“It’s kind of ironic,” Matty Colston says, that just a few days before bartender Lee Zaremba of Billy Sunday challenged him to create a cocktail with Cheez-Its, “I went on a huge rant about how much I love Cheez-Its,” prompted by a friend complaining that his son had scattered the crackers all over his car.
Said rant notwithstanding, however, Colston—the beverage director for Parachute restaurant—wasn’t thrilled at first about working with the snack cracker. “I thought [Zaremba] might take it a little easier on me,” he says.
While deciding what to make, Colston put some of Parachute’s house-made kimchi on a Cheez-It and tasted it. “It was delicious,” he says. So he pureed the two ingredients to make a paste for a cocktail he called the Kimcheez-It.
Colston tried infusing gin with lovage, caraway, and Cheez-Its, but “it ended up being this kind of murky orange, and the lovage totally took over,” he says. Instead he settled on a simpler infusion of caraway in City of London gin. Another element of the cocktail was a kimchi broth the restaurant uses in a noodle dish, comprising kimchi juice, gochujang (Korean fermented chile paste), and lemon, lime, and orange juice.
After rimming a glass with a mixture of crushed Cheez-Its, Korean chiles, and celery salt, Colston combined the drink’s other components and strained them into the glass. Finally, he topped the cocktail with Krombacher pilsner. “Essentially it’s a michelada—or a kimchelada, or a kimcheezitchelada,” he says.
“I like all those things separately, so I found a way to make them work together. I’ll crush a box of Cheez-Its while drinking a beer.”
2 oz caraway-infused City of
1 oz kimchi broth*
2 bar spoons Cheez-It–kimchi puree**
Cheez-It/Korean chile/celery salt mix (for rimming the glass)
Rim a glass with the Korean chiles, crushed Cheez-Its, and celery salt. Add ice. Shake the first three ingredients with ice and fine-strain into the glass. Top with pilsner and garnish with a sprig of lovage or celery leaf.
*Kimchi broth: Combine one part kimchi juice, one part citrus mixture (a third orange juice, a third lemon juice, a third lime juice), and a dash of gochujang.
**Cheez-It–kimchi puree: Blend equal parts by weight of Cheez-Its and kimchi.
Colston has challenged Maria Carlin of Big Star to create a cocktail with makgeolli, a Korean fermented rice beverage. Slow City Brewery in Niles is the only company in the Western hemisphere that makes the drink. “Makgeolli cocktails and punches are very popular in Korea, some of which are kinda gross and neon color and some more thoughtful,” Colston says. “Maria is Korean, and I’m excited to see what she does with it.”