Three months ago, Jake Geatches was slinging timeless old-fashioneds and Manhattans as a bartender at Highlands, the culinary watchtower occupying the 71st and 72nd floors of the GMRenCen. In September, he assumed a new role as beverage director at Olin Bar & Kitchen, a brasserie newcomer to downtown Detroit.
As a more relaxed pseudo-sibling to the über-luxe Highlands — Olin is owned by Holly McClain, wife of Highlands proprietor Shawn McClain — the restaurant is the kind of place where Geatches gets to let his hair down. “I wanted to create a program where we pay homage to the classics, but put our own spin on it,” he says.
Take Olin’s bestseller, for instance: Geatches reimagines a traditional Juliet and Romeo cocktail as the Leo & Claire, an ode to the ’90s adaptation of the Shakespearean romantic tragedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. The craft cocktail offers diners the option of gin or vodka, and adds notes of aloe and orange blossom for a refreshing, herbaceous-floral blend.
Elsewhere on the menu, Geatches collaborates with executive chef Andrew Shedden to incorporate ingredients from the dinner menu into the drink program. “Chef has an amazing palette, so we like to bounce ideas off of each other,” he says. “If he’s using hazelnuts on the menu, I may just put a hazelnut orgeat in a cocktail.”
The Potatoes & Artichoke “Bravas”? There’s a cocktail for that, too. The Cupid’s Artichokehold features Cynar, an artichoke amaro from Italy, and a tincture Geatches concocted with roasted artichokes. “It’s a complex drink and the only cocktail on the menu that doesn’t have a garnish — just a few drops of the artichoke tincture because the cocktail stands up on its own.” Geatches says the rich, bittersweet drink is his favorite — even if it is the least-ordered drink on the menu.
How to Make Olin Bar & Kitchen’s Leo & Claire Cocktail
1 1/2 oz. Aviation American Gin or Valentine Vodka
1/2 oz. Chareau Aloe Liqueur
1/2 oz. Basil simple syrup*
1/2 oz. Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Dash of Cortas Orange Blossom Water
Pinch of salt
*Basil Simple Syrup
To create the simple syrup, first combine 4 cups of water and 4 cups of cane sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Then, infuse the syrup with 1 packed quart of fresh basil and let steep for 1 hour.
Strain the syrup into a jar and refrigerate. Serve cool.
Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add cubed ice, and shake. Double-strain the drink into a Nick and Nora glass, and garnish with a fresh piece of basil. Enjoy!