Sunday, August 10, 2014

Garden Cup

I love the combination of celery and apple...they have such an affinity for each other!  Here, both flavors combine in a fun and unique gin-based cocktail that's perfect for summer.  Cheers!

Garden Cup
glass - silver julep cup, cracked ice
method - shake and strain
garnish - 2 very thin granny smith apple slices (use a meat slicer) folded in half and placed on each side of the julep cup so they are just above the rim; 1 large sprig of slapped lemon thyme.  Too much work?  The tip of a celery stalk with those beautiful leaves works just fine!

1.5 oz. Beefeater Gin
.5 oz. Berentzen German Apple Liqueur
.75 oz. Celery Cordial*
.75 oz. Lemon Juice
5 healthy dashes of verjus**

*Celery Cordial:  a combination of fresh celery, celery seed, sugar, water, a pinch of salt, with a bit of high-proof vodka; processed in a Vita-mix blender and then strained.

**Verjus:  check out this great article for some awesome verjus cocktail applications and ideas

The Gold Standard Cocktail

Golden beets, heirloom tomato, sherry?  Let's make a drink!

This low ABV cocktail goes by the name of the Gold Standard, and features Amontillado Sherry, raw golden beet juice, an heirloom tomato water simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice.  It's shaken with ice until well chilled, and then strained into a chilled cocktail glass with a Pimenton spice mix on the rim.  It's a crisp, savory, immensely drinkable low-alcohol cocktail crafted in the culinary style (food pairings abound). Cheers!

The Gold Standard
glass - chilled cocktail glass; pimenton spice mix on the rim*
method - shake and fine-strain
garnish - none

1.5 oz. Amontillado Sherry
.5 oz. raw, baby golden beet juice
.75 oz. golden heirloom tomato water simple syrup (1:1  sugar to tomato water; pinch of salt)
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice

*Pimenton Spice Mix for rim

4 ounces toasted, sliced almonds

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 heaping tablespoon Spanish Pimenton or smoked paprika

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

Using a spice grinder, pulse almonds and peppercorns a few times. Add pimenton and salt. Pulse to desired texture. The almonds should be ground fine, but not powdery; you want them to retain some texture.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The 3-Ingredient Challenge

I make a lot of culinary-inspired, produce-driven cocktails, and I enjoy drinking them too.  They certainly have their place on a balanced cocktail menu, especially here in the Bay Area where we have access to such a vast array of fresh ingredients.  But I'm a bigger fan of simple, delicious, spirit-driven libations.  Even better if it's a 3-ingredient production.  I'm also a proponent of batching cocktails for service in a busy bar/restaurant setting, and cocktails like this are a breeze to batch ahead of time.  You grab one bottle, measure out 2.5 ounces of the batched drink, stir, strain, garnish, done!  It's a win/win for both the bartender and the guest.

Developed by Kansas City bartender Ryan Maybee, the Pendergast (named after the 1920's and '30s Kansas City political boss) has quickly become a contemporary classic.  Simple, sophisticated, delicious.

glass - chilled rocks glass
method - stir and strain
garnish - lemon or orange twist

1.5 oz. Bourbon*
.75 oz. Punt e Mes
.25 oz. Benedictine
1 healthy dash of Angostura bitters

*for this particular cocktail, I prefer a bolder, spicier bourbon, so I reach for one with a higher rye content and elevated proof: Old Grand Dad 100 proof.  The Old Grand Dad (part of the Jim Beam portfolio) also happens to come in at a nice price, perfect for mixing. 

Originally found in the Savoy Cocktail Book, the Opera cocktail is one of those lost and forgotten classics that doesn't get much attention these days.  Using a Navy Strength gin and being generous with the bitters brings to life this forgotten gem; certainly worthy of a place on more cocktail menus.   
glass - coupe
method - stir and strain
garnish - oil from an orange or lemon peel; discard the peel

1.75 oz. Navy Strength Gin
.5 oz. Dubonnet Rouge
.25 oz.  Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 healthy dashes orange bitters

What about a citrus-driven 3-ingredient cocktail?  Here's a recipe for the classic Daiquiri, one of my all-time favorites:

glass -coupe
method - shake & fine-strain
garnish - thin lime wheel

2.5 oz. Banks 5 Island Rum
.75 oz. lime juice
.5 oz. rich simple syrup (2:1, sugar to water)


Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Little Funk Is A-OK

Jamaican rums are known for their funk.  We're talking about big, bold flavors, the result of special and unique yeast strains, longer fermentation periods that incorporate dunder (yeast-rich foam leftovers from a previous batch of rum), and in many cases, the use of retorts (copper vessels attached to the pot still that contain the leftover high and low wines from a previous distillation, creating additional flavor compounds). Each of these elements contribute to rich, ester-laden rums that truly sing when mixed in a cocktail. 

