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INFUSIONS, VERMOUTH

The creations of Meaghan Sinclair and Harmony Dawn — the duo behind boutique bartending service Booze Époque — run the gamut from standard flavor infusions to ragtag assemblies of fruit and spices. They love highlighting fresh ingredients in their concoctions, Sinclair says, recalling one of her recent favorites: vodka infused with pumpkin, Thai chili, lemon, cinnamon, and honey.

"It's like the art world. You can find beautiful art out there, but you can still be inspired to create something new," Sinclair says. "We just really love the process of creation. When I get excited about a flavor, I want to share with people."

"And I think there's always something to be said for making something crazy fresh that you know inside and out," she continues. "You can invent unique combinations that might not be possible in the marketplace, and it tastes exactly the way you want it to. You can't always get that from a large-batch producer."

Spirit infusions at Kenmore cocktail haven Eastern Standard are a year-round staple, with raspberry vodka, blueberry gin, and vegetable and habanero vodkas making steady appearances. House-made vermouths — fortified wines flavored with a host of botanicals — have also become favorites for the restaurant and its two sister spots.

"We began crafting our own rose and amber vermouth years ago, since they weren't available in the American market," explains Bob McCoy, the beverage-program liaison for Eastern Standard, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and the Hawthorne. They've since branched out with varieties like Island Creek Oyster Bar's spring rhubarb vermouth, a rosé combined with brandy and myriad flavoring agents (see recipe at right).

"It establishes identity, but it's also about control," he continues. "As bartenders, we're continually mixing and blending spirits in order to create something that is hopefully better than the sum of its parts."

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