By Nikki Panos
December 9, 2015
When highlighting a restaurant, the light shines directly on the head chef, as it often should. But there are many critical cogs in the wheel of any restaurant’s operations, and today is Blake Pope’s day. Pope is the General Manager of Kindred, which opened its doors just shy of a year ago in Davidson, a town quickly evolving into a food destination. Since its opening, Kindred has been honored with a plethora of accolades including being named in “The Hot 10: America’s Best New Restaurants 2015” in Bon Appetit. This destination is definitely worth the trip up to Davidson. While there, you will surely reap the benefits of Pope’s hard work even if you don’t notice, for that is the general manager’s function: to give the customer a seamless and pleasurable dining experience.
Pope has been in the hospitality business for the past 13 years, germinating first as a busboy, the grassroots way. He worked his way up quickly and effectively, from busboy to server, and from there to bartender in the high volume club scene where he got his “mechanics down” as he puts it. After some time serving rum and coke to the club crowd, he received inspiration from his coworker, Travis Brown, who knew there was more to life than simply serving crappy shots. Drinking should be an experience, something you enjoy and appreciate and savor. At the club, they began experimenting, making craft cocktails they had read about and embellished upon on the menu.
Eventually, he received a call from Soul in Plaza Midwood looking for a bartender, and Pope was ready. This was the era of Soul where Bob Peters, famed mixologist, roamed the back of the bar. Oh what a golden age! While at Soul, Pope contributed heavily to the restaurant’s cocktail program, concocting innovative drinks to the curious and adventurous of the great Queen City. His ideology on mixology is to showcase the spirit itself and reveal, through experimentation, the right accompaniments for that spirit. This proves to create a well-balanced and enjoyable drink. Why imbibe if the drink isn’t pleasant on the palate?
His next adventure was Roosters Uptown, where he spent two years before being plucked up by Joe Kindred after a chance meeting. Joe brought him aboard as the Bar Manager, and quickly moved him into the role of General Manager. Pope attributes his success at Kindred to Joe and Katy for their phenomenal mentorship and constant support. Don’t worry folks; he still has a hand in the bar program!
Just as Kindred’s food focuses on seasonality, so do the drinks. The restaurant is scheduled to roll out its Winter menu shortly as Fall wraps up. During this season, produce variety is low, but the team never ceases to amaze with their creativity in the kitchen as well as the bar. Citrus is often showcased during this time as it is what chiefly falls into the bartender’s laps and pairs well with warm spirits such as gin. With holiday party season here, Pope graciously provided recipes for five unique holiday cocktails which are easy to prepare and will definitely delight and impress. His advice for hosting a holiday party? Reduce the host’s stress through “a good sense of delegation.” In other words, don’t shy away: get those who want to help on board, and sit back and relax. Enjoy every moment of your holiday and don’t forget the spirits! Cheers!
2oz Apple Brandy (Carriage House)
.75oz Cardamaro (optional)
.5oz Maple Syrup (1:1 Maple to Water)
3 dashes Pecan Bitters (Can use Angostura Bitters as alternative)
Start by adding peeled orange zest, maple syrup and pecan bitters in an old fashioned glass. Give this a quick muddle to release oils in orange zest. Add your spirits and ice. Then give it a quick stir with a bar spoon or straw. Voilá!
The Weird Uncle
1.5 oz Gin (Beefeater)
.5 oz Simple syrup (1:1)
2.5 oz Cranberry Shrub (Shrub & Co. makes a cranberry shrub w/ Douglas Fir!)
Build ingredients in a highball with ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel and rosemary.
Blood Orange Mule
1.5 oz Vodka (Tito’s)
.5oz Simple Syrup (1:1)
3oz Ginger Beer (Fever Tree)
Half of a Blood Orange
Muddle the blood orange and simple syrup together in a copper mule mug. Add your vodka and fill with ice. Top with your ginger beer and garnish with a cinnamon stick. Even the snobbiest of bartenders enjoy a mule on their day off every once in a while. Can’t promise they’ll admit it though. Count me as guilty.
1.5 oz Rye Whiskey (Old Overholt)
.75 oz Lemon Juice
.75 oz Simple Syrup (1:1)
.5 oz Egg White
.5 oz Mulled Wine Syrup**
Build ingredients in a cocktail shaker except mulled wine syrup. Dry shake (Shake without ice) for 10 seconds. This will help emulsify your egg white. Then do a hard shake again with ice in your shake. Double strain in a highball glass filled with ice. Then add your mulled wine syrup and garnish with a lemon wheel.
**Mulled Wine Syrup
Start by adding a bottle (750mL) of red wine to a med-hot pot on your stove top. Yes…it can be cheap wine. This is where you can get creative. We add cardamom, cinnamon, orange zest, clove and sugar to ours, but you can add any variety of warm spices you have around the kitchen. Let the ingredients steep in the wine and reduce the mixture by half. This will create a nice syrup-like quality.
1.25 oz Bourbon
.75 oz Campari
.5 oz Americano (Cocchi Americano)
6 drops of Grapefruit Bitters (Bittermen’s Hopped Grapefruit)