Jamaican rums are actually classified by their ester levels (esters are volatile/acetic compounds that can lend fruity notes to a spirit), and they basically break down into these 4 levels:

- Low ester rums are called Common Cleans.  Think delicate and slightly floral.  

- Plummers have a bit more going on.  Now we're getting into light tropical fruit aromas and flavors,

- Wedderburn are fuller, with deeper fruit, more body, and increased pungency and lift.

- At the top of the scale lies Continental Flavored, also known as High Ester.  When sipped neat, these rums are the most pungent, the most powerful.  Some would even say it reminds them of nail polish remover.  Sound appealing?  Don't be scared.  Because when diluted with a little water, or properly mixed in a balanced cocktail, that nose-burning intensity is replaced with concentrated aromas of pineapple and very ripe banana.  

So what kind of a cocktail lets these high ester rums shine?  I'm currently serving the Bebita Caribe in the home bar: a blend of Appleton VX and Smith and Cross rums, St Liz Allspice Dram, fresh lime juice, house-made raw ginger solution, and home-made ginger beer.  Funky tropical fruit and baking spices, citrus, and a little fizz from the ginger beer combine in this bold yet refreshing rum cocktail.  Cheers!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Cocktail and The Bar

The Cocktail:  "It should stimulate the mind as well as the appetite. The well made cocktail is one of the most gracious of drinks. It pleases the senses. The shared delight of those who partake in common of this refreshing nectar breaks the ice of formal reserve. Taut nerves relax, taut muscles relax, tired eyes brighten, tongues loosen, friendships deepen, the whole world becomes a better place in which to live.”
- The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. (1948) David A. Embury

The Bar:  It fosters a convivial community of compatriots…camaraderie with the staff and fellow regulars.  A great bar gives you a sense of belonging; it welcomes you with open arms and becomes an integral part of the neighborhood.  A great bar has the ability to become that "third place" or "third space."  It's not work and it's not home, bur rather that all important social space that's important for a civil society, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of "sense of place."

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Rum For Everyone

6500 San Pablo
glass - coupe
method - shake and fine-strain
garnish - long lime twist wrapped around a skewered, marinated pineapple chunk

1.25 oz. Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey
.25 oz. Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum
.5 oz. Trader Vic's Macadamia Nut Liqueur
.75 oz. fresh lime juice
.75 oz. Pineapple Gum Syrup
5 drops Roasted Macadamia Tincture

Cheers to you Mr. Bergeron, cheers to you.

Minimum Order
glass - large rocks glass; hand-carved ice ball
method - stir and strain
garnish - brandied cherry
1.5 oz. Banks 7 Island Rum
.5 oz. dry Amontillado sherry
.5 oz. home-made grapefruit cordial
1 dash Angostura bitters
Stir well with ice
Strain over hand-carved ice ball in large rocks glass
Express oils from grapefruit peel over drink; discard peel
Brandied cherry for garnish

Rum is commonly thought of as the spirit of choice for fruity, juice-laced tropical cocktails.  But I'll let you in on a little secret:  rum shines in spirit-forward libations.  Think outside of the box, and next time you're reaching for that bottle of rye whiskey or gin to act as the base in your spirit-driven creation, stop, think about how a rum might work in that cocktail, and then give it a try.  Whether a bone-dry white rum (Brugal is a favorite), a rich and layered aged rum (Zacapa is beautiful) or a grassy, funky Rhum Agricole (yes, some of them are over the top, but the brand Batiste is quite mixable), there's a lot to choose from in the world of rum.

Happy mixing.  Cheers!  

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Oaxacan Monk

Oaxacan Monk
glass - chilled cocktail glass
method - dry shake; shake & fine-strain
garnish - orange peel

1.25 oz. Cimmaron Tequila Blanco
.25 oz. Don Amado Anejo Mezcal
.5 oz. Aperol
.5 oz. Yellow Chartreuse
.5 oz. Fresh Lime Juice
.5 oz. Fresh Orange Juice
.25 oz. chili-citrus syrup
.5 oz. Egg White
Dry shake for 30 seconds
Add ice
Shake again for 10 seconds, fine-strain into a cocktail glass coated with oil from a large grapefruit peel.  Discard the GF peel.  Garnish with an orange peel.

What a wonderful, delightful cocktail. Lots of ingredients, so I recommend batching the alcoholic ingredients in advance so you're not reaching for so many bottles when making these.*  Everything works quite well together, resulting in a balanced, delicious cocktail. The blanco tequila sets the stage; the dash of mezcal adds a subtle smokey quality that stands up strong to the delicate herbaceous qualities of the seductively sweet Yellow Chartreuse, and the semi-bitter notes of Aperol. The lime/orange juice combo gives it some nice (and needed) acidity, while the grapefruit and orange peel oils round everything out in perfect harmony. And the egg white? It lends texture. A beautiful, airy quality, as only egg white in a cocktail can do. The Oaxacan Monk is my new favorite.

