Utah cocktail aims to help save some of America's rarest foods

Published May 22, 2014 3:29 pm

Bar exam • The Rest competes in Slow Food USA's Speakeasy Cocktail Competition.
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On one level, the Rest Easy is a playful whiskey cocktail that "embodies spring and summer," says its creator, Caleb Cannon.

"The name plays off the way you feel when you drink it," said the beverage manager at The Rest, a basement speakeasy on Salt Lake City's Main Street.

But on another level, the drink — a local entry in Slow Food USA's Speakeasy Cocktail Competition — is a culinary statement in a glass.

It is made with rye whiskey, California Meyer lemons and tupelo honey: three of America's most vulnerable ingredients and ones that food lovers across the country are trying to save.

Of course, a creative way to make that preservation happen is to hold a contest where the cocktails include at least one of the foods on Slow Food USA's Ark of Taste, a list of more than 1,100 products that need attention.

The list includes everything from Alaskan birch syrup to yellow-meated watermelon and all sorts of fruits, vegetables, seeds and meats in between.

By growing, buying and consuming these foods, we keep them in production and on our plates, Cannon said.

Hundreds of amateur and professional mixologists from around the country submitted cocktail recipes for the competition in hopes of winning a trip to Turin, Italy, in October for the International Ark of Taste gathering. Twelve finalists were selected earlier this week; consumers can vote for their favorites at slowfoodusa.org/slow-food-speakeasy through June 19.

Cannon's Rest Easy — which also contains hints of elderflower liqueur and lavender bitters — didn't make the cut. But the Utah mixologist is offering it through June 19 at The Rest in hopes of sparking a conversation about the importance of championing rare ingredients. Because of its premium ingredients, the Rest Easy costs $11.

Park City High West Distillery already is doing its part to bring back rye whiskey, said Cannon, who uses the local producer's double rye whiskey in his cocktail.

"The rye fields nearly went extinct during Prohibition because it was easier to make and hide liquor made with corn," said Cannon. "But it's making a big comeback, with some [whiskey] being produced here in our backyard."

Cannon also used tupelo honey, produced when honeybees collect nectar from the blossoms of the white Ogeechee tupelo tree. The trees are found along the rivers, swamps and ponds in the remote wetlands of Georgia and Florida.

"It's hard to harvest and find," Cannon said of the honey. "But I thought it was appropriate for the Beehive state."

kathys@sltrib.com

Where to enjoy the Rest Easy

The Rest • 331 S. Main, Salt Lake City; 801â€'532â€'4452 (the basement of Bodega)

Cost • $11 through June 19 —

Rest Easy

1 ½ ounces High West Double Rye Whiskey

½ ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur

½ ounce tupelo honey syrup

¾ ounce fresh California Meyer lemon juice

2 drops lavender bitters

Combine all ingredients in shaker with ice. Serve chilled.

Servings • 1

Source: Caleb Cannon, The Rest