It is that of Black excellence"
Let's begin with Adi's origins into the industry. I asked Adi how she got started behind the bar.
"My journey as a bartender began in Washington, D.C. I moved to the city and just so happened to become friends with one of the top club promoters in D.C. He introduced me to the owner of then, THE RITZ nightclub, where I started as a door girl. I immediately was intrigued by what was happening at the bar. Mind you, I didn't even drink yet! Right around the same time, there was a new club opening around the corner, and of course, I went to inquire. The owner asked if I had ever bar-tended before, and I answered honestly... zero experience. He told me if I went to bar-tending school, he would guarantee me a position."
So, she went to bar-tending school the next day and began classes. Two weeks later with a certificate, excitement and pride in what she had learned in only two weeks, she was ready for this new challenge.
"All I knew before was Amaretto Sours and champagne."
Next, she needed experience, so she asked her boss at the Ritz to give her a shot and luckily, he did.
Adi worked her way up into some of the top clubs in the city. It would take many years though, to gain an interested in craft cocktails and mixology. She then found herself in a restaurant bar owned by some friends, Chaplin's Restaurant in DC.
"This was around 2015. I immediately noticed the difference in how detailed the cocktails were and the art that went into each recipe and how to stay true to the classics and at the same time to be inspired to create your own cocktail. That's when I knew that I had found my niche."
Flash forward to the now, I asked Adi to explain her inspiration for the cocktail's name and profile.
"As you already know, the last several months here in the United States have been a living nightmare for Black Americans. Not only are we living through a global pandemic, but we are all witnessing cold murders of black people by the hands of police and other self entitled racist people. We have been fed these images of black people dying and being oppressed over and over and over... but what about our black success stories? What about our thriving communities and black owned businesses, entrepreneurs and creators who are still blazing trails amidst all of this chaos?" Said Adi.
"So when I was presented an opportunity to create a cocktail with Uncle Nearest whiskey, I knew right away what narrative I wanted to portray with my cocktail. It is that of Black excellence, hence, Black Wall Street."
"I chose this name because I felt the need to tell the good news about black people doing amazing things. For example here in Atlanta at Parlor, where Parlor is located. We are in this amazing historic black neighborhood, I wanted to tell the stories in all of the cities where this beautiful momentum of black success is happening."
I asked Adi how important the stories behind the spirits on her bar were to her;
"The back story of how a brand came to be is super important to me, especially when using it in a cocktail. This story usually includes stories of tradition, culture, history hard work and perseverance. Most importantly, the satisfaction of what became the final product, the actual bottled spirit."
We discussed Uncle Nearest in specific...
Adi said; "with Uncle Nearest Green specifically, this story gave me a great feeling of almost a relief now that the world knows a secret that was key in the success of Jack Daniels and now of Uncle Nearest whiskey. Thank goodness people now can know the story, and can enjoy the labor and hard work put into making what it was intended to be then, and what it still is now."
"I'm very thankful for Fawn Weaver and all her work she put in to bring this very important black history to light and to us in a bottle. That's what I call legacy. The flavors of Uncle Nearest Whiskey are definitely well balanced and unique. I love a neat pour of Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch because of it's smooth lightness and subtle sweet finish. I also found it to be super blend-able in a cocktail, which is why I really felt it went great in the Black Wall Street cocktail."
Make the Black Wall Street at home or at your bar.
2 oz of Uncle Nearest Small Batch Whiskey
.5 oz mint syrup (2 parts water, 1 part white sugar, 1 cup of mint, boil until sugar is dissolved, allow to cool, strain out mint leaves, store in a glass jar in the fridge)
2 dashes Fee Brothers black walnut bitters
Stir in mixing glass for 15 seconds with ice
Strain over charcoal ice cube
Splash Fever Tree ginger beer to taste
Garnish with a free mint sprig
Here is the charcoal ice process explained in detail by Adi;
"Charcoal is such a beautiful and special ingredient that I really wanted to incorporate into the Black Wall Street cocktail, for many reasons, but mainly it's rich black color. Also, it has medicinal properties, and since we are all taking extra precautions these days, why not enjoy a cocktail while aiding your health at the same time?"
1 teaspoon of activated charcoal powder to a quart of water. (If you use distilled water, even better. The better the water quality, the better your ice will come out.)
Then a quick boil to bind the charcoal and water well, stirring often, allow to cool just a bit, so it's safe to pour and not burn yourself in the process.
Then pour the charcoal water into large ice molds. (I like using spheres but you can use any shape as long as it's large and can fit into a double rocks glass.)
The next step, add a mint leaf to each ice mold so that when it is frozen, you can see a bit of the green mint leaf through the charcoal ice.
If done correctly, you will get a beautiful gray to black gradient ice cub with a deep green mint leaf that's visible through the ice.
"This is the perfect detail needed to demonstrate what Black Wall Street means. The whiskey, Black owned. The ice, black and green. Black Wealth. Black excellence. Black money. A Black story we should be sharing."
I can attest friends, this cocktail is delicious, thoughtful and filled with personality. Before we ended our discussion I asked Adi what she has been doing to survive during this pandemic and if she has found ways to thrive when possible.
"During quarantine, I decided I had to keep myself busy refining my craft and also reading and learning. Spending time trying out new techniques and testing new flavor profiles. I also realized everyone was now home and online everyday, so I decided to go on Instagram live one random night, and was making cocktails while playing music, and next thing you know my friend DJ Lalee in DC joined in and decided to play music on my live! It was then, when the light bulb went on. We partnered once a week to have a live Drinks and Mix for an hour every week with live music, and a live cocktail segments. It kept us both in our creative spaces and engaged with our new virtual audience."
Parlor is back open for business following the proper guidelines, so I asked Adi how that has been and what adaptations and pivots they had to make.
"We have gone all out with safety and restrictions. Face shields, social distancing, reservations, temperature checks, sanitizing seats and tables, limiting to just seated service, you name it, we are doing it. We even started a new bottled program for guests who want to experience Parlor from home, and it has been quite a turn for us." Adi said.
"Most recently, we even curated an outdoor space with Fathom DJ spinning outside under a tent with a few outdoor seating. The pivot during COVID-19 for us at Parlor has just enhanced the things that people love the most about us. Yes, we miss our events, and hugging and shaking hands, but we definitely are very grateful to have the opportunity to hang on to the business. It is hard for our industry, and we have to support each other through this very interesting and difficult era."
Thank you Adi for sharing your story and this wonderful cocktail with us all. Cheers!