To say it’s been a minute for The Buzz column might be an understatement. Granted, there was a pandemic that shut down life as we know it about two years ago, affecting a lot of nightlife rendezvous/happenings for many Omahans. So it was a welcome notice when our wonderful editors at The Reader wanted to know what “The Buzz” has been in and around.
If you haven’t yet guessed what this article is about or what we are about to explore, I can only assume you’ve skimmed over the headline or simply might be buzzed yourself. You might want to get coffee or a tall glass of water before reading further.
It’s safe to say that, for most of us, taste buds change with time, age and even on a seasonal basis. (Nebraskans know a thing or two about our multi-polar weather.) You find yourself bellying up to the bar, ready to ask your bartender for the same gin and tonic, tequila on the rocks or Long Island Iced Tea (no judgment there), as you chap your lips because your palette is second guessing you and telling your brain, wait a minute, hold up, I might be in the mood for something different.
That, my friends, is where I come in. After visiting a number of carefully selected metro-area cocktail bars and speaking to some of Omaha’s bartenders, we came up with some of Omaha’s best cocktails for summer — along with the coveted award of Omaha’s Summer 2022 Cocktail.
At almost every bar we went to around Omaha, the cocktail that almost everyone is drinking is a French 75 or some version of it. You might have heard of it or seen it on a menu because of its resurgence in popularity, especially at brunch. According to liquor.com, “it’s a fan-favorite because the effervescent drink offers a boozier kick than a Mimosa, while still providing ultimate refreshment before, during and after your eggs Benedict.”
Doesn’t that sound sublime?
French 75 Standard Recipe:
- 1 ounce gin
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup
- 3 ounces Champagne (or other sparkling wine)
- Garnish: lemon twist
Add the gin, lemon juice and simple syrup to a shaker with ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a Champagne flute. Top with the Champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Although French 75s are in high demand at local cocktail bars, that doesn’t mean it’s my pick for this summer. It’s somewhat of a suggestion. What you will find, though, is that most bars around Omaha serve their own spin on the classic French 75.
So Here’s The Buzz:
Pageturners Lounge off 50th and Dodge in Dundee serves a Pimm’s 76. It has cucumber syrup and lemon prosecco, making it cooling to the tongue as soon as you drink it. Head bartender Drew Shuck also loves serving Green tea cocktails in the summer. It’s his favorite kind of drink to make for clients. I must give a shoutout to the “Punch on Tap,” which has been Pageturners’ favorite for a number of years. Pageturners is an “intentional neighborhood destination,” as Shuck describes it. Not only are the cocktails reasonably priced, but Pageturners offers great Happy Hour specials daily. Salud!
The Green Room at 306 South 16th Street is an industry favorite. By industry favorite, I mean this is where bartenders and people who work in the service industry go to hang out, chill and drink (party people, please don’t mess this place up for us). The Green Room is an amalgamation — if you haven’t guessed already — of everything Green. It’s a bright spot on Omaha’s cocktail scene. The Dignified Delight, which is crisp, refreshing and, as bartender Matt Owens describes, “(expletive***) delicious and packs a punch.”
It’s The Green Room’s play on a French 75. What sets it apart, though, is the rosemary ginger simple syrup that is made in house. Another top cocktail that Owens recommends is Merlin, which can be described as an adult juicy scenario kind of drink. Also The Strawberry Cough, which is a tequila-based cocktail with guava puree and strawberry shrub. Think guava meets strawberry smoothie. What makes the Green Room an industry favorite is not only does it serve unique cocktails, but if you are in the mood for a Hamm’s Tall Boy, it has that, too.
The Red Lion Lounge off 38th and Farnam has been highlighted before by The Buzz. It is on our list again for this reason: The best and classic French 75 can be found here. Bar manager Paul Zahn not only curates a classic cocktail menu, but enjoys serving Red Lion original cocktails to patrons. The Party Dog is not only easy to drink, but also is a way better and boozier version of an Aperol Spritz. The Red Lion offers a comfortable lounge atmosphere in The Blackstone District. Zahn describes it as “a little more adult, a little more chill and a little more comfortable.”
Last but not least: Alice. A cocktail bar and experience in West Omaha, Alice teeters on the brink of being a speakeasy and a hard place to find. That’s not by mistake. Alice is located at 17070 Wright Plaza Suite 10. You won’t find signs on the building to point you to this hideaway — it’s in the basement at Jam’s Bar and Grill. Alice is “The” cocktail experience in West Omaha, with plush seating and dim lighting to make you feel as though you are in a cozy yet chic rabbit hole, because it draws inspiration from “Alice in Wonderland.”
Drum roll please. My pick for Omaha’s Summer 2022 Cocktail is … Lemon Flower Crush, made by bartender Amanda Wackel of Alice.
Wackel’s creation is not even on the menu so you will have to ask her to make it. Lemon Flower Crush is Omaha’s summer cocktail because of its elderflower liqueur and fully balanced flavor. “A lot of bartenders might throw their noses up to the use of elderflower liqueur because it has become overused in making newer cocktails,” Wackel said. “But I truly think it uniquely fits Omaha because of the abundance of elderflower trees we have in and around the city. When the trees bloom, they give off a great scent which you can smell everywhere in Omaha. It’s not overpowering, it’s subtle.” The cocktail is not only extremely balanced, but the combination of the light floral notes with the slight spiciness from the tequila and hint of lemon quenches your thirst. It has a fully rounded effect.
The Lemon Flower Crush recipe:
- 1.5 ounce of blanco tequila
- ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
- ½ ounce cocchi Americano
- ½ ounce falernum
- ½ ounce elderflower liqueur
Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Strain and use your own lemon peel creation to garnish.
Make sure check the Lemon Flower Crush at Alice and other seasonal drinks and cocktail bars/experiences this summer. Remember to have fun, drink responsibly, and tip your bartenders. Read more of The Buzz on TheReader.com, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for updates @thebuzz_thereader. Message us your favorite bar suggestions. They could end up featured in The Buzz.