Rusty Bucket in Northville has a bartending connoisseur. John Heider, Hometownlife.com
“It was definitely a good feeling when I found out I won, especially knowing that there were 23 final entries (one from each of the chain’s restaurants). When you’ve been doing this as long as I have, you start getting your creative juices flowing when it comes to thinking about creating new cocktails.”
When it came to selecting the ingredients and slapping a name on his creation, McDonald used a multi-step approach.
“The blueberries go along with the spring season and Kentucky is obviously famous for bourbon,” he explained. “I didn’t want to get too fancy with the name, but I wanted it to be catchy.
“As far as testing the cocktail before I came up with the final ingredients, I was lucky enough to have our general manager and regional manager here at the right time to help me finalize it.”
As an added bonus to his victory, McDonald’s image will appear on the table tents — the tent-shaped cardboard promotional ads placed on tables throughout the Rusty Bucket’s restaurants — throughout the month.
The Blackberry Kentucky Mule vaulted past its 22 competitors by “going over well” at a Jack Daniels event held at the chain’s Charlotte, N.C., site.
Flavored with fresh lime juice and simple syrup, along with the above-listed ingredients, the drink is shaken with the Rusty Bucket’s Woodford Reserve Personal Selection Gary’s Blend No. 14.
It’s topped off with the ginger beer and blackberry garnish to give customers a refreshing spring alternative on the traditional Moscow Mule.
The Rusty Bucket franchise has become synonymous with award-winning cocktail creations. It was recently honored with a pair of VIBE Vista Awards in the multi-unit chain division in best overall and best spirits program.
Like legendary “Cheers” bartender Sam Malone, McDonald takes pride in connecting regular customers’ faces with their drinks of choice.
“I’m not great with names, but when a regular comes in and says, ‘The usual,’ I know what he or she is referring to,” he said.
McDonald said he loves the “Cheers”-esque atmosphere that dominates his place of employment.
“After doing this for as long as I have, I don’t think I could start working in a typical office, in a cubicle,” he said, smiling. “I’m a people person, so this job is perfect for me because I’m able to interact with people daily. Every day is fresh and new.”
If an opportunity presents itself down the road, McDonald said he would jump at the chance of creating an encore to his ultra-popular initial entry.
“After mixing other people’s drinks all these years, it’s kind of nice to be on the other end and coming up with my own stuff,” he said.
McDonald’s cocktail will be served at all Rusty Bucket locations throughout April or until the batch of bourbon runs dry.
Contact Ed Wright at email@example.com or 517-375-1113.