Posted on | December 8, 2011
Written by | Alia Akkam
Leave it to Top Chef to make charming Frederick, MD, a culinary hotspot. Volt, the restaurant from Season #6 finalist Bryan Voltaggio, has been known for its inventive modern American cuisine since it opened, but the popular TV show has certainly spiked interest among the daytripping foodie set. While Voltaggio’s cooking gets most of the glory, the upbeat bar is also destination-worthy. Here, —who got his start working at a chain restaurant at age 21, “learning how to make vodka tonics and Tom Collins”—churns out cocktails that echo what happens in the kitchen.
The Beverage Network: Based on your drink list, it looks as if a cocktail scene, like much of the country, has blossomed in Frederick, MD.
Greg Voss: Absolutely. A cocktail craze is going on and people want to know what’s new and exciting.
TBN: Among your drinks, I really enjoyed the Spiced Apple Fizz (with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, apple, cardamom, lemon and ginger beer) and the Cherry Gin Sour (with Bluecoat Gin, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, lemon juice, lime juice and egg white). Do you have a favorite?
GV: Right now I’m changing up the list for the colder months, and working on a twist on Hot Buttered Rum with fatwashed butter and flavored with great spices like cinnamon, clove and nutmeg, topped off with brown sugar and simple syrup. I also really enjoy the Concord Cup, with Hendrick’s and Concord grapes. It’s so floral and the grapes really do complement the gin. It’s kind of a girlie drink, but delicious and the green herb micro-shiso takes on flavors of mint.
TBN: So, like Chef Voltaggio, you also enjoy using what’s in season?
GV: A lot of the greens used in the back are in the cocktails, too. The cardamom we use in the Spiced Apple Fizz is also found in our carrot cake, for example; we try to utilize ingredients that are fresh, complementary and already in the kitchen. Just like with pastry, where things need to be done precisely, you have to have a very good set-up with cocktails. Yet we can always change up drinks with different ingredients. The Concord Cup, for instance, used to use Cava and now it’s lemon soda.
TBN: Beyond Volt’s kitchen, where do you look for inspiration?
GV: I get a lot from cookbooks. I’ll look at a dessert cookbook, see the ingredients listed in a recipe and then try to integrate them into a cocktail.
TBN: How do you get customers to try these instead of the usual?
GV: As a bartender, you have to carry Grey Goose and Bombay Sapphire, but I try to educate guests on other stuff out there, like CapRock organic gin from Colorado, or Smooth Ambler Spirits, a distillery in West Virginia. I try to get people to look beyond the norm.
TBN: I think because Volt provides such a distinctive dining experience, overall guests are prepared for a more unusual list.
GV: When people come to Volt they want something different, whether that’s trying a boutique bourbon or a craft beer. A lot of our clientele does come from DC, and that city is getting more and more recognized as a cocktail mecca. Seeing inspiring mixologists in a city so close to us inspires bartenders here. Frederick is now more on the map as a place to get away and take a road trip to.
TBN: Bryan Voltaggio is, of course, at the core of the restaurant. What is it like working with him?
GV: You come to Bryan with an idea, and it’s so fun to see how his mind works; it’s genius. Through trial and error he already knows if certain things will work and he helps me get from A to B with new flavors and textures. It’s a collaborative effort.