High Spirits: Autumn at the Bistro
While fall in St. Michaels is always a magical time of year, it’s really the locals and the local businesses that make it so special. One such restaurant is Bistro St. Michaels, owned by Doug Stewart, who also owns Stewart’s Catering.
Stewart of St. Michaels said when he took ownership of the restaurant, his goal was to really hone in on the local flare, including using fresh, local ingredients in the dishes and local liquor crafted just down the street at Lyon Distilling.
Bistro St. Michaels created several locally inspired cocktails that are perfect for crisp fall weather, as well as incorporating a little spice and a lot of variety into your palate.
One such fall-inspired beverage is the “Rumsky” Old Fashioned – a mixture using four whiskeys and Lyon Distilling’s Rock and Rum, all mixed and settled into an oak barrel, which was lovingly given to Bistro St. Michaels by Lyon Distilling owner Jaime Windon after it was used to craft some of their specialty whiskey.
The house-made “Rumsky” has a smokey, yet floral flavor, thanks to the barrel, as well as the infusion of hibiscus flowers. Bistro mixologist Marie Cabeceiras said the mix of whiskey and rum, the edible flowers and the smokey oak barrel give the “Rumsky” a different flavor each time it’s poured.
Cabeceiras creates the “Rumsky” Old Fashioned by first muddling sugar, oranges and Luxardo maraschino cherries, before adding ice and the “Rumsky.” The floral, smokey flavor, mixed with the fresh fruit, makes this the perfect fall drink for sitting outside around a bonfire, wrapped in a blanket, or perched at Bistro St. Michaels newly remodeled bar area.
Stewart, who also is the executive chef of Bistro St. Michaels, said, “We tend to move to the beat of our own drum here.”
Nowhere is this more evident than with the Tetanus Shot, a play off the popular Rusty Nail. This drink is special, and perfect for any season.
Cabeceiras said she starts by steeping rosemary and fennel seeds and later adding in clover honey, to create a signature, specialty mix. She said she uses guests’ favorite everyday scotch, puts it in a shaker with ice, adds a touch of lemon simple syrup and serves it chilled, in a rocks glass with ice.
It. Is. Amazing. It’s got an aggressive name, but the taste is light, mostly reminiscent of a chilled tea with a kick. It gives you this feeling that you’re drinking something good for you, and the care with with each piece of this cocktail was crafted is evident.
Cabeceiras said Stewart is a huge fan of using local, fresh ingredients to add a unique flare to their cocktail list. With this in mind, try the house-made, garden-infused vodka in the Bistro Bloody Mary. It’s like packing your tastebuds with your entire backyard garden all at once. Cabeceiras said they start by infusing vodka with poblano peppers, dill, red and green peppers, carrots, onions, garlic cloves and a Bay leaf.
Once the flavors are good and melded together, piecing together their version of the Bloody Mary can begin.
It’s got the typical Old Bay rim, but its garnishes are truly unique, much like the garden-packed flavor. Garnished with the quintessential lemon, lime, celery and green olive, it also comes with a chili pepper and a roasted sliver of sweet potato. You’ve got to be brave to dive into that chili pepper, sure, but what really is unique about this Bloody Mary, is the vodka doesn’t overpower the veggies. It’s got a strong veggie flavor, perfectly seasoned and just spicy enough. Again, you can’t help but feel you’ve really done something good for yourself by ordering this. It’s that fresh, and it’s that colorful, and it’s that delicious.
If spice isn’t your thing, there’s the Bistro Red Ruby Martini, a perfect compliment to one of the Bistro’s seasonal seafood dishes, and also inspired by local ingredients.
Cabeceiras said she starts with your favorite vodka in an iced shaker, then adds Agave Arts and Juicing Co.’s fresh, cold-pressed ruby red grapefruit juice. It is sweet and refreshing for those still warm-ish fall days. The juice is cold-pressed just across the street.
Stewart said any one of these cocktails is perfect as an addition to any of the locally inspired fall dishes on the menu, including coq au vin, short rib bourguignon and the Bistro’s hearty gumbo. He said his favorite fall legume is mushrooms, so keep an eye out for specials.
Stewart credits the success of the restaurant to the team in place there, as well as to all the moving parts that go into making the business thrive.
“There are a lot of moving parts that go on behind the scenes here, a lot. The team here is great. I’m fortunate and grateful for that,” Stewart said.