When we opened up our distillery and cocktail bar a year ago, in February 2015, the immediate hit on the drink menu was the tart and citrusy Cardinal Sling. There was the Red Bird, a riff on the Negroni. And the Hot Hopscotch, the perfect boozy coffee. And ooooh, the Cafe a l'Orange, a dreamy combination of coffee and orange that had been missing all your life.
But did you know that every single drink on our first menu was made with...
Every. Single. Drink. Our brunch drinks. Our #tikituesday drinks. The hot drinks. The cold drinks. All with our vodka.
You might be thinking: Doesn't it seem a little insane to open a bar that serves just one kind of alcohol?
By Indiana law, a distillery is only allowed to serve the booze it produces, and when we opened, vodka was the one spirit we had distilled and bottled. We knew we'd make more spirits (12 of them, in fact, by the end of 2015) but at the time, vodka was our sun, moon and stars.
Here was the menu when we opened in February 2015:
Fortunately, our talented bar crew did some major tinkering with our vodka to make the menu diverse until our other sprits came along.
Vodka steeped with aronia berry, gentian root and other botanicals became a Campari-like elixir that went into the Red Bird cocktail. Vodka infused with coffee and vanilla bean approximated a smooth coffee liqueur for the Hot Hopscotch and Cafe a l'Orange. Our bar manager Logan Hunter even rapid-infused vodka with toasted oak chips to replicate an aged spirit — quite convincingly, we must say — for the Prelude, a take on a Manhattan.
All of those cocktails from opening weekend are still on the menu, in one way or another. They're our classics.
In a year, we produced a dozen different spirits. Now we have Standard Dry Gin, American Gin, Tiki Rum, a Single Malt Whiskey, Songbird Craft Coffee Liqueur and many more spirits, sold in more than 200 locations across Indiana.
But it all started with our vodka, in our cocktails, at our bar, a year ago.
Whether it's been a week, a month, six months, or even a year since you had a cocktail at Cardinal, we invite you back this weekend — our first anniversary — to toast to an incredible first year. We'll have birthday punch, free anniversary T-shirts, free tours and cakes, and a party on Saturday night in the distillery area.
Details for the entire weekend celebration are right here. We hope to see you!