Beth Schatz Kaylor
 
 
    
 
Inspired by the Smith and Curran, all ingredients for the Brown Chicken, Brown Cacao can be purchased at Potent Potables and Pop, located on the second floor above Humpback Sally's on Main Street in Bismarck -- or just order the drink at the bar. (Submitted)
 
 

As general manager of Humpback Sally's, Luft and the Speakeasy -- and renowned bartender in her own right -- Kate Gerwin is leading the way in Bismarck's local cocktail scene.

With a highball glass as her canvas, Gerwin creates inspired libations such as the popular Brown Chicken, Brown Cacao cocktail at Humpback Sally's, which earned her international bartending accolades as the winner of the 2014 Bols World Bartending Championship. Smooth, sweet and creamy, it's a comforting beverage to sip on a chilly winter evening.

However, few people know that Gerwin's championship win is only one recent chapter in the storied history of this sweet, fizzy drink. Gerwin was inspired to create the cocktail after learning the local lore of the drink now known internationally as the Smith and Curran (aka Smith and Kearns).

Born at Bismarck's Blue Blazer Lounge in the old Prince Hotel, which still stands as a residential building at 113 N. Third Street, the cocktail owes its name to Wendell Smith and James Curran, oil men during North Dakota's first boom in the 1950s. They were regulars at the Blue Blazer Lounge, familiar with the establishment's bartender, Gebert "Shorty" Doebber. The signature drink at the Blue Blazer was whiskey set aflame (hence the "blaze" in Blue Blazer) mixed with hot water and a little sugar.

In 1952, after a particularly long night of carousing, Smith and Curran, presumably nursing hangovers, asked Shorty to create a more restorative drink -- something that tasted better than the Blue Blazer. The resulting cocktail -- a sweet, creamy, chocolately, fizzy concoction -- became known as the Smith and Curran. Its popularity eventually spread across the nation, with Curran's name evolving to "Kearns" (and sometimes "Kerns") in the cocktail's nomenclature.

For Kate Gerwin, one big career highlight has been competing against seven other talented peers from around the globe and winning the Bols World Bartending Championship -- the first American and first woman to do so -- with her Smith and Curran-inspired libation, cheekily named Brown Chicken, Brown Cacao. Gerwin's modern spin on Bismarck's classic cocktail includes more complex flavors than the original, thanks to spiced almond milk, walnut bitters and three types of liqueurs.

The story of the Smith and Curran may still have another chapter. This year, the owners of the Prince Hotel building requested a Renaissance Zone grant from the City of Bismarck to help refurbish the building's exterior, with plans to open a new restaurant in the building.

The name of the potential new restaurant project? The Blue Blazer.

The Smith and Curran

2 oz. dark creme de cacao

1 oz. half and half

A splash of club soda, to taste

Add ingredients in a highball glass over ice, in the order given. Stir briefly to lightly mix.

Kate Gerwin's Brown Chicken, Brown Cacao

Inspired by Bismarck's Smith and Curran cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Bols Yogurt Liqueur

1/2 oz. Bols white cacao

1/2 oz Bols brown cacao

1 oz. almond milk, spiced with cardamom, star anise and cinnamon

4 dashes black walnut bitters

Club soda

Mix all ingredients except the soda; shake and strain. Pour into a milk jug glass, top with soda and garnish with a candy stripe straw and grated nutmeg.



 
Beth Schatz Kaylor is a communications professional and freelance writer. She blogs about her North Dakota kitchen at rhubarbandvenison.com.