There are two words common in the Southern California lexicon that you will not hear come out of the mouth of Eric Alperin, lead bartender and proprietor at The Varnish in Los Angeles: organic and seasonal. The reason is not for want of respect for ingredients, as the careful mise en place reveals, but rather a shift in focus from seasonal produce to historical precision.
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An impressive collection of gins, easily surpassing 40 bottles, decorates Scofflaw's richly painted antique bar. Practically every variety of gin is represented, from London drys, Old Toms, and Dutch genevers, to the loosely defined but growing category of American gins. "Our bar program's inspiration comes from our love of gin," Shapiro says, "and the resurgence is a telling sign that the time is right."
"First and foremost, we have a focus on seasonality, not only in terms of ingredients but also in the general feel of each drink," says Gotham Bar and Grill's Rick Pitcher, who says he often starts his cocktails with flavor combinations that happen in the kitchen. For example, his Garden Party cocktail began with the pairing of fresh, vivid carrot juice and ginger, and then Pitcher began to look at possible spirits for the drink before settling on Double Cross Vodka from Slovakia.
Instead of recreating some Disneyfied version of the speakeasy, the folks behind Franklin Mortgage aim to bring cocktails back to their past glory, not necessarily by making old drinks, but by making good drinks. They were recently included among the semifinalists for the James Beard award for Outstanding Bar Program. Here are 8 bartender-selected cocktails from their epic list.
It was his stint at the legendary Evanston restaurant Trio—onetime culinary home of chef Grant Achatz, now closed—that Tim Lacey considers his most formative. His 14-drink list at Ada Street is ambitious, with a gradual progression from lighter, apertif- and gin-driven items to more robust cocktails, long on brown spirits.
"The ethos of the restaurant is all local, all the time, so why weren't our cocktails?" said David Flaherty of New York's Hearth. "And why isn't anyone else doing a New York-based cocktail list?" Now, their drinks all showcase New York-made spirits, from Glen Thunder corn whiskey to Finger Lakes maplejack. Check them out here.
Gin was once known as 'Madam Geneva', so it's no surprise that Laura Lashley and Naren Young's new cocktail menu for the Bowery bar by that name focuses exclusively on the juniper-enhanced spirit—but it's hardly a limiting factor. "The menu really has something for everyone," says Lashley, "even those who come in thinking they're not big fans of gin. These are all balanced and accessible drinks that bring a fresh element and an herbal element that ties in nicely with the food." They have 29 different gins currently stocked in the bar, and the new cocktails feature a range of different gins picked to pair well with ingredients such as kalamansi, star anise, yuzu, Vietnamese mint, kaffir lime, and Thai basil.
Newly opened Acadia, in the South Loop of Chicago, has been garnering quite a bit of positive attention for its food, but no reviewer has neglected to include a gushing word or two about head bartender Michael Simon's inventive, humorous, and sophisticated cocktail program. An alum of Chicago's Graham Elliot and a sommelier by training, Simon thinks about the terroir of spirits when he creates drinks, as well how he might be able to expand on the complexity of ingredients by re-using them in different applications within the same cocktail. Here's a little preview of what he's pouring.
It's not often you see a cocktail that uses fresh kale juice—in fact, I'm not sure I've seen it ever, but a bright and gingery kale cocktail is right at home on Jason Mendenhall's constantly-changing cocktail menu at The Wayland, which opened one month ago on Avenue C in New York's East Village.
Pisco is having a moment in the States, but to many people, it's still just the stuff of pisco sours and not much else. At New York Peruvian restaurant La Mar Cebicheria, that's not the case at all. Come meet all 13 of their pisco cocktails, from the classic pisco sour to a pisco-based take on the Negroni, in ample portions and dressed in vivid hue.
Add Le Bernardin's cocktails to the already lengthy list of reasons to visit the Midtown institution. Crafted by Greg Seider, mixologist whiz behind the East Village's The Summit bar, Le Bernardin's revamped drink offerings coincided with the opening of the lounge. The cocktails evoke the spirit of the new space by paying homage to classic recipes and technique, while indulging in a little innovation.
Since we were already conveniently parked at Parm for their nightly specials, it was only right to get acquainted with the cocktail list. Order one from a red swivel stool at the bar or with dinner ($12 each drink). All of them are playful yet thoughtfully constructed, and oftentimes boozier than they taste.
It's not a shock these days for a restaurant to serve food with a decidedly local focus—and the food at The Bent Brick is excellent—but it's rare to see a bar that holds itself to a similar challenge. Bar manager Adam Robinson (who came to Portland after a stint at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in New York) has crafted his cocktail menu solely around local and domestic spirits.