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Dram & Grain bartender Trevor Frye has been talking up The Flip—a cocktail heated by a hot metal rod known as a loggerhead—since the 20-seat den in the depths of Jack Rose Dining Saloon opened in February. But it took a few months of dealing with fire codes, fumes, and logistics until the drink could debut on the menu this past weekend.
To make the the drink, Frye combines a lager with dark rum and molasses before plunging a hot poker into the mug, causing the sugars to caramelize. The action creates a syrupy aroma that smells like an IHOP parking lot. It’s finished off with freshly grated nutmeg and cinnamon. Frye says most people think the flip dates back to the early 1900s, but alehouses were serving them in the 1700s. Later versions involved an egg, but Dram & Grain employs the 18th century recipe without one.
This heating process was no big deal in olden times because all pubs had a fireplace. In 2014, finding a way to heat the loggerhead behind a bar can be a headache.
Rum-centric bar Hogo also tried its hand at serving the drink, though it’s not currently on the menu. It kept the loggerheads heated on the grill in its open kitchen, which doubled as a bar. But things were not so simple for Dram & Grain.
“Open flames were obviously a concern in a room with no windows or ventilation,” Frye explains. His first attempt to heat the pokers involved an eight-minute bout with a blowtorch. Since almost every drink at Dram & Grain doubles as a magic trick, neither Frye nor his partner in crime, Nick Lowe, could afford to spare eight minutes per drink. And who likes fumes?
Next they tried to find a way to use a heat source in a back alley. But, a friend with fire department connections cautioned Frye: “He said there would knocks on our door in no time.” Frye also heard the neighborhood association would be on their case.
Unwilling to give up, Frye thought about heating the pokers on the grill in the Jack Rose kitchen, despite how distracting it would be to their brand-new chef Russell Jones. But that wouldn’t fly for Frye, who says, “The cool part about Dram & Grain is that customers get to watch. When you take the drink upstairs, you miss the show.”
A solution started to come together early last week, and Saturday night it was put to the test. Frye got his hands on an industrial heat gun that puts off 1,000 degrees of heat. It’s like a blow dryer for woolly mammoths. The pokers will rest on the kitchen’s grill until someone places an order. Frye or Lowe will then run upstairs, grab a poker, reheat it using the heat gun, and plunge it into your drink a few feet away from your face. Unlike the blowtorch, it’s quiet and doesn’t put off fumes. Mission accomplished.
If you want to try the flip, prepare to fork over $17. And plan ahead: Dram & Grain is open Friday and Saturday nights only, with three seatings (7, 9 and 11 p.m.). Reservations are required.
Photos by Laura Hayes