"I've always been inspired by chefs," says Lia Termini, head bartender at Tabla in the inner-NE quadrant of Portland, OR. "I've always been interested in the different techniques they use to extract, preserve, intensify, and create new flavors."
Termini has adopted many culinary techniques and brought them behind the bar at Tabla. She makes her own cucumber juice ice cubes, with a clarity that is achieved through two days of careful filtration. She infuses vodka with pink peppercorns and fresh vanilla beans in a immersion circulator that is typically reserved for use in sous vide cooking, and she also keeps a glass jar full vodka packed with vibrant green stalks of lemon verbena plucked from an overproducing garden of a close friend behind the bar. Termini is very conscious of the careful balance of cocktails and food. She says, "The Mediterranean/Italian-style food served here is fantastic, and I don't want to make drinks that blow out the guest's palate."
Termini spends a large portion of her time behind the bar mixing Manhattans and Martinis, but keeps of steady stream of original cocktails rotating on Tabla's seasonal menu. "Drinkers are getting more curious but often need suggestions, so I'll often ask someone who orders a Manhattan if they would like to try something similar, like The Shame Spiral. It's made with Cynar, an Italian amaro, in place of the traditional, but sweeter vermouth," says Termini. "The responses are overwhelmingly positive and they often are then more willing to try other new cocktails."
Termini gets her inspiration for the names of her cocktail from the Simpsons, classic films, 90's rock songs, and Greek myths. The names often have some relation to the drink's ingredients, but just as often are simply a peek into Termini's playful wit. She let us in on the five best cocktails to order when you find yourself across the bar at Tabla. Check out her recommendations in the slideshow above.
About the Author: Greg Harned lives in Portland, OR, where he enjoys cocktails, drinking and general mischief-making in candlelit speakeasies, swanky cocktail lounges and dingy dive bars. He manages Portland Craft Cocktails where he writes about his various exploits and also dabbles in the spirits trade. You can follow him on Twitter @craftcocktails.