Monday, March 7, 2016

Cocktail Culture—Cocktail Tour of Downtown Rapid City

Behind the bar, two gentlemen are muddling, mixing, shaking, and stirring.  Ice chunks fly as citrus fruits are sliced into rounds and infused vodkas are splashed in to pretty glasses.  The flurry behind the bar isn’t some angry rage being witnessed…it is a frenzy, though…a frenzy of fun cocktails waiting to be appreciated! 

This is exactly what my girlfriends and I did on a recent weekend in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota:  we frolicked in the fun of unique cocktails.  Luckily for us, there are great places to get these libations, all within walking distance of great hotels, creating the perfect trifecta for cocktail enjoyment.

Vertex Sky Bar at the top of the Hotel Alex Johnson is the perfect place to start for tasty cocktails.  The interior of the bar is vintage art deco, a perfect throw back to the 1920s.  The gorgeous late afternoon sun reflects off the outdoor fire pits as the sky deck warms patrons’ bodies and the cocktails warm their hearts.

Any fan of the Moscow Mule knows that it is a great first drink for the night.  The light, refreshing citrus and ginger actually act as a palate cleanser prepping for the rest of the evening’s tastings.  Mules are also great drinks for the spring as days and nights begin to heat up for the season.

The next cocktail of interest is the Pineapple Upside Down.  Again, a drink that screams sunshine, the vanilla vodka, Malibu coconut rum, pineapple juice, and Grenadine create perfect sweetness for sipping, as well as create a fabulous-looking drink.

 The Blind Lion is a spot I always feel as if I should keep secret, yet it is such an entertaining environment that I want others to share in the absolute excitement of this hidden gem.  The ambiance of the speakeasy is taken very seriously; nearly every aspect is meant to catapult customers back to the days of prohibition:  phones are discouraged, conversation is stimulated, and drinks are authentic.  Do not come here when in a rush; each of the drinks is meant to sipped and enjoyed at a leisurely pace while reflecting on life’s pleasures. 

The Pear Side Car mixes pear brandy, orange sour, and house-made brown sugar simple syrup with a brown sugar rim to create a beautiful drink.  It is then poured into a martini glass, topped with an orange round, and sprinkled with dried rose petals, creating an absolutely decadent beverage.

My personal favorite is the Lavender Star.  It could be because it is served in a champagne flute, but it could also be because it has vodka and fresh-squeezed lime juice.  No, the best part of this drink is the house-made lavender simple syrup that smells and tastes like spring in a glass.
Kol, on the corner of Main Street and Mount Rushmore Road, is one of the hippest places to sip cocktails in downtown Rapid.  Modern and upscale décor prepares customers for the modern and upscale drinks available.  These truly distinctive cocktails are anything but the norm found in the average bar.  They are fun, and yes, maybe a little frivolous—which, frankly, is why they are so enjoyable to drink!

The White Cosmo is truly a beautiful cocktail.  The show piece of this creation is the orchid frozen in a large ball of ice in the center of the martini glass.  Poured over the top of the most beautiful ice ever is a concoction of vodka, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, and white cranberry juice.  

The Red Hot Sangria is an interesting twist on the traditional Spanish wine cocktail.  The base of malbec wine, vanilla vodka, cranberry syrup, and sparkling wine are just the beginning.  The special ingredient is the brandied cranberries, created by macerating the fruit in brandy, Grand Marnier, orange zest, sugar, and cinnamon sticks.

The flurry to make a gorgeous cocktail is intense, but so is the wonderful creation that can result from this unique art form.  Downtown Rapid City has wonderful establishments at which to enjoy many creative libations.  Take a cocktail tour soon and get to know the culture of Rapid. Book a hotel or plan for a ride at the end of the night, then enjoy getting familiar with the bartenders chopping, slicing, mixing, and pouring the coolest drinks in town.