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New Mixology Gold on the Santa Fe Trail

Elyse Glickman


The mélange of Native American, Spanish and European cultures, along with Northern New Mexco's equally vibrant geological attribute, solidify Santa Fe's status as an ideal home base for visual artists as well as writers (such as Kate Braverman, Cormac McCarthy, Douglas Adams and even D.H. Lawrence). By the same token, it can be argued that mixologists and beverage directors who use craft spirits and mixers as their media of choice have done their part to ensure Santa Fe continues to live up to its reputation on the culinary end.

One mixologist who has done her part to put Santa Fe on the map as a cocktail destination is author/mixologist Natalie Bovis (aka The Liquid Muse ), who herself has been a fixture on the pages of THE TASTING PANEL and other beverage industry magazines. While her business savvy and culinary panache takes her around the world, and she's currently based in Los Angeles, she is still very much a booster for Santa Fe's emerging cocktail culture.

"Santa Fe is a city filled with creativity," affirms Bovis. "Those of us who grew up here are all artists in some way, and creative people are drawn to move here from around the world. One form of artistic expression is food and drink, and Santa Feans love to boast that we have more James Beard award-winning chefs per capita than any other small town in the United States."

Natalie Bovis, aka "The Liquid Muse."

Bovis first discovered mixology while living in Washington, D.C., in 2005, and further developed her craft by writing cocktail books, teaching and consulting for spirits and restaurant groups while living in Los Angeles. In 2011, when she moved back to Santa Fe for family reasons, she bartended and worked as the Brand Ambassador for KGB Spirits, a small local distillery

Chris Milligan behind the bar.
"It inspired and touched me to see the local bartenders becoming inspired to up their game in the world of cocktails. The study, passion and drive they have to be part of the mixology world leaves no question that this area is one of many small markets on the rise."

Chris Milligan, one of Bovis's colleagues and cocktail blogger known as Santa Fe Barman, has worked hard to make Secreto at the Hotel St. Francis a local mainstay as well as a destination for thirsty and travelers. While Milligan's cocktail menus and beverage program at Secreto sets a high standard for many mixologists locally and nationally, he acknowledges that keeping his diverse customer base engaged and involved is a continuous process.

"About 60% of my regulars stay with vintage cocktails, while 40% come in and either order specials off the menu or ask me to fix something for them based on what is in season, such as mangoes," he says. "This is where we innovate, and a lot of our new drinks come from the improvisation and interaction between me and my staff. For example, Todd Walker [Secreto's head bartender] and I were behind the bar one night playing around, and we came up with The Smoked Sage Margarita that we thought was great, and everybody else who was looking on thought was crazy. It has since become the most popular drink on our menu."

Like the most successful restaurants in town, Secreto's bar is laser-focused on local, organic ingredients including spirits such as Republic Tequila and sage from King Farms, down in Edgewood, NM. While Milligan agrees that Santa Fe is new to cocktail culture, even with culinary culture being a major part of its destination appeal since the 1980s, the scene is catching up fast, thanks in part to the St. Francis Hotel's parent company, Heritage Resorts, recognizing a good beverage program brings added dimension to an already successful hotel or restaurant.

"There are a lot of interesting things being pioneered in Santa Fe," Milligan details. "We have a garden fresh, market-to-glass program being done at one of [Heritage's] other bars by my colleague Mike Trujillo, who started expanding the beverage program in 2009 when he came to work at a Heritage property in Albuquerque. I started doing this kind of thing and a half ago, when I was working at a hotel at a pool bar and focused not only on crafting fresh Piña Coladas with natural juice but also searching the hotel kitchen for other fresh ideas. When I got to Secreto, it was a match made in heaven, career-wise. Four years later, my team and I are still creating magic."

Milligan notes that since the expansion of Secreto's beverage program, he has observed other bars in town starting to copy their concepts, and even saw names of their drinks on menus other bars.  He sings the praises of Edward Welsh, whose eclectic and enchanting cocktail menu created for The Bar at Terra in the Four Seasons Encantado Resort provides the perfect liquid foil for executive chef Andrew Cooper's food menu.

During his run at Terra, Welsh was particularly proud of the fact that his beverage menu never lets a guest forget where he or she is. He pointed out guests would find the strong presence of Bill York, owner of small batch bitters company The Bitter End, as well as products from Santa Fe Spirits (Silver Coyote White Whisky, Weaver Gin, Expedition Vodka, Apple Brandy), Don Quixote Distillery vodkas and bourbons and KGB Spirits (Taos Lightening Bourbon, Hacienda Gin and Aloe Vera Vodka and wines).

Ed Welsh.

"I like my drinks to taste classic, even while reflecting Santa Fe's unique products," says Welsh. "It is important for me to strike a nice balance between bitter, sweet, sour and savory. As distilleries in our state produce spirits that are really well crafted, it is important to us to make them as an integral part of our beverage program as the local produce and our locally-produced wines."

Welsh's flavor profiles run the gamut from the complex Stormy Orchard, which features Taos Lightning Bourbon, to the light and tangy Ginger Mint Lemonade with Hacienda Gin. The intense but smooth Honey Badger is the ultimate showcase for local spirits. His "Manhattan Project" cocktail, meanwhile, is a prime example of an international classic made local, aged with local bitters in a cask for several weeks.

