If there is one season that says fresh and refreshing more– from my catbird seat here, overlooking the entire year of ingredients and flavors– and that would be spring. During SXSW (South by Southwest), I had the unique opportunity to see what is being supped and sipped in other parts of the country- in a uniquely spring approach. So, the season that I want to call attention to is spring and the flavors of spring should be making their way into your guest’s glass at the cocktail bar. If you are still serving mint Juleps from last July, may I gently suggest that you brighten up the bar menu, seasonally that is!
The first item of spring cleaning for your bar that I would recommend would be to replace your machine-made coupe glasses if you are using an off the rack approach to this uniquely pleasurable glass that can be the hit on your bar. Visit an estate sale or a yard sale at a more than expensive home and buy some fine glassware, if they are available for use in your bar. Glassware such as these shouldn’t be too expensive- so, please don’t sweat the details- if you break one, there is a plethora of glassware out there. Part of the charm of being a working mixologist is to introduce new and old glassware to the audience-our guests- the reason why we are in business is to educate and deepen relationships behind the stick and to make the experience of drinking in our cocktail bars, fun!
Great or even pretty good ice. I’ve been judging a fair number of spirits events as of late, and I’ve discovered (but not so recently) that the ice is an essential element of craft cocktails. When I judge your cocktails, please make sure you are bringing your own, hand-cut ice. This is pretty basic information, right? Even most home type stores sell silicone ice cube trays. But you know what? I still get served cocktails at judging events that are made with unimpressive cheater ice, well intended in the overall context, but an outright failure to the judge of their effort. If you are making cocktails at your bar with cheater ice, shaking cocktails with cheater ice, serving any mixed drinks on cheater ice- stop right now.
You are cheating your guest, hence the word cheater. These quarter cube, rapidly melting-ice slices are not meant to educate your guest. They are not meant to do much of anything that has anything to do with flavor and certainly are not a quality product, they add nothing to the experience of high quality cocktails. I hate to sound preachy about this, but it’s really important to use the best ingredients possible for your guests. It’s spring, get with your ice program.
If you are in the NY area and you don’t want to make your own specialty ice- and you can afford to buy ice- do it! Hundred Weight is one such company in Long Island City, Queens- that produces the finest ice that money can buy. I also suggest making friends with your local ice-house or if you are in a hotel- your pastry department may cut their own ice- those hand-cut tailings are quite lovely in a craft cocktail. And they look even better showing off some fancy Mezcal in a hand-cut crystal glass that you got at an Estate Sale.
The Kimchi Martini… Back to Austin, Texas and SXSW where the cocktail worlds cultural cuisine collides with the freshest Southern ingredients in a global sense of fun. I was out one night, and I overheard a rock-star-local mixologist talking about the modern interpretation of Korean flavors and the plethora of exotic and quite frankly, sensual
ingredients that are making their way into the cocktail glass. One of my favorite Korean flavors has always been the salty, spicy and tangy concoction of fermented ingredients known as Kimchi. If there is anything that exemplifies the cultural explosion of Korean food in a modernist fashion, it is Kimchi, and it’s now spilling into the mainstream. Hot chilies bring up the background and the vinegar weaves in the entire fermenting concoction into a deeper amalgamation of savory to intense to spicy to that unexplainable, umami sensation across the palate.
I’m not quite sure what they were calling this combination of spicy flavors- because asking for a Kimchi Martini didn’t get a dull stare in Austin! I’m going to assume that this drink had gin, because it wouldn’t be a Martini made with any liquid other than gin. And if you are shaking your martinis, you fail, yet again.
I dislike trendy names, so this one doesn’t have one, even though it does have some gorgeous spring cucumbers and, in the mix of Kimchi, to balance the spicy and
savory in this ‘martini’.
Don’t Ever Dial 866
(makes two cocktails)
- 4 oz. Botanical Gin- such as Hendricks’s or Aviation
- 2 oz. Lillet
- 2 oz. Spring Cucumbers or a Kirby Cuke cut into coins about ¼ inch thick
- 1 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 oz. Kimchi – I prefer home-made- but you can use store bought if desired
- 1 oz. Simple Syrup
- 1-2 leaves of cilantro
- Lime Bitters
- Muddle the Kimchi with the Simple Syrup and the Cucumber coins in a glass vessel
- Add the lime juice, muddle some more
- Add the cilantro and the Gin
- Add ice
- Stir again
- Double Strain into a coupe glass
- Garnish with a slice of Kimchi and dot with a cilantro leaf
- Add a couple drops of the lime bitters- taste for bitterness- serve
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