Sip, savor, repeat.  Cheers!

* a note on batching in a bar/restaurant setting:  when I had this cocktail on a menu, we batched all of the alcoholic ingredients (tequila, mezcal, aperol, chartreuse) ahead of time, enough to make 50 cocktails.  This was done in a large plastic bin, whisked together to blend all of the ingredients, and then poured into 750ml bottles.  We also had small squeeze bottles in the well containing equal parts lime and orange juice.  So when the bartender got a call for this cocktail, he reached for the bottle containing the OJ/Lime blend, measuring out 1 oz.  He then added the syrup and egg white from their respective bottles in the well, ending with a 2.5 ounce pour from the bottle containing the batched alcoholic ingredients.  We turned this into a cocktail where the bartender only had to pick up 4 bottles instead of 8.  Not bad!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chamomile and Coconut

After enjoying a few Bees Knees cocktails (2 oz. gin, 3/4 honey syrup, 3/4 oz. lemon juice, shaken with ice and served up in a chilled cocktail glass) I began playing around with those same ratios, but subbing ingredients.  Just another case of experimenting and playing with new & different flavor combinations.  I made a very basic coconut simple syrup on the stove using shredded coconut, sugar and water.  Instead of gin, I used Novo Fogo Cachaca, but I think a mixable Rhum Agricole, perhaps a brand like Batiste, could work just as well.  I mixed these with lemon juice, and a tasty new cocktail was born.  I wanted to add another layer of flavor to the mix, but was trying to keep the cocktail at 3 ingredients.  So I heated up my coconut simple syrup, added two chamomile tea bags to it, and let it steep for about 10 minutes.  Chamomile and Coconut?  I remembered eating a chamomile/coconut pana cotta years ago, and those flavors worked quite well together in that dessert.  Would it work in a crisp, citrus-driven cocktail?  It works!  Enjoyable?  Very much so, but probably not a "mass appeal" cocktail, but you never know.  The funky, floral, and grassy notes in Cachaca paired nicely with the chamomile.  The fresh sugarcane notes present in the Cachaca works in harmony with coconut, creating a new, unique flavor profile.  A healthy dose of fresh lemon juice adds the needed acidity, lending balance and crispness to the drink. 

I'm also playing around with a chai-coconut syrup, mixed into a cocktail with bourbon!

Chamomile & Coconut
glass - chilled coupe
method - shake and fine-strain
garnish - lemon wheel

1.5 oz. Cachaca or Rhum Agricole Blanc*
.75oz. - 1 oz. coconut/chamomile syrup**
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice***
Shake with ice
Fine-strain into chilled coupe glass
Garnish with the lemon wheel & serve
Sip, savor, repeat

* 2 ounces of Cachaca dominated the cocktail and threw off its balance, while 1.5 ounces worked out much better

**I prefer .75 oz of syrup, but 1 oz. of syrup might be preferred.  It's easy enough to adjust the sour-to-sweet balance of this drink based on your guests taste preferences

***I haven't tried it, but I'm curious how this tastes with lime juice instead of lemon


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bold Flavors & Drinkability

I'm a big fan of bold flavors, and when crafting cocktails, the ultimate goal is "how can I make these bold flavors accessible and enjoyable for my clientele?"  Drinkability: it's a buzz word that's thrown around a lot lately, but at the end of the day, that's exactly what we want.  I always ask myself  "would I order a second one?"  You can have a complex cocktail that's full of bold, interesting, unique flavors, but is also immensely drinkable.

A couple of bold flavors that I love are buddhas hand citrus, basil, and balsamic vinegar.  In a cocktail, Hangar 1 Buddha's Hand Citron Vodka fits the bill.  To this we add orgeat (a delicious almond syrup), and Small Hands Foods in Berkeley makes a stellar one.  Fresh lime juice, basil, and a touch of pineapple and egg white round out the cocktail.  We shake without ice, the egg white lending a frothy, silky texture to the drink.  We shake again with ice to chill and add a little dilution, and strain the drink into a chilled Coupe glass.  Balsamic comes into play in the form of a balsamic reduction, and this is drizzled into the foamy, creamy surface of the cocktail. 

