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Drink of the Week: Savoir Vivre at Columbia's The War Mouth

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The War Mouth's Savoir Vivre

$11. 1209 Franklin St. thewarmouth.com

“Pronounce SAV-wahr VEE-vruh,” read the opening words to The War Mouth’s cocktail description for its Savoir Vivre. The Cottontown eatery’s head bartender David Adedokun told me it translates to “knowing how to live well.”

“It's this idea of understanding how to move effortlessly in polite society,” he explained. “But it's coming from The War Mouth, so I feel like that in its own sense gives it this sort of tongue-in-cheek element to it.”

Adedokun’s cocktail is certainly one way to live well and a promising sign for the bar program, which he took over in August. The gin-based drink is served neatly in a coupe glass and has a strong complexity, pairing its base spirit with two liqueurs, mole bitters, lemon and a saline solution.

The cocktail is balanced and not too harsh (despite the usage of North Carolina distiller Sutler's Spirit Co.'s 47 percent ABV gin alcohol flavor), nor too sweet (despite the dueting liqueur). Both liqueurs come from the European brand Bigallet — one a blood orange amaro, the other a significantly sweet thyme liqueur.

Adedokun explained that the Bigallet spirits were designed to bring out less popular flavors from gin. Rather than focus on its patented juniper taste, he perused through Sutler’s notes on the product and elected to focus on its orange and coriander notes.

The liqueurs accomplish that, particularly with the citrus notes, as the drink has a powerful orange scent and taste throughout. As Adedokun shared, the thyme liqueur teases out the gin’s more typical “herbaceousness," adding further depth to the experience.

“I knew I had some room to play because it's a stronger gin, I could use some stronger ingredients in it and the gin wouldn’t get washed out,” Adedokun said.

Drawing further inspiration from the strong orange flavor, he thought of chocolate a l’orange and used dark-chocolate-like mole bitters to add another edge. He said the lemon provides brightness, while the saline solution — salt water, essentially — dampens the additional acid from overpowering the drink and plays well with the chocolatey bitters.

It’s a litany of ingredients coming together and could fall prey to over-creation, yet the drink is singular. The parts work together cohesively and tastefully to form a smooth sipper that is almost playful in the way each flavor nods to one another.

The drink will be available until about the end of March, when Adedokun plans to revamp the cocktail menu for spring.

David Clarey joined Free Times in November 2019 as a food and news writer. He's constantly fighting competing desires to try cooking food at home and spending his entire paycheck on Columbia restaurants.

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