Drinking Made Easy

Drinking Made Easy: Boise

February 1, 2011 0

Episode Guide for the Boise episode of “Drinking Made Easy” • Recipes • Locations • Fun Facts •

Consistently ranked among the top cities to inhabit in the United States, Boise (pronounced Boy-see) is the capital and most populated city in Idaho. Known as “The City of Trees”, the name Boise is derived from the French word “les bois” or “the trees”, a reference to the tree-lined Boise River, which passes through the heart of the city. Incorporated as a city in 1864, Boise is now home to many high tech industries, small businesses and several high-rises. Boise has begun to accept its role as a new major metropolitan area in the western US, while at the same time embracing its small town past. With potatoes as its main crop and hops as a major one, Idaho, has emerged as a top producer of craft beer and spirits, and at the center of it all is Boise, where drinking was made to be easy.


HuckleberryBeing a state that is known for potatoes, it should come as no surprise to learn that Idaho is home to the producers of some of the best vodka in the country. Another local product that’s used in many cocktails is the Huckleberry, also known as the official state fruit of Idaho. Similar in color, shape and flavor to a blueberry, it has 10 larger seeds (where a blueberry has numerous tiny seeds) and a flavor that ranges from tart to sweet making it distinguishable from a blueberry.

Bardenay 1A local purveyor of finely crafted spirits isBarDeNay Restaurant Distillery. Established in 2000, BarDeNay was the first combined restaurant and distillery in the United States. Combining hand-crafted spirits with cocktails and fine dining, they do everything in house, and on site. Today, there are three locations: on the historic Basque Block in Boise, ten miles northwest of Boise in Eagle, and up in Idaho’s panhandle in Coeur d’Alene. BarDeNay produces their spirits using Hawaiian brown sugar cane, like their Small Batch Rum which is infused with oak chips prior to bottling, their 80-proof Vodka, and their London Style Dry Gin, which is flavored with 12 botanicals.

Bardenay mojitoBarDeNay Mojito
Simple Syrup
Fresh Lemon Juice
Fresh Mint

Bardenay martiniHuckleberry Lemon Drop
2 oz Lemon Vodka
Lemon Juice
Splash of Fresh Pureed Huckleberries

BarDeNay Restaurant & Distillery | 610 W Grove St, Boise, ID 83702 | (208) 426-0538

10 min martiniWhile steak might be the “star” at Chandlers Steakhouse, their award-winning classic martini, The Vesper Reconsidered (or 10 Minute Martini), certainly makes it a destination worth visiting. Using a technique called convection, whereby molecules move within fluids, the unique martini is not shaken, or stirred.

10 Minute Martini
In a pint glass add:
Plymouth Gin
Blue Ice Vodka
Lillet Fortified Wine
Put glass in a bucket of ice leaving the top open
Wait 10 minutes, then remove, strain ice, pour into a martini glass and add a twist of lemon

Blue_ice_bottleChandlers has an impressive wine list and also uses local spirits in its cocktails, like Blue Ice Vodkamakers of potato-based American vodka. Located in Rigby, Idaho they use Russet Burbank potatoes.

Chandlers Steakhouse | 981 W Grove St, Boise, ID 83702 | (208) 383-4300

Red featherAnother place to find some delicious cocktails, using local ingredients, is Red Feather Lounge. Featuring an impressive wine list,  innovative cocktails and a menu featuring contemporary cuisine, this sophisticated, yet relaxed spot should not be missed. Try local vodkas like Vodka 44 North’sMountain Huckleberry, which is made with potatoes and huckleberries and is ideal for drinking chilled or straight up. The Mountain Huckleberry and Vodka 44 North’s Rainier Cherry are distilled from 100% Idaho Potatoes and blended with Rocky Mountain Water from the Snake River Aquifer.

Botanical Soda
Simple Syrup
Fresh Lemon Juice
Square One Botanical
Orange Bitters
Top with Soda Water 

Tales of the CityThe Mona Ramsey
Rose Syrup
Cucumber Vodka
Fresh Lime Juice
Fresh Apple Juice

Red Feather Lounge | 246 North 8th Street, Boise, ID 83702 | (208) 429-6340

Other local Idahoan spirits are Koenig Winery & Distillery which produce flavored brandies, wines and vodka and Teton Glacier Potato Vodka which is made in Rigby.


BasqueBoise is home to the second largest concentration of Basque Americans in the US, and the fifth largest in the world outside of Mexico, Argentina, Chile and the Basque Country in Spain and France. With approximately 15,000 Basque American residents, Boise is the home of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center and hosts a large festival known as Jaialdi every five years (the next one will take place in 2015). Downtown Boise features a vibrant section known as the “Basque Block”.

Leku-onaOne of the best places in Boise for a Basque meal and cocktail is Leku Onaappropriately located in the Basque Block. Their menu features traditional Basque dishes, regional wines and cocktails that use traditional ingredients.

Fill glass with ice
½ glass Red Wine
½ glass of Cola

PiconPicon Punch
Torani Brand Amer
Soda Water
Float with Christian Brothers Brandy
Add cherry and lemon wedge 

Leku Ona | 117 S. 6th Street, Boise, ID 83702 | (208) 345-6665

Another place to find traditional Basque food and drink is Bar Gernika, which is located just a few blocks from Leku Ona. This pub and eatery that has been around for 20 years, serves Basque red wines, which are typically made from the Tempranillo grape.