I'm also a big fan of Green Chartreuse.  Love the stuff.  It's my "stranded on an island with only one thing to drink" drink.  Green Chartreuse is bold, herbaceous, certainly complex.  And it loves pineapple.  It has an affinity for that appealing tropical fruit, and in a cocktail, it's a match made in heaven.  Here's a spicy, rye whiskey-based cocktail calling for both:

Happily Stranded
1.5 oz. Wild Turkey Rye Whiskey
.5 oz. Green Chartreuse
.75 oz. Small Hands Foods Pineapple Gum Syrup
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
20 drops of house-made Calabrian Tincture
Shake well with ice
Fine-strain into a frozen Coupe glass
Garnish with a lemon peel


The Spice Trade
Banana, curry, chartreuse?  Yes please!  Indian flavors abound in this culinary-inspired creation
House-made Banana Infused Rye Whiskey
Green Chartreuse
House-made "Curried" simple syrup
Lemon Juice
Shake well with ice
Fine-strain into a chilled rocks glass, no ice
no garnish

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Is That Beer In My Cocktail? Yes It Is!

Beer in a cocktail?  Absolutely.  Using beer as as cocktail ingredient can add unique textures, flavors and aromas to a drink.  Here are three recent additions to the beer cocktail portfolio.  These came about after recently hosting a Meet The Brewer event at BUILD Pizzeria Roma with the fine folks from Bison Brewing Company.  The Hop Blossom and Saison Sour use small amounts of beer as a modifier in the drink, instead of beer being the main, base ingredient:

Hop Blossom
.5 oz. Spiced Hibiscus Syrup*
.75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
2 dashes of Tropical Bitters**
Shake well with ice
Fine-strain into a rocks glass over new ice
Top with 2 ounces of a hop-forward beer (I prefer Union Jack IPA, but for a different yet equally delicious flavor profile, try Bison Brewings Hop Harvest Ale, which is made with Oakland-grown hops)
Stir lightly to incorporate beer into the drink
Express the oil from 1 large grapefruit peel over the completed drink; discard the peel
Grate fresh cinnamon on top
Garnish with an orchid

* Spiced Hibiscus Syrup:  home-made syrup using dried hibiscus, cinnamon, star anise, sugar, water
**Tropical Bitters:  home-made, using lemon and grapefruit peels; blend of house spices (includes allspice, hibiscus, cinnamon)

The double dry hopping that Union Jack IPA undergoes compliments the spiced hibiscus syrup and grapefruit oil.  The bittersweet balance of orange, lemon, pear and honey found in Cocchi Americano Aperitivo works in perfect harmony with the tropical bitters.  A healthy dose of acidity from the fresh lemon juice balances the cocktail out, while a dash of fresh grated cinnamon on top ties it all together. 

Gingerbread Flip

We also featured our take on the Bison Brewing Gingerbread Flip*. This was our fun, delicious, crowd pleaser beer cocktail.  Think rich and creamy--almost like dessert in a glass--perfect for those cold Winter nights.  El Dorado spiced rum, Bison Gingerbread Ale, raw ginger juice, a bit of Martinique cane syrup, a whole egg, nutmeg and cinnamon.  What's not to like?!!?  *Read more about Flip cocktails and their history in a great article here.

Saison Sour
 1.25 oz. St. George Botanivore Gin
.5 oz. Tea Syrup*
.75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice
2 large basil leaves
.5 oz. egg white
Dry shake
Add ice, shake well
Add 2 oz. Bison Honey Basil Ale to mixing tin
Swirl gently to incorporate beer into the mix
Fine-strain into a chilled Coupe glass
Basil leaf garnish

Wow, interesting color! This was our "experimental" cocktail.  Hey, we always have to try some new & different flavor combinations and ingredients!   Floral aromas; frothy & silky mouth feel; pleasantly bold, sour and herbaceous on the palate (mmmm....fresh basil and gin); subtle tea & honey on the crisp, dry finish, with those classic Saison beer notes present throughout. 

Sip, savor, repeat.  Cheers!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Fall Cocktails @ BUILD Pizzeria Roma (UPDATED for Winter, 12/29)

It's that time of year, folks!  Sure, it's still sunny every day with no rain in sight, but there is that crisp and distinctive chill in the air. That's right my's Autumn Winter!  Here's the new cocktail list over at BUILD Pizzeria Roma, updated for Fall Winter.  Word is that the beer list will see some new additions in the draught beer department over the next few weeks as well. Sip, savor, repeat. Cheers!

cocktails at BUILD utilize artisanal spirits, fresh juices, hand-crafted bitters, and several unique house-made ingredients.  sip, savor, repeat

Crisp & Refreshing 
citrus-driven & market-fresh

Winter In Rome - pisco italia & apple brandy, honey, campari, grapefruit & lemon juices, fresh rosemary, egg white, dusted with cinnamon; served "up"

Pompelmo Piquante - tequila, a touch of heat from our house-made calabrian tincture, aperol, grapefruit & lime juices, pineapple syrup, black lava & chipotle salt rim; served "up"

Cosa Bella - a blend of platinum & vanilla rums, lime juice, fresh mint, tropical bitters; served "up"

