Top Shelf: Recipes From A Cocktail Connoisseur

Nick Detrich grew up on the west side of Indianapolis before attending IU Bloomington. In 2008, he moved to New Orleans and has spent the last decade pursuing a career of “mixing drinks and making people feel comfortable.” Photo courtesy of Denny Culbert.

In New Orleans, within walking distance of bustling Bourbon Street, patrons will find Jewel of the South and Manolito—two bars owned and operated by Nick Detrich, ’07.

The Indiana native and self-proclaimed cocktail “nerd” got his first taste of bartending at Bullwinkle’s—a now-shuttered gay bar in Bloomington, Ind.—while studying English literature at IU.

“My English [studies] helped me become a better bartender,” he says. “Getting a well-rounded education in the humanities makes it easier to hold a conversation on just about anything with guests. It’s easy to find some sort of common ground if you spent any time bouncing between course subjects.”

Detrich’s most formative hospitality experience in Bloomington came later, at the Runcible Spoon, the cozy mainstay known for its brunch, coffee, and selection of Irish and English ales. Working as a server, bartender, and host, he honed a sense of community and curiosity that has served him well in New Orleans.

Detrich will soon open his third Big Easy establishment, Everywhen, which builds on his knack for building cocktail menus rich with history—often taking on the role of professor for those who sidle up to his bar.

When Detrich and business partner Chris Hannah opened Jewel of the South last year, their mission was to resurrect nearly forgotten New Orleans cocktail gems. Photo courtesy of Denny Culbert.

At Jewel of the South, the signature drink is the Brandy Crusta, which boasts a notable origin story.

“Historically, this was the first drink that ever used fresh-squeezed citrus,” Detrich says. “So, any drink with fresh lemon or lime or grapefruit [is] a direct descendant of this one drink first made here in New Orleans.”

The Brandy Crusta dates back to a 19th-century bar, also called Jewel of the South, where bartender Joseph Santini created the drink and inspired generations of citrus cocktails to come.

“Santini led the [Civil War-era] Italian Brigade, which was responsible for keeping order in New Orleans after the Union took the city,” Detrich says. “[The Union] had little resources for an occupation, so Santini and some other laudable gentlemen maintained order from offices they kept at Santini’s smaller establishment, the Parlor, which was just around the corner from Jewel of the South.”

Photo courtesy of Denny Culbert

Concoct a Brandy Crusta 

  • 1.75 ounces Remy Martin 1738 cognac
  • 0.75 ounce fresh lemon juice
  • 0.5 ounce Pierre Ferrand curacao
  • 0.25 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Sugar for glass rim
  • Lemon peel

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake 20 times. Strain into a large glass with a thick sugar rim. Pare an entire lemon peel and mount around the side of the glass while expressing.

Another Detrich specialty is the Bombo—a rum Old-Fashioned garnished with nutmeg that dates back to the 1600s. It was made famous by George Washington, who gave it away at his campaign rallies.

“I blend a Barbadian rum with Jamaican rum, so it has some richness and a dose of funk,” Detrich says.

Photo courtesy of Leila Wylie Wagner

Pour Yourself a Bombo

  • 1 ounce Doorly’s Barbadian rum
  • 1 ounce Smith & Cross Traditional Jamaica Rum
  • 1 bar spoon (about 1 teaspoon) demerara syrup
  • 2 dashes Bittermens Elemakule Tiki Bitters
  • Fresh nutmeg

In a double Old-Fashioned glass, combine the ingredients. Add ice, then stir 20 times. Grate fresh nutmeg over top.

This article is adapted from a story in the Fall 2019 issue of the Indiana University Alumni Magazine.

Written By
CJ Lotz
CJ Lotz, BAJ’11, was a Wells Scholar at IU. She is a senior editor at the Southern lifestyle magazine Garden & Gun in Charleston, S.C. Her work has appeared in Indianapolis Monthly, St. Louis Magazine, and the Associated Press.