These days, Salt Lake City is full of talented, passionate bartenders who are creating cocktails that could hold their weight in any big city craft cocktail bar. As I have been writing about cocktails and spirits over the past few years, it has become clear to me that the reason I keep doing so is because I really, really love talking to the bartenders in our city. And, one of my favorite bartenders to “nerd out” with is Natalie Hamilton at FINCA.
For Natalie, the most exciting thing about bartending in Salt Lake City right now is the community of bartenders and the hype that craft cocktails are getting. “Craft cocktails have really exploded in SLC over the past few years — whereas not long ago, the scene was only happening in a few spots. Today, it seems like most restaurants and bars are catching onto the importance of incorporating craft cocktails into their menus and are taking the time to add fun classics to their list.”
I couldn’t agree with Natalie more. What is exciting about this, is that this trend wouldn’t be happening if the SLC consumer wasn’t requesting their local bartenders and bar menus to be creative and use the best ingredients. For me, an underwhelming cocktail menu will make a major impression (not of the good kind) no matter how good the food is.
And if you are a bar, where spirits are your main focus, leaving out craft cocktails or a few classics altogether is ultimately going to be your doom. Taking the time to get a great Manhattan or Old Fashioned (technique and ingredients matter!) on your menu is important — and, adding a killer perfect Negroni can only help matters.
Natalie sees customers coming into FINCA with an good understanding of craft cocktails more and more. “The expectations of our bar guests keeps all of us on our toes. The general eating and drinking here in Salt Lake has changed; good drinks are expected and good bartenders are appreciated!”.
Not only is the local consumer inspiring Natalie to create balanced, imaginative cocktails, the bartender community itself, she says, is like a family and amazing to be a part of. “I love the Utah chapter of the United States Bartenders Guild that has been built here — it is full of friendly competition and learning, and I think this has really influenced our bar community in becoming more professional and more tight-knit. We respect each other and people are really starting to respect what we do and what we create — that’s wonderful to be a part of.”
Natalie’s cocktail for the Farm to Table cocktail contest is one that very much encapsulates her passion, technique, and skill. Don’t worry, you still have time to get out and try it before the Farm to Table party happening on October 9th. And just to get your mouth watering, here’s the recipe.
This is The Place Punch, by Natalie Hamilton
1.5 oz Antelope Island Rum
.5 oz Smith and Cross
.75 oz House Plum Cordial
.50 oz lime juice
.25 oz House Made Walnut Orgeat
2 Dashes Charred Cedar and Current Bitters (Bitters Lab)
In a coupe, place fresh sage leaf, cinnamon stick, and vanilla bean. Add ⅛ oz Bacardi 151. Light on fire with a match, and toast ingredients while you shake the rest of the cocktail with ice. Strain cocktail into coup to extinguish flames and add one more sage leaf on top as garnish.
I have had this cocktail twice, and I can promise you that it doesn’t disappoint. It is complex, smoky, sweet, earthy, and balanced. Watching Natalie create This is The Place Punch is truly an art, and a perfect example of what imbibing can and should be!
So, make sure to get over to FINCA, sit at the bar, and chat with Natalie while she shakes you up a cocktail to remember.
Salt Lake City has become an amazing place to find outstanding food and craft cocktails. Over the past 7 years, I have been lucky enough to write about the wonderful restaurants, bartenders, chefs, produce, wine, cocktails, beer, and vibe that SLC brings and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. We are surrounded by beauty in both our geographical location, as well as the passion and flavors this city unleashes! I am lucky enough to be included in the phenomenal food and cocktail culture here and I hope some of my posts entice you to get out and enjoy it also.
— Chelsea Nelson of Heartbeat Nosh
Follow Chelsea on Instagram (@heartbeatnosh).