Bovis, meanwhile, has left her mark at Santacafé, which helped establish Santa Fe as a foodie town back in the 1980s. Her cocktail menu includes an "Enchanted Manhattan" featuring Taos Lightening rye whisky and Bitter End Mexican Mole Bitters and other cocktails with local product.

Other hotels, restaurants and bars are catching on to the intricacies of cocktail culture, making Santa Fe's reputation as an artist's mecca work for them. La Posada Resort, for example, has an artisanal margarita served in its bar as well as a popular "margarita manicure" offered in its spa.

"There is no turning back in terms of where mixology is headed, especially down here," affirms Milligan. "People are really tuned in to natural ingredients and leaning towards innovative recipes and presentation."


Smoked Sage Margarita
Chris Milligan, Secreto at the St. Francis Hotel

1½ oz. Republic Añejo Organic Tequila
1 oz. Dekuyper 03 Orange Liqueur
¾ oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
2 sage leaves
hickory smoked salt

Combine tequila, orange liqueur, and lime in a mixing glass. Make a pyramid of 3 Boston shakers and burn one of the sage leaves capturing in the smoke in the top shaker. Add ice to the mixing glass and cap with the smoke filled Boston shaker and shake for 10 seconds. Double strain into a hickory smoked salt-rimmed glass and garnish with second sage leaf and lime wheel.


Agave Way
Chris Milligan, Secreto at the Hotel St. Francis

5 black grapes
½ oz agave syrup (2:1 organic light agave nectar to water)
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 New Mexico or Anaheim green chili ring (1/4 inch)
1½ oz. reposado tequila

Place grapes, chili, lime and agave in a mixing glass and muddle. Add tequila and ice then shake for 10-12 seconds). Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with one more each grape and green chili ring.


Stormy Orchard

Edward Welsh, Terra at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado

1 ½ oz. Santa Fe Spirits Apple Brandy
½ oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
Dash bitters
Splash grenadine

Build over ice in rocks glass, top with soda, and garnish with lemon twist.

Ginger Mint Lemonade

Edward Welsh, Terra at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado

2 oz. Tito's Vodka
½ oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
5-6 mint leaves
1 oz. lemon Juice
1 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. water

Muddle mint in simple syrup. Add other ingredients over ice, and shake and pour contents into Collins glass. Garnish with lemon wheel.

Honey Badger
Edward Welsh, Terra at Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado

2 oz. Taos Bourbon
1 oz. Santa Fe Spirits Apple Brandy
5-6 basil leaves
½ oz. agave or local honey

Muddle basil and honey. Add other ingredients over ice, and shake and pour contents into cocktail glass. Garnish with a basil leaf or lemon twist.


Enchanted Manhattan

Natalie Bovis, The Liquid Muse © 2012 for Santacafé

¾ ounce ruby port
5 drops Bitter End Mexican Mole Bitters
2 ounces Taos Lightning 5-year Rye Whiskey
Garnish: drunken cherry*

Stir whiskey, port and bitters in a mixing glass, with ice. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with a drunken cherry.

*Drunken Cherry
In a small bowl, cover market-fresh cherries with Taos Lightning Whiskey and keep refrigerated.

Mixologist's note: The rye whiskey used in our signature Manhattan has rested in wood for 5 years, giving it a richness in both color and taste. This classic cocktail features local spirit and bitters made in the Land of Enchantment.


Hibiscus Gin Sour
Natalie Bovis, The Liquid Muse © 2012 for Santacafé

½ ounce The Liquid Muse hibiscus-cabernet syrup
¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice (about ½ large lemon)
1 ½ ounces Hacienda Gin
Garnish: sugar rim

Rim a Martini glass with sugar by rubbing it with a piece of cut lemon, then dipping it into white granulated sugar. Set aside. Pour gin, syrup and fresh lemon juice into a cocktail shaker, and shake well with ice. Gently strain into Martini glass.

Blood & Thunder
Natalie Bovis, The Liquid Muse © 2012 for JINJA

¾ ounce Taos Lightning Bourbon
¾ ounce Naranjo Orange Liqueur
¾ ounce sweet vermouth
¾ ounce freshly squeezed orange juice
Garnish: orange zest

Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange zest.

Mixologist's note: This twist on the classic Blood & Sand is named after the book Blood & Thunder featuring history of the American West. Taos Lightning whiskey dates back to the 1800's and is named by brand in the book as a favorite of the hard-living characters forging forward into new territory.

Caliente Margarita
La Posada Resort

1½ oz. Green chile-infused Sauza Blue Reposado Tequila*
¾ oz Citronge Triple Sec
1 ½ oz. fresh lemon sour **
Lemon juice
Kosher salt

Dip the rim of a Margarita glass into the lemon juice, then dip it into the kosher salt to coat the rim with salt. Set aside. Next, in a shaker, combine the tequila, triple sec and lemon sour. Add ice and shake. Pour into Margarita glass and serve.

*Green Chile Infused Tequila
Infuse the tequila by placing a peeled and roasted green (Hatch New Mexico) chili in the tequila for 72 hours to set the right flavor. As a substitute, you can use an Anaheim chili. Generally, 1 to 2 chiles are used per bottle. They are whole peeled New Mexico grown chiles without seeds. We have also experimented with adding jalapeños to the tequila to make it even hotter.

**Fresh Lemon Sour
1 part lemon juice to 2 parts sugar syrup. Sugar syrup is 1 part water to 2 parts sugar.


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