Cocktail Hour: Cooking Up Cocktails

At Clay Pigeon in Fort Worth, Texas, sous chef Peter Kreidler gets creative at the bar.

Peter Kreidler, sous chef at Clay Pigeon in Fort Worth, Texas, uses his culinary knowledge to make cocktails.
Peter Kreidler, sous chef at Clay Pigeon in Fort Worth, Texas, uses his culinary knowledge to make cocktails. (Photo by Kevin Marple)

Earlier this year, Peter Kreidler seized the opportunity to add the role of mixologist to his job description. As sous chef of Clay Pigeon Food and Drink in Fort Worth, Texas—opened by chef Marcus Paslay in 2013—Kreidler noticed a lack of experimental craft cocktails in Dallas’ sister city and decided to fill that niche. “No one was really offering outside-of-the-box drinks in Fort Worth,” he says. “So I just took it upon myself to step up because I felt it was really important that our cocktail program mirrored the food.”

That approach includes making house bitters, tinctures, syrups and shrubs, as well as highlighting seasonal ingredients. “In the summer, the menu focuses on light, fruity cocktails,” Kreidler explains. “In the winter, we do more Bourbon-driven cocktails and heavier drinks like The Magnolia, made with Fernet-Branca amaro, Godiva Chocolate liqueur, Baileys Irish Cream liqueur and house-made coffee bitters. And we recently had a matcha cocktail for spring.”

Cocktails range from $10 to $14. The current list features the Grapefruit Gin Rickey, mixing Gompers gin, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, lime juice, grapefruit juice and soda, and The Briar Patch, blending Barr Hill vodka, house-made blackberry–kaffir lime shrub and soda. “I’m really surprised by the shrub program,” Kreidler says. “People love the shrubs and don’t even know they’re drinking vinegar. We make them very approachable.” He often uses locally made spirits in the restaurant’s signature cocktails, such as the Patio Pounder, comprising TX whiskey, muddled pineapple, lemon verbena and mint, lemon juice, and house-made orange bitters. “I wanted to show people that whiskey can be refreshing,” Kreidler notes.

Two drinks that can always be found on Clay Pigeon’s menu are What the Chefs Drink, a twist on an Old Fashioned that features TX whiskey and house-made cherry and Regans’ No. 6 orange bitters, and The Barrel, a barrel-aged Manhattan-style cocktail that combines Rebecca Creek whiskey, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and house bitters. “Fort Worth is a whiskey and Bourbon town,” Kreidler says. “We sell a lot of vodka too. Vodka and whiskey are competing to be the frontrunner.”

Since launching the handcrafted drinks program in January, Clay Pigeon has become a hub for the cocktail crowd. “We don’t necessarily have a happy hour, but the bar will fill up, and then the next thing you know, it’s dinnertime,” Kriedler says. “Our bar also gets a lot of action from people just coming in for cocktails.”

After working as a chef for nine years and spending some time immersed in San Francisco’s cocktail culture, the Texas native has found the perfect combination of both his passions. “The food background helps me because I know what’s in season, and then we go from there,” Kreidler says. “Liquor is so complex, and you can put anything in it.”

Patio Pounder

By Peter Kreidler
(Photo by Kevin Marple)
  • 3 ounces TX whiskey;
  • 1½ ounces fresh lemon juice;
  • 1½ ounces simple syrup;
  • 5 lemon verbena leaves;
  • 5 mint leaves, plus a sprig for garnish;
  • 4 cubes fresh pineapple, plus a frond for garnish;
  • Regans’ No. 6 orange bitters.

Muddle lemon juice, lemon verbena, mint and pineapple in a shaker. Add whiskey, simple syrup and ice. Shake and strain into a tall ice-filled glass. Garnish with a mint sprig and a pineapple frond. Top with a few dashes of orange bitters.

The Briar Patch

By Peter Kreidler
(Photo by Kevin Marple)
  • 2 ounces Barr Hill vodka;
  • 1 ounce house-made blackberry–kaffir lime shrub¹;
  • 1 ounce simple syrup;
  • Club soda;
  • Lime wheel.

Combine vodka, shrub and simple syrup and shake. Pour into an ice-filled rocks glass and top with soda. Garnish with a lime wheel.

¹Combine 3 cups blackberries, 2 cups cane sugar, 2 cups Champagne vinegar, 6 kaffir lime leaves and the zest of 8 limes. Let the mixture macerate in the refrigerator for three days, stirring once daily, and then strain through a chinois.