Il Nostro Sour -  plum & apricot brandies, pisco acholado, lime juice, egg white, barrel-aged bitters; served "up"

Coco Sofisticada - a blend of jamaican & nicaraguan rums, house-made coconut cream, fresh lime and orange juices, pineapple, tropical bitters, nutmeg and cinnamon; served tall and "on-the-rocks"

Tazza di Pimms - pimms liqueur, muddled cucumber, gin, amaro, lemon, fizz; served tall and "on-the-rocks"

Moroccan Nights - mandarin blossom vodka, cardamom bitters, tea syrup, pomegranate & lime juices; served "up"
Angry Mule - vodka, raw ginger juice, lime juice, allspice, nutmeg, autumn bitters, fizz; served "on-the-rocks" in a copper mug

featured seasonal drink, changes frequently
Egg Nog - house-made eggnog crafted with local brandy, aged rum, fresh eggs and cream, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon

Spirituous LIbations
spirit-forward cocktails

Point & A Half – navy strength gin, punt e mes, benedictine, orange bitters; served “up" or on a hand-carved ice ball

Sweet Old Man - a blend of rye and bourbon whiskies, amaro, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur, house-blended bitters; served "up" or on a hand-carved ice ball

Scottish Folk Hero - blended scotch & a whisper of smokey islay scotch, barolo chinato & sweet vermouth, grapefruit & orange oils; served "up" or on a hand-carved ice ball

Rosita - reposado tequila, dry and sweet vermouths, campari, aztec chocolate bitters; served "up" or on a hand-carved ice ball

Roadblock Friendly
refreshing non-alcoholic libations.  alcohol-free, guaranteed!

Zenzero - fresh ginger and lemon juices, house-made tea syrup, fresh muddled orange and mint, seltzer; served tall and "on-the-rocks"

Sorrento - orgeat, lime, pineapple and basil, egg white, drizzle of balsamic reduction; served "up"

COMING SOON!  BUILD's Hot Banana Buttered Rum and Winter Toddy, early in January

Featured Beers:  Bison Organic Gingerbread Ale and Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge!'

Saturday, October 12, 2013

An Apple A Day...

Here are three Autumn cocktails that call for that wonderful American spirit, Lairds Apple Brandy:

A simple classic for Fall:

Jack Rose
2.5 oz. Lairds 100 Proof Apple Brandy
.5 oz. Home-made Grenadine*
.75 oz. Lemon Juice or Lime Juice (I prefer lemon)
Shake well with ice
Fine-strain into chilled coupe glass
Long lemon twist and a skewered brandied cherry for garnish

* I utilize a combination cold-method/hot-method system for making my grenadine.  I use pomegranate juice, orange flower water, pomegranate molasses, and sugar.  With the addition of a little vanilla extract at the end, this is one delicious home-made grenadine!

An here's two Autumn originals:

The 1698 
Lairds 100 Proof Apple Brandy
Dolin Dry Vermouth
Raw ginger juice
Fresh orange and lemon juices
House-made tea syrup
Fresh mint leaves
Served "up" in a chilled coupe glass

Winter in Rome
1/2 of a sprig fresh rosemary  (remove the needles from stem, throw away stem)
.75 oz. Lairds 100 proof apple brandy
.5 oz. Oro Pisco Italia
.5 oz. Campari
.5 oz. Spiced Honey syrup (2:1, honey to water ratio for syrup)
.75 oz. Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz. Lemon Juice
.5 oz. Egg White
Dry shake for 15 seconds
Add ice; shake and fine-strain into a chilled coupe glass
Squeeze an orange peel over drink to express the oils; discard the peel
Add a generous amount of freshly grated cinnamon on top of the drink
Garnish with 1/4 of a fresh rosemary sprig, centered in middle of the drink

In 1698, Alexander Laird--a County Fife Scotsman--emigrated from Scotland to America aboard the ship the Caledonia, accompanied by his sons Thomas and William. William settled in Monmouth County, New Jersey. While in Scotland it is believed that William was involved in the production of Scotch. Thus upon his arrival to America, he applied his skills to the most abundant natural resource available in this area of the New World…apples.  He began production of AppleJack for his own use, as well as his friends and neighbors.  For over 300 years, the art of producing Apple Brandy has been passed down through generations of the Laird Family. Laird was America's first commercial distillery with License #1.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

New & Noteworthy Boozey Things

Some new things over @ BUILD Pizzeria Romathe fun new bar/restaurant project I've been working on in downtown Berkeley the past few months:
Note: anything highlighted in red throughout this blog links to other sites, providing more information on those particular products/subjects.  Simply click on those items to learn more about them!

