GRAND RAPIDS – Leading up to this weekend’s Wine, Beer and Food Festival, restaurants around town are participating in the city’s first celebration of Cocktail Week GR. The idea behind Cocktail Week is to educate the city about what makes a cocktail stand out compared to other libations, and why spending that few extra dollars is worth it.

Bartenders and chefs came together to pair something to sip on with and something to nibble on  to form a perfect pairing experience––giving restaurants a chance to show off the talents of their employees and present a better understanding of their craft to their patrons.

Rob Hanks, bar manager of Reserve Wine and Food, was excited about giving Grand Rapids the opportunity to experience food pairing with cocktails, which seems to be lacking in a city revolving around breweries. All around town, participating restaurants put together a shared-plate appetizer with two Michigan cocktails for patrons to enjoy for $25 or less.

Reserve Wine and Food used liquors from New Holland Brewing in both of the restaurant’s featured cocktails. The Drapple, or what Hanks likes to refer to as Dr. Apple, developed more or less out of a delicious accident.

“[The Drapple] comes from a clarified apple juice that the kitchen was making a dish and one guy messed it up so there was a bunch of it left over . . . a little bit of acidity and a little bit of sweet which is perfect, so we will just combat it with a little bit of bitterness in a strong spirit” said Hanks.

The Drapple is like a walking through an apple orchard towards the end of autumn, with the smell of oak leaves laying on the brisk ground. The cocktail features New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon, Cynar, and house-clarified apple juice.

Second on the menu is a new spin on the classic gin martini. The Commander consists of New Holland Knickerbocker Barrel Aged Gin, Benedictine, and Cointreau. Instead of bright aromatics shining through, you can feel warmth from the hints of baking spice.

Both drinks fit seamlessly with the Reserve Food and Wine’s version of Duck Confit Leg in different ways by adding apple, turnip, and chestnuts flavors to attach to each cocktail’s own uniqueness cutting right through the density of the duck fat.

“For having the number of restaurants that signed up this year is only going to make next year that much better,” said Hanks. “We have definitely had people coming in and checking out the list to get excited about it. It is really the only thing we can ask for. It challenges us in a way we haven’t been challenged before––to explore different flavors that beer and wine can’t give you.”

Restaurants are participating in the Pair and Share for the rest of the week, as well as some other fun events revolving around Cocktail Week GR. For a list of those events and participating restaurants, check out www.cocktailweekgr.com for more details.