Dogwood Cocktail Cabin brings tobacco in from the cold
Exploring the bar’s tobacco-infused Romeo y Julieta drink
It’s been six years since smokers could get their nicotine fix inside an Oregon bar, but Dogwood Cocktail Cabin in Bend discovered a way to bring tobacco in from the cold.
The Romeo y Julieta is a romantic, mojito-inspired cocktail made with hibiscus, crushed mint, soda water and silver rum infused with pipe tobacco.
“The pipe tobacco smell transforms everyone to a different place,” said Phoebe Pedersen, co-owner of the Dogwood with her husband Doug. “It’s vanilla and musky, definitely like a warm, manly smell.”
Phoebe creates most of the Dogwood’s artisan cocktails and Doug taste-tests them. She balanced the masculine taste and smell of Black and Gold pipe tobacco with sweet and floral hibiscus, which gives the drink its bold, magenta color.
Most people try it for the first time out of curiosity or on a dare, “but they come back to it. It’s a conversation piece,” Doug said. “Pretty much everyone that’s ordered it, whether it was serious or not, they liked it and will order it again.”
The Romeo y Julieta has been on the menu at Dogwood’s Crested Butte, Colorado, location for four years. It took a while to catch on, sitting on the menu for nearly a year before customers got brave enough to try it.
“Then it was one of our more popular ones for a good long time,” Phoebe said. It’s popular at the Bend location, too.
Tobacco is a common flavor profile, often used to describe the taste of drinks like wine, whiskey and mescal. But the Pedersens have yet to see a tobacco-infused liquor on a menu.
It is out there, popping up in cocktails around the country via tobacco-flavored syrups, bitters and old-fashioned smoke. Los Angeles gastropub Father’s Office blends San Juan Del Rio mescal with a tobacco-infused simple syrup in a drink called Oaxacan Fizz. And PX, a bar in Alexandria, Virginia, mixes bourbon with tea brewed from pipe tobacco and clove cigarettes in a drink called Smokers Delight, as reported by NPR’s The Salt.
Making the infusion is relatively simple. Phoebe takes Black and Gold pipe tobacco, an additive-free, moist leaf variety, and allows it to marinate in silver rum for a couple of days. Using clear booze allows her to gauge the strength of the infusion, which is important with a toxic compound like nicotine. If it gets too dark, she dilutes the mix with more rum.
Phoebe and Doug urge customers to drink with caution, since nicotine is poisonous and can make you sick. A small disclaimer on the Dogwood’s menu reminds customers that the drink contains nicotine, and servers will talk patrons out of ordering the drink if they appear to already be intoxicated.
Some regulars accustomed to nicotine will order a second round, but Doug said that’s the most he would ever recommend drinking, even if you’re sober.
“Just like alcohol, it doesn’t hit you right away,” Phoebe Pedersen said. “I don’t want anyone to feel ill. I had one person who couldn’t fall asleep because the nicotine got them all jazzed. But I think mostly, if you drink it too fast, you’ll just get a little light-headed.”
Phoebe named the drink after her favorite cigar. With its lush color and allusion to star-crossed lovers, the Romeo y Julieta delivers on its promise of romance tinged with danger.
“A sexy cocktail needs a sexy name,” Doug said.
When asked if the Dogwood will offer different iterations of tobacco-infused drinks in the future, Phoebe said it’s unlikely.
“I think this is nailed,” she said. “Knowing how long it took for people to get accustomed to it, I’m really happy with this.”