Happy Hour Aperitivos 
(Monday through Friday, 4pm to 6pm)

Perfect Start - Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Bitter Truth orange bitters, seltzer, amarena cherry

Ciao Bella - Cocchi Americano, Small Hands Foods pineapple gum syrup, Scrappy's grapefruit bitters, grapefruit and lemon oil, La Marca Prosecco

Omnipresente (our house Negroni) - Navy Strength gin, Gran Classico & Campari, a blend of vermouths

BUILD's $7 Attitude Adjustment - a tallboy can of Legit Lager served with a shot of Fernet or the "Noci Shooter" (our orange & walnut "Manhattan Shooter" consisting of bourbon, Nocino walnut liqueur, Cointreau orange liqueur, and a blend of house bitters)

And over on the regular cocktail menu...

Pompelmo Piquante - El Distilador Tequila Blanco, Aperol, our house-made Calabrian tincture (a maceration of alcohol with hot calabrese peppers & citrus peel), fresh ruby red grapefruit and lime juices, gum syrup, black lava salt rim

Fig Thyme - fresh black mission figs muddled with thyme, fresh lemon juice, Pampero Aniversario rum, Luxardo Amaretto, local B&E Bourbon and pear brandy from St.George Spirits

In the non-alcoholic libations range, we have the Zenzero (raw ginger juice, tea syrup, fresh lemon and orange juices, mint, seltzer water), and the Sorrento (orgeat syrup, fresh lime and pineapple juices, basil, seltzer).  

We've also been playing around and experimenting, getting ready for fall (things like apples and pears, pancetta fat-washed spirits, a new bloody mary recipe, tempus fugit creme de cacao, Calvados), and we've been tasting some new amari as possible additions to our Amaro shelf.  Here's to Fall...CHEERS!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Inspiration from the Kitchen

I competed in the St. George Spirits cocktail competition the other day at the Claremont Hotel & Resort.  We had to come up with a twist on the classic Tom Collins using St. George Botanivore gin as the base.   There were so many interesting and delicious cocktails and talented bartenders in attendance.  My personal favorite was a blackberry/sage/absinthe/gin drink created by Summer Jane-Bell of the New Easy in Oakland.

My cocktail drew inspiration from the kitchen, our current food menu @ BUILD Pizzeria Roma, and the beautiful organic heirloom tomatoes we've been getting in lately.

The Caprese Collins

Starting with a foundation built off of the classic Tom Collins (gin, lemon, sugar, seltzer), and drawing inspiration from our kitchen using local, seasonal ingredients and a farmers-market approach, the Caprese Collins was born.

We start by carbonating heirloom tomato water for the fizzy element of the drink (using organic heirloom tomatoes from Yolo County) to create a subtle & effervescent tomato note.  This is mixed with fresh lemon juice for acidity; pineapple gum syrup for balance, texture, and to lend a subtle fruity quality to the drink; fresh basil leaves;  and a few drops of our Calabrian Tincture (calabrese peppers and lemon peel steeped in high-proof neutral alcohol).  Last but certainly not least, we add olive oil washed St. George Botanivore gin to the mix.  The olive oil washed gin offers a buttery olive note and unique mouth feel layered into the 19 botanicals found in Botanivore gin. 

The savory, garden-fresh Caprese Collins: crisp and refreshing until the very last drop.

What a fun event, and I was honored to win 1st place!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Let's Be Great

What separates good from great?  A lot of things, and entire books have been written on the subject.  In regards to the bar, if you're going to have a great cocktail program, beer program, wine program, a really great overall beverage program at your restaurant, here are just a few things I have learned that make a huge difference:

- The people who are putting together the program need to be on the same page and have a common goal
- The people executing the program day in and day out need to be 100% on board, buy into the program so to speak, and be excited and passionate about it.  They need to understand WHAT you are doing, WHY you are doing it, and HOW to do it
 - TLC?  Yup, there needs to be a little tender loving care put into each cocktail crafted, each beer poured, each glass of wine served.  You have to care, and you need to have a strong desire to give your guest a great experience.  I am convinced it makes a difference
- There needs to be ongoing staff education and training
- Ergonomic bar set-up, equipment placement, organization of bar tools and bottles, and pre-shift prep work at the bar.  On a busy Friday night, having everything you need within a few steps and everything prepped and ready to go makes all the difference if your going to quickly and properly execute
- Ego needs to be checked at the door
- You're only as strong as your weakest link
- You need to monitor the quality of the products you're team is putting out each and every day: beer, wine, cocktails, N/A beverages.  Is something as simple as a whiskey sour or Cosmo being made according to your agreed upon recipes and standards?  Is that draft beer being poured correctly, served at the right temperature, and in the proper glass?  Can your entire staff articulate to guests the flavor profiles and other selling points pertinent to each of the wines in your wine-by-the-glass offerings?  When you really pay attention, you might be surprised!
- Recipes.  You need them.  Print them out. Memorize them.
- Inventory. Do it. Monthly.  Weekly if need be.  Have controls in place; monitor and understand the numbers.
- Does your Espresso, Cappuccino,and hot tea taste good?  How is being presented to guests?
- Be open to change and trying new things.  Just because you've always done something a certain way for a long time doesn't mean it's the best way.  Be ready and willing to adapt, change, and try new things.  Think outside of the box.
- Little things make a big difference and say huge things about your bar, beverage program, sometimes even your restaurant as a whole.  Glassware, bar tools, the brands you offer, music style and volume, lighting, uniforms, style of service, etc.  They all play a role in your brand.  Revisit and re-evaluate these things often to make sure they are playing the role you want them to play with your brand.

