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Where: Zentan, 1155 14 St. NW

Bartender: Josh Berner

Mystery Ingredient: Orange Citrus-flavored Kickstart, Mountain Dew’s new fizzy breakfast drink

Bartender Response: “It tastes like a bunch of chemicals,” Berner said.

What We Got: Clarified orange juice, Jacob’s Ghost white whiskey, strawberry preserves, and a bit of house-made absinthe, topped off with Kickstart. Call it “Better Breakfast Through Chemistry,” Berner said.

How It Tasted: Who would’ve thought a cocktail derived from a drink in the Mountain Dew family could be described as subtle, but that’s what it was. The citrus flavor got a boost, and the anise helped counterbalance all that sweetness. Think poolside brunch.

Improv Points (1-5): 5. The challenge was somewhat sadistic, but Berner rolled with it, bravely adding another dubious product, white whiskey. As a play on Kickstart’s relatively clear color, Berner used an orange juice and a whiskey that are both processed to become clear. Jim Beam Jacob’s Ghost is filtered into a white whiskey, while Berner makes his own clarified orange juice by using agar-agar, a plant-based gelatin, to set the juice into a gel and strain out the orange color. Additional props to the strawberry jam, a cheeky nod to Kickstart’s breakfast-drink origins.


1.5 ounces of Jacob’s Ghost white whiskey

1.5 ounces clarified orange juice*

1 bar spoon full of strawberry preserves

1 eye dropper full of absinthe

1 ounce of Kickstart

Combine all ingredients except Kickstart, shake thoroughly. Add Kickstart, and strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any strawberry seeds. Pour cocktail over ice. Garnish with orange twist.

*Regular OJ works, too.

Photo by Adele Chapin