Every day, for the past three-and-a-half years, the bartenders at Café Maude have begun their shifts by creating an original cocktail.
When Mary Tyler Moore died, they made a drink in memoriam with Old Grand-Dad 100, Yellow Chartreuse, Punt e Mes, lemon juice and whiskey barrel-aged bitters.
“I read somewhere that she liked to drink Rittenhouse,” Manager Todd Staberg said.
The day of the Women’s March, they made a pink drink called “The Protest” with gin, honey, cranberry, lemon juice and lemon bitters topped with sparkling water.
The $5 happy hour drinks have earned a following. Staberg said some people call in advance to learn the day’s cocktail.
“It caught on, that’s definitely for sure,” he said. “Chemistry is happening behind the bar.”
“It used to be the scariest thing in the world,” said bartender Lindsay Forslin.
She said it’s become easier over time, particularly after bar manager David Christensen made a rule that each day’s cocktail should incorporate an ingredient the bartenders had never used before.
“I’ve officially touched every bottle in this bar,” she said.
After hours spent dreaming up new drinks, Forslin said she now encourages patrons to order something original on the spot.
“Let me just create something for you,” she said.
“If it were up to me, we wouldn’t even have a menu,” Christensen said.
To create a custom cocktail, Christensen starts by asking a few questions. Do you prefer spirit forward? Would you like a stirred Manhattan-style drink, or something more citrusy and sweet? What flavors do you dislike?
A notebook behind the bar logs all of the old cocktail recipes, with contributions from fellow bartenders Adam Klugherz and Luz Sather.
“And So It Begins” — created the day after Thanksgiving — was designed to taste like Christmas in a glass, with bourbon, Becherovka, cinnamon and Jerry Thomas Bitters. “French Ambition” on May 11, 2015 was made with aquavit, maraschino, green chartreuse, lemon, applewood smoked mint and butterscotch cotton candy.
The staff draws inspiration from inside jokes, obscure holidays and regular customers.
“The names are my favorite part,” Forslin said.
There was “Here’s your damn pumpkin drink” made in October 2015, “Hermey’s Misfit Punch” made last December, the “Air Conditioner” last June and the “Long Distance Call” in July. And they’ve made “Rum Bieber,” “30th Century Man,” “The Bitching Hour,” “All the best people are nutty,” “Problem Solved” and “The Alex P. Keaton.”
A few of the cocktails have found a permanent place on the menu, such as “Wise in the Ways of Science,” which Staberg decided was so beautiful it needed to stay. Other drinks like “The Dave and Dana” and the “Canfield Cocktail” were created for some of the restaurant’s regulars.
“We made that up for [Canfield] one day and he liked it,” Staberg said.
Maude has many regulars — Forslin was house-sitting for one of them last month. The most loyal of the regulars might visit several times a week, and hang out as long as 2 p.m.-9:30 p.m. If they show up after closing time, staff have been known to welcome them inside.
“They’re a big deal around these parts,” Forslin said.
Two of Maude’s cocktails have been on the menu since opening day 10 years ago: The “Tomgirl Named Maude” and the “Natasha” (Natasha’s Rocky and Bullwinkle cocktail counterpart “Boris” has long since dropped off the menu).
The following is Forslin’s spontaneous recipe for “Hey, Listen!” created on a recent weekday: one-and-a-half ounces of Lazzaroni Amaretto, an ounce of vodka, a half ounce of orange juice, a half ounce of lemon juice, and a quarter ounce of simple syrup, finished with Bent Paddle Black Ale.
“If you sell two it’s a good day, and if you sell 40, it’s a really good day,” she said.