Friday, July 26, 2013

National IPA Day: Thursday, August 1st

Come celebrate the hoppy deliciousness that is IPA with us on Thursday, August 1st @ BUILD Pizzeria Roma in downtown Berkeley.  We'll be pouring Big Daddy, Union Jack, Brew Free or Die, Hop Crisis, and Denogginizer.  We'll be running a couple of great IPA specials throughout the evening as well.  Let's raise a glass and toast this amazing beer style.  Cheers!

When:  Thursday, August 1st, 4pm to close
Where:  BUILD Bar @ BUILD Pizzeria Roma.  2286 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley
What:  Celebrating National IPA (India Pale Ale) Day with some great local brews
Why:  We love beer and we love IPA's.  Pizza + beer = happiness

See ya soon :)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tom McKean & the Emperors perform "Old Fashioned Morphine"

Watch and listen to this in a dimly lit room with a bit of whiskey or aged rum in one hand, a cigar in the other.  You're welcome.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Meet The Brewer Series @ BUILD: Speakeasy Brewery

This Wednesday, July 10th @ BUILD Pizzeria in Berkeley, Speakeasy Brewery will be sending in their Master Brewer to answer all of your beer questions.  They'll be taking over 4 of our taps and we'll be pouring: Tallulah Extra Pale Ale, Payback Porter, Big Daddy IPA, and Prohibition Amber Ale.  Start off with a Speakeasy Flight (4 four-ounce pours of each Speakeasy beer), learn about each beer from their Master Brewer, and then move on to a full pint or two of your favorite Speakeasy beer. Better yet...order up a pizza to go with your favorite Speakeasy beer!  

We look forward to seeing you at the BUILD Bar next Weds, 5pm to 7pm!

Negroni Love Affair

Yep.  I'm in love with a cocktail.  But not just any cocktail.  Nope, we're talking about the perfect aperitivo; that magical combination of gin, sweet vermouth, and Gran Classico bitterThe enduring Negroni cocktail was invented circa 1919 in Florence, Italy at Caffe Rivoire. It's a classic cocktail that has made bitterness palatable for generations of drinkers ever since.  Served either on the rocks or up in a cocktail glass, the Negroni is a panacea for, well, just about everything.  Add a twist of orange and you have heaven in a glass.  For a limited time, you can get the Omnipresente (our house Negroni) at BUILD Pizzeria Roma for just $6 between 4pm and 6pm, Monday through Friday.  
Let us make one for you today.

And speaking of happy hour @ BUILD:  After a long, stressful day, do you need a little attitude adjustment without breaking the bank? We can help!  Come get BUILD's Attitude Adjustment for just $7:  a tallboy can of Legit Lager served with a shot of Fernet or our house Boulevardier Shooter (citrus/vanilla infused whiskey, sweet vermouth, Campari and orange zest). Trust me, it makes everything better.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Drink A Negroni For A Good Cause

It's Negronis for Charity week. Tonight through Sunday from 4pm to close, $1 from every Negroni sold at BUILD Pizzeria on Shattuck goes to help the Berkeley Food Pantry. Cheers!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Cocktails @ BUILD Pizzeria, Berkeley

I've spent the past of couple of months working on a project in downtown Berkeley with Scott Beattie.  Go check out BUILD Pizzeria on Shattuck if you're in the neighborhood.  Great pizza and salads, fun/casual vibe, 16 craft beers on tap, 12 wines on tap, and a delicious cocktail menu with 16 hand-crafted libations. Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 4pm to 6pm.

It was a really fun process combining a pizzeria with a craft beer/cocktail/wine-on-tap bar component.  Cheers!


