Pour excuse for a holiday: Taking flight with The Hawk’s ‘Liquid Thanksgiving’

There’s a story that Kyle Flavin, proprietor and alchemist of alcohol at The Hawk, the watering hole on the northern edge of downtown Long Beach, keeps a bottle of Jeppson’s Malort prominently displayed behind the bar.

A Chicago export, Malort is a Swedish-style bitter spiced liquor made from wormwood, and yes, it’s as evil as it sounds. The name literally translates as “moth herb,” the Swedish name for wormwood. Other ingredients? Perhaps the bittering agent in cans of compressed air to prevent kids from huffing.

That a bottle of Malort lurks in the dark corners of The Hawk and the darker corners of Flavin’s imagination, should hint at what he concocted for a Thanksgiving holiday cocktail program. Soon after the pandemic forced the closure of bars and breweries around the city, Flavin and his team shifted to offering jugs and jars of take-out cocktails, with the crescendo arriving this week: a tasting flight of nine holiday-themed offerings dubbed “Liquid Thanksgiving.”

TheHawkKyle

The Hawk’s Kyle Flavin.

With “Green Bean Casserole” and “Smoked Turkey Dinner Slushee” on the menu, how could this opportunity be passed up? Being a non-traditionalist media organization, we purchased the entire flight, pulled up to The Hawk’s drive-thru takeout line and were handed two bags of non-traditionalist cocktails and garnishes.

The whole flight is somewhere north of one fluid gallon of green, orange and brown mash-ups—sometimes literally—with garnishes. In all, it works out to something like 37 cocktails total, averaging a little over $4 apiece—a great deal.

Quick! To the tasting lab!

Everything is unpacked and arranged with ice on standby. The Hawk team did a great job. Things are clearly-labeled and thoughtfully-organized. Time to pour.

Long Beach Post product and technology director Dennis Dean puts the finishing touches on a liquid thanksgiving dinner from The Hawk bar.

First up, “Cranberry Sauce.” Gin, cranberries, lemon, two bottles of prosecco for a top-off. Festive garnish. Delightful! Bright, refreshing, a great introduction.

Next, it’s “Baked Carrots,” a presidential-hued tipple of vodka, fresh carrot juice, cinnamon, ginger and lemon. Our tasting notes indicate this one is excellent, cinnamon-forward, heavy on the autumnal spices. Delicious. And healthy too, right? My vegan drinking partner on this journey remarks the world doesn’t have enough carrot-based cocktails. I agree. It’s good for you and pretty too.

Baked Carrots cocktail

You remember that first time you ordered the wheatgrass shot from Jamba Juice and you thought, “It’s not bad, but it’s also not really that great?” That’s our next course, “Green Bean Casserole.” The color is lovely. It smells like summer, like a fresh cut lawn. Gin, green beans, celery, onions, lemon—I swear this is real—and a garnish of french fried onions. Overall, more interesting than good.

On to “Ginger Rosemary Glazed Margarita.” This is terrific. I could drink these all day. Tequila, ginger, rosemary, lime—perfection.

Things are getting serious. The “Roasted Butternut Squash” is vodka-infused squash (or squash-infused vodka), brandy, Benedictine, and Amaro Averna. Remember the Malort? This cocktail has not one, but two different herbal liqueurs—both Southern European cousins to Malort. One is a Sicilian secret recipe, the other a French blend of twenty-seven flowers, berries, herbs, roots, and spices.

And now, it’s time. The roller coaster has reached the top of the hill; anticipation and danger have peaked. It is time for “Smoked Turkey Dinner Slushee” a stone soupy blend of mezcal, vodka, turkey gravy, powdered mashed potatoes—again, this is real—celery juice, rosemary syrup and chicken broth, the whole thing garnished with cornbread stuffing and a mini turkey baster.

Smoked Turkey Dinner Slushee

I don’t feel good.

Kyle, you may have taken this too far.

I applaud the effort, but glistening turkey fat in the bottom of my empty cup was shocking. Still, you know, an empty cup. I drank it, all of it, and applaud the effort and would sum up by saying tha … what? There are still three more to go? Oh, of course. Dessert!

We took our time with “Pecan Pie Old Fashioned,” with pecan-infused bourbon, maple, vanilla and bitters. It’s rich, smooth and complex. Good stuff.

On to the pumpkin pie, another Slushee. Actually, it’s “Frozen Pumpkin Pie Dole Whip” with rum, pumpkin, cinnamon, pineapple, coconut and spices, topped with meringue. Fantastic! It’s Minnesota meets Maui. (“Oh you betcha, brah.”) Get yourself five or six bags of this one. Dab a little behind the ears and drift off to the tropics.

Pumpkin Pie Dole Whip Slushee

Finally, who doesn’t love apple pie? The journey is wrapping up with “Hot Rum Apple Pie Cider.” Served warmed up, you’ll need a mug, microwave and comfortable chair by an open fire with this final offering. Rum, fresh apples, spices, maple, ginger, it’s a great way to tuck in for the night.

All in all, “Liquid Thanksgiving” far more peaks than valleys, kind of like Actual Thanksgiving. If you’re inclined to take on a liquid lunch, this is a solid way to go. With Thanksgiving now behind us, it’s onwards to Christmas cocktails and whatever The Hawk concocts next. Gin and Giblets? Mistletoe and mezcal? I’m ready.

The Hawk is located at 468 W. Anaheim St. Online takeout orders from the Hawk are available online. Give Kyle and his crew some love. 

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David Sommers is publisher of the Long Beach Post. As the publication’s top leader, he is responsible for everything from editorial and advertising to technical and corporate operations. On any given day, you can find him meeting with advertisers, schmoozing with city leaders and poring over tough news decisions. He’s also responsible for fixing the copy machine, setting up officer furniture and keeping the newsroom well-stocked with paper towels and coffee pods.
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