Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker. But what if you mix the two? Local Wise Guys Comedy Club and Bistro bartender Ashley Carter found the answer with her new signature drink, Orange Candy. And now she’s bringing it to Florida for the 4 Orange Premium Vodka Classic Cocktail Competition, in hopes of bringing back some sunny bragging rights to Syracuse, not to mention a cash prize of $3,000.
So, what, exactly, is an Orange Candy?
The answer: “It’s two ounces 4 Orange Premium Vodka, two ounces Marie Brizard Crème de cacao and 1½ ounces Dr. McGillicuddy’s Vanilla Schnapps,” Carter said. “I also put a candied orange peel around the inside of the martini glass, and orange zest in the shaker with all the clear alcohol to give it a hint of orange.”
Carter invented the cocktail when the Wise Guys’ chef asked her to pair a drink with a black raspberry sorbet dessert. Carter’s original recipe called for Crème de cacao, coconut rum and schnapps. “I said, ‘This is good, but how would it be with orange?’ So I changed the coconut to orange,” Carter said. “I tried it and it was phenomenal.”
And thus Orange Candy was born. As of yet, Carter’s drink isn’t a smashing success at Wise Guys; she has kept her drink mostly to herself and other Wise Guys workers. “No one really knows about it yet. But everyone who works here knows about it and asks for it every Friday and Saturday,” she noted. “I’ll try to put it on a list and see how everybody likes it. I think everybody will like it—I don’t know why they wouldn’t.”
That “everybody” will start with the panel of industry leaders at South Beach Food & Wine Festival’s 4 Orange Premium Vodka Classic Cocktail Competition, using the vodka made exclusively with Florida oranges. (Lest any liquor experts call us in anger, we know that vodka traditionally is made from potatoes; in this case, we’re merely the messenger, OK?) The competition invites the 10 finalists, including Carter, to Florida, where one of the bartenders and mixologists will wow the panel with the next great classic cocktail. Carter heard about the competition and gave them a call. “I just got lucky and they happened to love me,” Carter said.
But this love didn’t come from Carter’s luck: It came from her drink’s simplicity. Since the panel is looking for the next great classic cocktail, Carter’s chances are high with her drink’s straightforward style. “They put some of the finalists’ recipes up on Facebook,” Carter noted. “They have some pretty creative stuff, but I like the fact that mine’s so simple, but it’s still delicious.”
If Carter wins the competition, and the $3,000, what will she do when she gets back to the ’Cuse, besides spreading the word about Orange Candy? “I’ll probably save it,” she said with a laugh. “I just got an apartment and a ton of furniture.”
Carter, a 23-year-old single mother, has been tending bar at Wise Guys Comedy Club and Bistro since October. “I knew the owner and started here doing office work. They were losing a bartender, and I told him I wanted the position. They kind of threw me to the wolves,” Carter recalled.
Although Carter did not have previous experience bartending, no one would assume she’s a rookie. In less than a year, she already has her own signature drink, and knows how to keep the weekend crowds—sometimes numbering 200 in the bar at one time—under control. “Last summer I bought squirt guns,” said Carter. “I fill up the little squirt bottle with alcohol, and squirt it into people’s mouths.”
Although she fell into the job, Carter loves bartending at Wise Guys. “It’s so fun. I actually have my nursing license, so you can see how much fun it is,” she said. She plans to stay in Syracuse at Wise Guys for a while. “I’m not ready to give it up yet.”
The one question left on everyone’s mind:
Would I like an Orange Candy? According to Carter, Wise Guys sees different types of people and tastes every weekend, and Orange Candy will wet anyone’s whistle. “There’s a good mix of chocolate in it, and fruit. But it’s not fruity,” said Carter. “It’s a good combination with the smoothness and a little on the sweet side.”
Check out Carter’s drink for yourself. Wise Guys Comedy Club and Bistro is located at 201 S. Salina St. Bar hours are Mondays and Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Wednesdays, 11:30 a.m. to midnight; Thursdays and Fridays, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m.; and Saturdays, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Juiced juice: Ashley Carter shows off her creation that won her a trip to Florida to compete in the 4 Orange Premium Vodka Classic Cocktail Competition, Friday, Feb. 25.