Kyle Darrow, head barman at Red Owl Tavern in the Hotel Monaco (located right across the street from Independence Hall and The Liberty Bell) believes in a mindful approach to bartending.

“Its all a balancing game.” For him, that balance lies between the experience and the craft. Taking pride in his craft is important, but he tries to keep his guests in mind when creating cocktails.

Chilled 100 Member Kyle Darrow - Philadelphia

Chilled 100 Member Kyle Darrow – Philadelphia

“I think cocktail lists should be made for your guests without influence from your own ego. It shouldn’t be ‘look what I can do,’ it should read more like, ‘this is what I can do for you.’  Most guests don’t have the same amount of knowledge as their bartender, nor should they. It’s my profession, and my responsibility to have the knowledge of spirits and techniques.  I educate the guests that are interested in it, but my list is heavily influenced by what most people ask for, with some cool techniques or interesting flavors that keep it exciting for me as well.”
– Kyle Darrow

Kyle’s latest cocktail library is specially created with the end of summer in mind. His Reading Cocktail List is a tribute to the all the books that would have been on your summer reading list and now that school is back in session… the books that you need to read.

We caught up with Kyle to find out about his latest cocktail menu and the inspiration behind these crafty creations.

Tell us about your summer reading cocktail list.

So at my bar we change the menu pretty regularly to keep up with the mood of the season and the city. When people start complaining about the heat, out comes the rum and tiki drinks. With school coming up and the city being flooded with university students, we decided to reminisce to the days right before school when you couldn’t procrastinate any longer and you had to finish five book reports in a week. The cocktail list is inspired by books that would have been on your summer reading list in say, high school.

What was your inspiration for these cocktails?

Let’s take Walden for example. It’s about transcendentalism and this guy who abandons everything he’s got and goes out into the woods and lives the simple life. So for the cocktail I decided I wanted to make it taste like the forest. Playing into the simplicity of life and self-reliance that Thoreau was preaching we decided to do essentially a house made gin and tonic. At its core it’s simple, but it can be dressed up with botanicals to give it that forest flavor I was looking for.

Some of the other ones like the To Kill a Mockingbird are more representations of the setting and atmosphere of the book. Taking place in the south where sweet tea is king on a muggy summer day, I made up a batch of apricot sweet tea, spiked it with some vodka and added some lemon to freshen it up.  A few dashes of pecan and chicory bitters balance it out. It’s summer and whether you admit it or not, you want an umbrella drink. Whether you’re a pirate in the Caribbean that needs a drink after a long day looting and pillaging or a 9-5’er in need of a pick me up, the Treasure Island reminds you what summer is all about.

Talk to us about the bar scene in Philly.

The Philly bar scene is fantastic in its uniqueness. Of course we have esoteric cocktail bars like any other big city, but what I love about Philly is that you can still find a good bartender. A guy that makes you feel like you’re drinking in a buddy’s basement and will riff with you about anything from music to politics. I preach hospitality first to my bar team at The Red Owl Tavern and I think it is a trend you will start to notice now that mixologists have brought the “craft” back to the profession. Having great cocktails is expected and I think great service will be what sets you apart.

Philly is not short on the neighborhood bars where you can get a proper drink in a polished judgment-free atmosphere. Khyber Pass Pub is a place you can get a good Belgian tripel, with some fried green tomatoes and a shot of Jameson’s at 1am on a Monday without being judged. The Good King and Pub and Kitchen both have a great balance of proper drinks, fantastic food and genuine hospitality. If you really want to let loose and have a good time, Bob and Barbra’s has been a Philly institution since the 60’s and is about as Philly as it gets. I think it’s best experienced with no knowledge of what its like, so I will only say go there with an open mind and no expectations.


walden

Walden

Walden

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 oz. Tanqueray
  • 1/2 oz. Tonic Syrup
  • Mineral Water

Preparation: Build Gin and syrup directly in glass. Add fennel top, rosemary, citrus wheels, arugula, and crushed cinnamon stick while layering ice between botanicals. Top with sparkling mineral water.


The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

Catcher In The Rye

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz. Caraway Infused Old Overholt
  • 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Honey Syrup
  • 2 dashes Black Walnut Bitters

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in shaking tin with ice. Shake and strain into coupe glass. Garnish with lemon twist.


Farenheight 451

Farenheight 451

Fahrenheit 451

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 oz. Makers Mark
  • 2 bar spoons Sour Cherry Jam
  • 1 disc Serrano Pepper
  • 1/2 oz. Honey Syrup
  • 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in shaking tin with ice. Shake and double strain into Old Fashioned glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with Serrano wheels and cherries.


Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

The Old Man and the Sea

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 oz. Smith and Cross Rum
  • 3/4 oz. Bacardi
  • 3/4 oz. Campari
  • 3/4 oz. Coffee
  • 3/4 oz Demerara Syrup

Preparation: Rim half of an old fashioned glass with salt. Combine all ingredients in mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into rimmed glass with ice. Garnish with coffee beans.


Treasure Island

Treasure Island

Treasure Island

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz Bacardi
  • 1/2 oz. Passion Fruit
  • 3/4 oz. Lime Juice
  • 1/2 oz. Orgeat

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in shaking tin with ice. Shake and strain into tulip beer glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with Li Hing Mui powder and Mint Spring.


The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 oz. Monkey Shoulder
  • 3/4 oz. St. Germain
  • 7-10 dash Angostura Bitters
  • Sparkling Wine

Preparation: Combine Monkey Shoulder, St. Germain and Angostura in mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into Old Fashioned glass with large cube and top with sparkling wine. Garnish with lemon twist.


To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 oz. Ketel One
  • 2 oz. Apricot Sweet tea
  • 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
  • 2 dashes Pecan & Chicory Bitters

Preparation: Combine all ingredients in shaking tin with ice. Shake and strain into Collins glass with fresh ice. Garnish with mint spring and apricot slices.


Grapes of Wrath

Grapes of Wrath

Grapes of Wrath

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz. Grape, Rosemary, Honey Shrub
  • Sparkling Wine

Preparation: Build directly in flute. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with rosemary sprig and grape halves.