Back when State Street petered out at De La Vina and all this uptown was wilderness (or something pretty close), the Tee-Off was the clubhouse for the golf course up the hill. Or rather, because the course didn’t have a place to drink after the 18th hole, the original owners of the Tee-Off saw an opportunity. And hats off too them — the watering hole has made it into the 21st century with no sign of stopping. It still offers a traditional steak to diners sitting in its traditional red booths, and we must insist on the traditional fried chicken — so good it gets its separate neon sign outside the entrance.
Here’s a tip that even some regulars might not know, as relayed to us by longtime manager Todd Elliot: the oldest part of the Tee-Off is the giant golf tees opposite the front door, but which are so covered in ivy, most people just see them as railings. Next time you walk in — possibly for a cocktail — look for them.
Elliot knows our penchant for whiskeys and we know that the Tee-Off has the best selection of them in town. A return visit here always uncovers a few more brands we’ve never tried, and tonight was no different.
Elliot wanted us to try Bernheim Whiskey, a pure and very smooth wheat whiskey out of Kentucky. Its smoothness smells and feels a bit like honey in the mouth, so make it into a Manhattan, which Elliot did, and you’re onto a winner. Elliot prefers a 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 ratio for mixing in sweet vermouth. The result — and not forgetting the bitters — is silky and sweet, but not too much so. If it weren’t for the atomic cherry, we’d be seriously loving this, but, ah, just toss the fruit.
For the Old Fashioned, Elliot breaks out the Woodford Reserve. Here we have cherry and orange muddled, a bit of sugar and a healthy dash of bitters. We found it was best to get stuck in this one right away, as the ice does water it down a bit if you let it sit. But as it tastes fine and dandy, the problem was more about slowing down.
Elliot promised us a Lemon Drop, then surprised us with a Sidecar. Now here was something different for our palates, but still a very traditional cocktail. Elliot mixes Korbel brandy in with Cointreau, sweet-and-sour and lemon juice. The resulting mix actually seemed to separate to different sides of the mouth, with the sweet brandy on one side and the orange/citrus hints on the other. A most pleasant drink and our favorite of the week, so tee up and go check it out.
2 parts Korbel Brandy
1 part Cointreau
1 part Sweet and sour
¼ of a lemon
Mix brandy, Cointreau, sweet-and-sour and lemon juice over ice, shake and pour into sugar-rimmed glass. Garnish with lemon slice.
3627 State St