Gamlin Whiskey House
A dark spirit gets its day in the sun at the CWEs newest steakhouse.
Know nothing about whiskey? Then Gamlin Whiskey House is for you. Fancy yourself a whiskey connoisseur? You’re sure to find something new and exciting among Gamlin’s 270 selections. Just looking for a good steak? Gamlin has you covered there, too.
With their newest sibling to Sub Zero Vodka Bar, proprietors Derek and Lucas Gamlin stay firmly rooted in the ever-expanding world of spirits while continuing to encourage their chefs to take culinary forays into the future of popular cuisine.
Like their namesakes, the two venues have distinct personalities. Vodka and whiskey both start out as clear spirits, but they diverge straight out of the still—whiskey into barrels (where it picks up the amber color that categorizes it as a dark spirit) and vodka onto the shelves. Aging gives whiskey a reputation, deserved or not, as an acquired taste. By making it accessible and showcasing both old (Ardbeg Scotch) and new (Jefferson’s bourbon), Gamlin deftly taps a nationwide trend in whiskey appreciation.
The Steakhouse Let’s get this out of the way right out of the gate: Yes, Gamlin offers sticky toffee bread pudding, easily the most identifiable bourbon-laced dish on local menus. But bourbon is way more versatile than that. Under the direction of Ivy Magruder, who formerly headed up kitchens at Eleven Eleven Mississippi and Vin de Set, it’s used in tandem with ingredients ranging from oysters and chicken to honey butter. Don’t miss its appearance in a brown sugar sauce over flat-iron steak.
A dry-aged ribeye and a grilled tête de filet with balsamic-sage glaze give Gamlin street cred as a steakhouse, but meat-free options abound, from vegetable pot pie to the house kale salad with Manchego, pine nuts and raisins. My table’s decision to structure a small-plates meal on a recent visit led to some great discoveries, including the rich celery and fennel chowder packed with shrimp and bacon.
The Whiskey House From the start, Gamlin places whiskey’s regional nuances at the forefront. Whiskey, bourbon, Scotch—the names hold clues to the spirits’ characteristics, which often flow from the traditions and laws of their countries of origin. Some are delicate, with subtle flavors that are lost under all but the mildest mixers. Others are so prized for the robust flavors imparted by their aging that diluting them—even with ice—would be considered a crime by purists.
In some ways, Gamlin plays up the lofty aura of whiskey appreciation. The menus—separate leather-bound books for wine, whiskeys and cocktails— slip neatly into wooden boxes, which become part of the décor. Page after page, they list top-tier Scottish, Irish, American and Canadian brands. On the other hand, the 40 cocktails, slushes and “champisky” drinks combining whiskey and champagne are temptingly fun, and they’re sometimes closer to authenticity than you’d think. The Kentucky Mule, for example, is bourbon and frozen water with a hint of house-made ginger beer—not all that far removed from the classic whiskey and water favored by small-batch bourbon connoisseurs.
Those looking to ditch tradition altogether may want to sample the Moonlight, Gamlin’s clever play on the un-aged spirit’s recent elevation from “moonshine” to “white whiskey.” There’s also chocolate-flavored whiskey in a dessert cocktail— which is probably as close to Sub Zero’s fun-withvodka theme as the Gamlins will care to go with their whiskey haven.
Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg