Oak at Fourteenth, a top Boulder restaurant, features one of the best cocktail programs in Colorado. Under the leadership of co-owner Bryan Dayton, Oak has raised the standard for cocktail-making by featuring creative spirit pairings, a superior ice program, and house-made sodas and mixers like ginger beer or fire bitters.
Forward-thinking, the cocktail menu at Oak at Fourteenth is divided into no alcohol, low alcohol, and high alcohol. This clear division acknowledges the movement toward drinking from the beginning and throughout dinner, pairing small plates with cocktails, and using lower-alcohol ingredients, such as sherry, vermouth, or sparkling wine. Bryan Dayton shared his thoughts on the low alcohol cocktail program at Oak at Fourteenth.
Why did you divide the cocktails based on alcohol content? This division was a way to encourage people to choose an option on how they would like to enjoy their day or night with alcohol. After being in this line of work for a long time, it seemed like a more reasonable way to view alcohol.
Did you believe that a low-alcohol is starting to form?Yes, I see the trend happening as American palates develop and return to a classic style of drinking. People ask, what is Lillet, and I always remind them that is that drink your grandmother used to order with an orange slice. The light bulb goes off. Now when grandma got the taste for Lillet was when she was young, hip, and civilized. So, it's really a nod back to the basics. Today we have so many aperitif options that are amazing, so it's hard to resist the great taste options out there. I see many menus offering lighter alcohol-style cocktails these days.
How did you create the low alcohol cocktail list and who was your target audience? When I thought through the options, I based the low alcohol options around the idea of the aperitif, a substitute to the glass of bubbles that you start your night off with. The target audience has been the the cocktail geek who likes to start the night off light.
How has this side of the cocktail menu been received and why should guests pick the low alcohol cocktails? The menu has been received well - sometimes better than others. There have been times when people thought it was a joke, yet failed to ask about the concept and why it exists. But there are many people that are into it and really like it.
Are there advantages to pairing with food in low alcohol cocktails? Many. Among the best reasons are maintaining an easy night, tasting a variety of drinks because you can have more this way and skipping a major hangover!
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Bryan Dayton, co-owner at Oak at Fourteenth [Photography by Jennifer Olson]