An Ohio-based vodka company has concocted three cocktails inspired by legendary Ohio eateries, including Tony Packo’s.
Buckeye Vodka created its “Iconic Ohio” drinks in tribute to Toledo-based Tony Packo’s, Columbus-based White Castle and Cincinnati-based Skyline Chili.
“We wanted to honor three incredibly successful Ohio-based food companies, and also have a little bit of fun,” said Jim Finke, CEO of Dayton-based Crystal Spirits LLC, parent company of family-owned Buckeye Vodka, which launched in April 2011.
The drinks — the Buckeye Packo-tini for Tony Packo’s, Buckeye Bacon Slider for White Castle and Buckeye 5-Way for Skyline Chili — were the brainchild of Buckeye Vodka marketing representative Eric Sagun and developed by company mixologist Rachelle Chiarappa.
“They sound terrible, but they are actually really good,” Finke said, laughing.
The Buckeye Packo-tini features dill syrup and Tony Packo’s sweet-hot pickle juice, served in a martini glass with Tony Packo’s pickle slices on a cocktail stick, Chiarappa said.
“Obviously, we wanted to incorporate pickles,” Chiarappa said. “I’m a huge fan of dirty martinis, so we did that with pickles instead of olives. The sweet hits first, followed by the heat and just makes a more complex martini than pickle juice and vodka. It resonates in the different parts of your mouth. Because Buckeye Vodka is made from corn, it has a spicy aftertaste that carries well with that type of flavor.”
Chiarappa’s idea for the Buckeye Bacon Slider was to incorporate all the ingredients and garnishes that come on a burger. The drink includes homemade hickory-smoked bacon-infused vodka and seasoned tomato mix served in a tall glass with a sea salt rim, candied bacon strip and cocktail stick featuring a cheese cube, cocktail onion and pickle slice.
“You don’t get overpowered by the bacon, but you can definitely taste it. It enhances the vodka taste and gives you that smell you get at the grill,” Chiarappa said. “I was unsure at first, but trust me, it was delicious. People who like bloody marys would like this drink.”
The Buckeye 5-Way features dark rum and five-spice syrup sweetened with honey and molasses, finished with thin spaghetti as a stir stick. The flavors mirror the restaurant’s chili sauce, which includes spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, Chiarappa said.
“People who don’t know Skyline Chili often ask, ‘Why does this smell like cinnamon when it’s supposed to be chili?’ That’s the big Grecian influence,” Chiarappa said. “I took all the spices they use in their chili, but made the drink sweet by pairing them with honey and molasses along with vodka and rum. It’s amazing. This one is my favorite. You think of a gingerbread cookie when you smell this drink.”
Because it’s sweet where the other two are salty, people who drink lime and Coke or Bacardi and diet will like the 5-Way, Chiarappa said.
Chiarappa said it was fun to think outside the box.
“It’s nice because it keeps the focus on the local economy,” Chiarappa said. “Initially I thought we were going to make them as a novelty at best, but when everything turned out, they were actually fantastic.”
“I’ve personally tried all three and was very pleasantly surprised by how good they tasted,” he said.
Chiarappa said she only asks that people try before they judge.
“Definitely keep an open mind and don’t judge a drink by its cover,” Chiarappa said. “Don’t be afraid to try new things, especially if it’s a drink from your city.”
Buckeye Vodka products are sold in about 300 of Ohio’s 450 liquor stores and are available in about 600 Ohio bars and restaurants, Finke said. Toledo Walleye home games last season featured a Buckeye Vodka Shot of the Game.
For more information, visit www.BuckeyeVodka.com.
- 2.5-ounce Buckeye Vodka
- 0.5-ounce dill syrup
- 0.5-ounce Tony Packo’s pickle juice
Shaken and served in a martini glass with Tony Packo’s pickle slices on a cocktail stick.
- 1.5-ounce Buckeye Vodka
- 1.5-ounce dark rum
- 1.5-ounce five-spice syrup
Shaken and stirred on the rocks with a small bunch of thin spaghetti as stir stick. To make five-spice syrup (yields about 2.5 cups), grind to a course powder (in a spice or coffee grinder):
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns (or sub a scant teaspoon of pink peppercorns)
Toast ground spices in a skillet until they are fragrant (monitor closely so as not to burn). Bring 2.5 cups of simple syrup to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of molasses and 1 tablespoon of honey. Add spices, simmer for five minutes, then let cool to room temperature. Fine-strain (using sieve) spices out and store syrup in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Buckeye Bacon Slider
- 1.5-ounce bacon-infused Buckeye Vodka
- 3-ounce seasoned tomato mix
Shaken and served on the rocks with a smoked sea salt rim, candied bacon strip, cheese cube, cocktail onion and pickle slice on a cocktail stick.
To make bacon-infused vodka, pan fry five to six thick-cut strips of hickory-smoked bacon until crisp. Put the bacon and fat into a jar that seals, then add 4 cups Buckeye Vodka. Make sure lid is secured airtight and store in an area out of direct sunlight (does not require refrigeration). In two weeks, strain the vodka to remove bacon fat and strips (coffee filter works).
To make seasoned tomato mix:
- 16-ounce tomato juice
- 1 tablespoon horseradish
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
- 1 teaspoon celery salt
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- Fresh-ground pepper to taste
- Worcestershire to taste