Hops_webIdaho ranks third in U.S. hop production and accounts for about 8% of the US and 2% of the world’s hop harvest. Idaho hops are raised in two geographically distinct areas: Boundary County in the northern Idaho panhandle, where the cool moist weather allows for the plant to flourish, and in the warmer and more arid Treasure Valley of southwestern Idaho. In the northern region, the hops are produced on a single 1,700-acre farm that is owned and operated by Anheuser-Busch. Hop varieties include Saaz and Hallertau.  In the southern region, the combination of fertile soil, mountain water and desert climate assures efficient production of hops with superior quality. South hop varieties include Nugget, Chinook, Galena and Zeus.

Because of the availability of local hops, Boise beer is packed with the floral aroma and bitterness that the hops provide.

Table Rock-1One of the notable breweries in town is TableRock BrewPub & Grill, whose name refers to the small local mountain that is just northeast of downtown Boise. They are known for their hoppy beers, like the Hophead IPA that comes in at 170 IBU’s and whose flavors are created by using five different malts and local hops which are added in four different stages. They also produce Hopzilla, an IPA with massive amounts of Amarillo hops making this a dry and flavorful, must-have brew.

TableRock BrewPub & Grill | 705 Fulton St. Boise, ID 83704 | (208) 342-0944

BitterBitter Creek Ale House, located just blocks from the State Capital building and Boise City Hall, maintains a truly local style. Boasting nearly 40 beers on draft, from craft brewers in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Northern California, this regionally focused bar also features locally inspired grub, using foods from nearby farms. While taps are constantly revolving, they generally feature beer fromTableRockSockeye Brewing Company, and Highlands Hollow.

SockeyeSockeye Brewing Company makes handcrafted beer in small batches that are unfiltered and made without additives or preservatives. They have signature ales like the Hell Diver Pale Ale, Dagger Falls IPA, and Purple Haze Espresso Stout, and they also offer a number of seasonal brews. You can visit their brewpub restaurant in the West Bench neighborhood of Boise. Distribution is limited and their beer is only found on draft locally.

Highlands_logoHighlands Hollow is a Brewhouse located on the road to Bogus Basin, a favorite place for skiers, cyclists and hikers to meet up. With brews like the Hippie Shake, Thunder Monkey, and the Ginger Wheat, you can get a pint on draft at their brewpub or around town in places like Bitter Creek.

Bitter Creek Ale House | 246 N. 8th Street, Boise, ID 83702 | (208) 345-1813


Idaho’s cuisine is associated with the traditional recipes of the Rocky Mountain West region, with dishes like chili, steaks, barbeque and fresh fish. Crops like wheat, dry peas, barley, and hops are prevalent and the Treasure Valley Area is known for the cultivation of mint and spearmint, while the Magic Valley raises more trout per square mile than any other place in the world. Idaho is most widely known for its potato production, growing roughly one-third of the US fall potato crop and accounting for more than 15% of the state’s gross state product.

Donnie macsOne place to get some good old-fashioned comfort food, including the “French fried” version of the Idaho potato, is Donnie Mac’s Trailer Park Cuisine.  Offering a selection of different types of Sweetgrassapa_Wfries, like the Couch Potato fries, the Chili Cheese Fries and the Sweet Potato Fries, you can wash it all down with a Sweetgrass American Pale Ale by Grand Teton Brewing Company located in Victor, Idaho. Distributed nationally to about fifteen states, Grand Teton is well known for one of its signature ales, Bitch Creek, an Extra Special Brown that has won numerous awards.

Donnie Mac’s | 1515 W Grove St, Boise, ID 83702 | (208) 384-9008

For more Idaho fried potatoes, there’s the Boise Fry Company, which offers customers the option of customizing their fries, from the type of potato to the cut of the fry, and serves its burgers “on the side”.


  • The term “bardenay” is said to be a sailor term for “cocktail”. (As in, “It’s bardenay hour!”)
  • Huckleberries are a favorite of grizzly bears.
  • The Vesper Martini is a cocktail that was originally made of gin, vodka and Kina Lillet.
  • Basque Country is a region in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast.
  • Picon Punch is the “national drink” of Basque people and is also the most popular drink in Bakersfield, California, which is home to the largest concentration of Basque Americans in the US.
  • A “Hop-Head” is someone who enjoys really hoppy beers, or drinks hoppy beers exclusively. Most likely this person is a beer-geek or craft-brew drinker.
  • Mona Ramsey is a character from the “Tales of the City” novel series by Armistead Maupin.
  • There are more than 30 varieties of American hops.
  • “Lekuona” is a Basque term that means “good place” and is also a common surname.
  • Chopin and Grey Goose are potato-based vodkas.
  • Commercial mint growing started in Idaho in the early 1960’s.
  • At 13,775 feet, Grand Teton is the highest mountain in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.
  • Idaho grows about 27 billion potatoes annually.
  • The Statehouse in Boise and dozens of other buildings in the city are geothermally heated from underground hot springs.
  • In Boise, residents may not fish from a giraffe’s back.

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