Even serious craft bartenders like to have a little fun once in a while. In fact, that’s kind of the whole point of drinking, and the Family Traditions exemplifies that attitude. The playful highball comes from Kyle Beach, the general manager of Buxton Hall in Asheville, North Carolina, and its ingredient list reads like Appalachian magic: bourbon, house-made Mountain Dew syrup and Tang, the concentrated orange drink powder popularized by astronauts in the early 1960s.
The drink was a way for Beach to weave personal narrative and regional history into Buxton’s bar program. Beach’s grandfather Jesse Beach was a tenant farmer and factory worker in eastern North Carolina with a penchant for doctored whiskey. “[Jesse] was a bit of a louse, a moonshiner, a penny poker player and, most certainly, a cheating womanizer and poor husband to my grandmother Mildred,” says Beach. “While grandma was off doing farm work before her wait shift at R&C Restaurant, my grandfather would be in his recliner, watching soap operas and drinking Ancient Ancient Age bourbon with Mountain Dew and a tablespoon of Tang mixed in.” This beloved combination of bourbon, Dew and Tang was “so saccharine sweet it’ll make your mouth pucker,” says Beach.
Beach wanted to honor family drinking lore, along with the story of the south in the 1950s and 1960s, but first he had to do away with the Dew. His solution was to make citrus soda in-house, starting with an orange-lime oleo saccharum laced with malic and citric acids to give it that soft-drink zing. “While it’s not a direct representation of Mountain Dew, the soda itself is quite good, and Mountain Dew fans can taste the resemblance,” he says. Buxton Hall Buxton’s bar team, led by Brandon Grogan, batches the oleo with bourbon and soda water and kegs the whole concoction. And instead of grandpa’s original Tang, they rim glasses with a mixture of dehydrated orange zest, sugar and citric acid.
- 16 ounces bourbon
- 32 ounces Dew syrup*
- 32 ounces club soda
- Garnish: Tang rim**
- Garnish: lime wheel
Rim a Collins glass with a Tang rim** and set aside.
Add all 2 ounces of bourbon and 4 ounces each Dew syrup and club soda into the glass over ice. Stir to incorporate.
Garnish with a lime wheel.
*Dew syrup: Combine 4 cups sugar, zest of 10 limes, zest of 10 oranges, 4 teaspoon citric acid and 1 teaspoon malic acid in large container. Let sit for 3 hours or up to 1 day. Add 8 ounces fresh orange juice, 2 ounces fresh lime juice and 4 cups hot water and stir to dissolve sugar. Strain through chinois to remove solids.
**Tang rim: Rim the glass with a mixture of 1/2 cup ground dried orange peel, 1/2 cup sugar and a 1/8 teaspoon citric acid.