This story originally appeared in DeSoto Magazine. You can view the online version in its original format here.
Festive Cocktails for Valentine’s Day
Published in January issue in the “In Good Spirits” Section
Story and photography by Cheré Coen
When a new Hotel Indigo property opens, the emphasis on the boutique hotel’s design is to reflect the character and culture of the town in which it is located. For example, Hotel Indigo – Hattiesburg, which opened last summer, uses the region’s railroad and timber industries for inspiration, with a nod to the University of Southern Mississippi. Visitors will always find a golden eagle looking down from above.
The hotel’s front desk resembles a train ticket booth and walls are accented by natural woods. Each guest room includes a photo of W.S.S. Tatum, the local timber company patriarch, plus large round bath mirrors resembling train station clocks. The hotel’s gift shop sells locally made products, including train whistle toys, Bee Gold Honey and Country Girls Creamery items.
Off the lobby, the Brass Hat lounge and restaurant continues the railroad décor with a room reminiscent of a 1930’s dining car. Above comfy chairs for relaxing with company and enjoying the tapas, small plates and specialty dishes are books with railroad themes.
Keeping with the local focus are cocktails crafted with Mississippi ingredients by two native mixologists, Nicci McNease and Conner Lewing. The hotel gives them free reign to experiment, McNease said, and the duo serves up six to 10 new cocktails every two weeks.
“We try to use as much local or regional distillers as possible,” she explained, adding that local breweries such as Hattiesburg’s Southern Prohibition are on tap as well.
One of their most unusual drinks is a vanilla chai latte martini with coffee bean-infused vodka using espresso beans from the Hattiesburg Grin Coffee Roastery. The bartenders also use Grin’s products to make a cold brew old fashion “with a hint of whiskey on the back side to let you know it’s there,” McNease said.
Signature cocktails that remain on the menu include The Sip, “a play on how people shorthand Mississippi,” McNease said, and Seelbach, like an old fashion but more flavorful and lighter.
The Sip combines two vodkas and blueberry lemonade, the latter of which comes from Sandy Run Farms of Hattiesburg. The hotel has also used Aunt Polly’s blueberry lemonade, another local establishment.
“The Sip was our first featured signature drink,” McNease explained, adding that they created it to represent Hattiesburg.
Both drinks are easy to create at home, she insisted, and when poured into elegant glasses will be an impressive display this Valentine’s Day.
1 ounce Cathead Honeysuckle vodka
1 ounce Absolut Citron
4 ounces blueberry lemonade
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Directions: Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker. Stir or shake the mixture and strain into a glass and add a splash of club soda. Garnish with a lemon twist.
1 ounce Four Roses bourbon
½ ounce Cointreau
4 dashes Angostura bitters
3 dashes Peychaud bitters
Dry Brut Champagne
Directions: Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and mix. Strain the drink into champagne flutes and top with dry Brut champagne.
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