Ciao Bella (top) with cocchi americano, grapefruit bitters, fresh lemon juice, pineapple gum syrup, prosecco

Mele, Pere, Mandorlo, Spuma! (middle)  with bourbon, aged rum, pear brandy, amaretto and lemon juice; topped with ginger/apple foam and a baked apple chip

Aranci e Noci (bottom) with bourbon, nocino walnut liqueur, cointreau orange liqueur, blend of house bitters, hand cut sfera grande ice

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mr. Vic

Mr. Vic
1.75 oz. Banks 7 Rum
.25 oz. Trader Vic's Macadamia Nut Liqueur
.75 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth de Chambery
2 healthy dashes Tiki bitters
Stir well with ice
Strain into frozen Coupe glass that's been coated with oil from a lime peel
Skewered pineapple chunk for garnish

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Flavor Affinities & Fusion Cocktails

 It's been exciting to see bartenders and chefs bridging the gap between the kitchen and the bar over the past few years.  I've had the opportunity to work with and learn from some great chefs throughout my career, infusing the bar with several techniques and ideas borrowed from the kitchen.  Speaking of that bar/kitchen connection, I've had a lot of fun lately using ingredients from diverse cultures to create exotic, unexpected flavors in cocktails.  

A couple of years ago, I entered one of my drinks into a competition.  That cocktail was the Andalusia, and it drew inspiration from its namesake region in Spain, in particular the flavors found in Gazpacho and Sherry.  The basic idea was "how can we use the ingredients/flavors found in Gazpacho in a delicious, savory cocktail with Sherry?"  The event was sponsored by a vodka company, so I used their cucumber flavored vodka as the base spirit.  Flavored vodka?  I know, I know.  But hey, it worked, and that particular vodka was a great way to incorporate cucumber into the drinks flavor profile.   I always wanted to tinker with that recipe--using gin as the base--and find another way to incorporate the cucumber element into the cocktail.  Last week, I had the opportunity to do so, and was very pleased with the results.

The original Andalusia called for cucumber vodka, amontillado sherry, roasted red pepper syrup, and fresh lemon juice.  Not too long ago, I had a really interesting and unique Gazpacho that worked elements of toasted sesame seed into the mix.  Traditional?  No, but it totally worked, and it got me to thinking "how can I infuse sesame seed into the Andalusia cocktail?"  I can't help but think of alcohol and cocktails when eating and enjoying certain flavor combinations!

I've had some great results using the fat washing technique with spirits.  You take something like hot bacon fat, pour it into a jar filled with a spirit (bourbon works well with bacon fat), and then you put it into the freezer for several hours.  The fat separates to the top and hardens.  You simply scoop out the fat, and strain the now bacon-washed bourbon into a new jar.  It smells and tastes like bacon, and is ready for mixing in a cocktail.  So, using a variation of the fat washing technique, I was able to infuse gin with toasted sesame seed oil.  Since toasted sesame seed gin was now my base spirit, I needed to find another place for the cucumber.  Instead of making a straight roasted red pepper syrup, I made a cucumber/roasted red pepper puree.  The results were fantastic!  A real fusion of flavors.  The cocktail is crisp, savory, and delicious!

Andalusia (Updated Version)
glass = chilled cocktail
method = shake and fine-strain
garnish = skewered cherry tomato, cucumber, cocktail onion

1.75 oz. Toasted Sesame Seed Gin*
1 oz. Cucumber/Roasted Red Pepper Puree
1 oz. Lemon Juice
just over 1/2 oz. Amontillado Sherry
Shake well with ice
Fine-strain into chilled cocktail glass with special spice mix on 1/2 the rim**
Garnish with cherry tomato, cocktail onion, and cucumber

* Toasted Sesame Seed Oil-Washed Gin
1 750ml bottle dry gin
2 ounces toasted sesame seed oil
Pour gin into a saucepan
Add the toasted sesame seed oil
Stir over very low heat for 20 minutes
Transfer into a glass jar.  Seal and store in freezer for at least 12 hours
Using a spoon, remove the hardened sesame oil from the top of the jar
Fine-strain the gin into a new glass jar, seal and refrigerate

**Special Spice Mix For Rim
black peppercorns
sea salt
smoked paprika
toasted sliced almonds
spice grinder

For the release of a new rum, I was working on a simple cocktail that highlighted the prominent vanilla flavors in the rum that came from its extended aging in ex-bourbon barrels.  I've always loved the marriage of bay leaf and vanilla:

glass = footed pilsner
method = shake and strain
garnish = bay leaf for aromatic garnish in center of drink; lime twist

2 oz. Aged Rum (aged in ex-bourbon barrels)
.25 oz.+ 1 Bar Spoon Macadamia Nut Liqueur
.5 oz. Tamarind Puree
.75 oz. Bay Leaf Syrup
1 oz. Lime Juice
Shake well with ice and strain into footed pilsner glass
Fill glass with crushed ice
Form a mound/mountain peak of crushed ice above the rim of glass
Gently dribble Angostura bitters into the crushed ice mound
Place a bay leaf in center of ice mound for aromatic garnish
Wrap a long lime twist around two thin straws and place into the ice