The weekend has brought a brief reprieve from rain and chill temperatures. As we all brace ourselves for another brisk Missoula fall, it seems best to get the last of those summer drink orders in while you can. Good thing we found the perfect recipe this afternoon for one final warm weather hurrah.
This week: The Rhinoceros
What you’re drinking: Huckleberry-infused Finlandia vodka and lemonade, a refreshing recess from a scorching late-summer afternoon. This isn’t your average fruit-flavored mixer. The Rhino specializes in a number of tasty homemade concoctions, from cherry-infused Jim Beam to a pineapple-strawberry-kiwi tequila. Each is carefully mixed in the back room using the freshest ingredients possible, then aged about a week. If you like your drinks on the spicy side, try the bar’s Bloody Mary. This puppy’s got vodka steeped in fresh dill and peppercorns. “The owners take a lot of pride in making their own stuff,” says bartender Jason Bohman, filling in for dayshift regular Anne Hanks.
Who’s behind it: Rhino co-owner Kevin Head inducted these fresh-fruit marvels into the bar’s already impressive lineup of booze years ago, and has spent a good deal of time working out possible flavor combinations. “We wanted to do something different from the other bars,” he says. The results prove more successful with each batch. In particular, he remembers mixing up a blackberry vodka several years ago that was so popular the Rhino went through all five bottles in a day. The difficulty in getting fresh blackberries in Missoula meant the recipe was pretty much a one-time thing, but with so many possible ingredients—Head’s also tried a four-melon vodka—it’s hard to complain.
What’s worked: Bohman’s personal favorite, an infusion of Flathead cherries and Woodford bourbon, graced the Rhino last year. When asked if it would make a comeback, Head only replied that cherries are still in season north of Missoula. For now he seems content soaking the cherries in Jim Beam.
What hasn’t: The Rhino’s biggest infusion flop was a blackberry-infused brandy a while back that Head says was simply “too much for folks.” Flavors didn’t play off each other well, and the sugary nature of both key ingredients created a major problem. “That’s a little too sweet,” Head says. The bar’s also tried apples, which accent the alcohol well, but the mix turns brown too quickly.
Where to get your infusion fix: The Rhino is located at 158 Ryman Street in downtown Missoula.