Bartenders, while a friendly bunch, can sometimes be a bit competitive. Each season, as new menus roll out across town, there is a bit of cocktail envy that inevitably takes place. With a seemingly endless pool of ingredients to choose from when formulating a new drink—and a similarly endless list of failed attempts to use them—(614) presents Bar Bet, a special cocktail challenge for bartenders to come up with a cocktail using a weird ingredient of their challenger’s choice.
It’s pretty easy to get lost in the elegant polished setting that any Cameron Mitchell concept provides. The service: impeccable. The décor: decadent. Everything in its right place. Every once in a while it’s nice to have a meal where no detail is too small, and no request too large to accommodate. Mitchell and his team have made a career of providing exactly this type of atmosphere for years, and while I appreciate what they do, I sometimes wonder if this polished precision can mean sacrificing a bit of character in the dining experience. “Rough around the edges” doesn’t fly in this world, but does that mean there is no “edge” at all?
After Logan Demmy, of the Short North cocktail outpost Mouton, tamed the ghost pepper in last month’s edition of Bar Bet, he challenged Andrea Hoover, Beverage Operations Manager for Cameron Mitchell Restaurants to incorporate crème fraîche into her recipe book. This may bring to mind a scenario in which Logan, the small time bartender, works every day in the trenches, faces off against the corporate giant, challenges them to step outside of their polished perfect world and try their hand at mixing up something a bit more wild than they’re used to. That story could write itself, except for one important twist: Andrea is sort of a badass, and the drink she created was “rough around the edges” in all the right ways.
Just a Tribute
2 oz. Ron Zacapa 23 year rum
1 1/2 oz. Remy Martin VSOP
1/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
1/4 oz. Creme De Cacao (dark)
3/4 oz. Fresh grenadine
1/2 oz. Fresh lemon juice
Bar spoon of crème fraîche
4 dashes Fee Bros.
Old Fashioned bitters
Combine ingredients and shake with ice, Strain over crushed ice in a tiki glass.
When we stepped into the private room at Hudson 29, one of Mitchell’s newer concepts, it had all the makings of the clichéd story: sunlight crept in through the expensive blinds onto the giant expensive table, where candles were lit and a pitcher of water was sitting with perfectly polished glasses at the ready. Typical. Andrea, in her black jacket with her name and title embroidered in white; me, in the same clothes I had worn the day before, slowly awakening from my early afternoon haze with the help of strong iced coffee.
“I wanted to do a tiki style drink, since I know Logan likes that,” Hoover explained.
Oh, playing to your challenger, I see your game. Slick move, corporate drone.
“It uses Ron Zacapa 23 year rum, Remy Martin VSOP, Green Chartreuse…”
Yeah, yeah, yeah, so you got some cool booze in there, I know what you’re doing: l;ure in the bartenders with the good stuff.
“Fresh grenadine, Creme de Cacao, lemon juice, and of course crème fraîche…”
But where’s the heart? Where’s the story behind the drink? The inspiration?!
“It’s a riff on a Pink Squirrel, which was the first cocktail my grandmother had on her first date with my grandfather….”
Wait a minute, that’s good. That’s really good.
The Pink Squirrel is a drink that dates back to the 1960s, a mixture of Creme de Noyaux, white Creme de Cacao, and heavy cream, and while the original is a little too sweet for my palate, it might just be the perfect candidate for a high-octane tiki rendition. So you’ve got the split base, using multiple spirits, you’ve got the crushed ice, you’ve got the tiki mug, but what about the garnish?
“Hang on let me light this real quick.”
Flaming Chartreuse in a hollowed out lime, and a flower. Well done, but how does it taste? You can’t just throw together a random assortment of cool sounding ingredients and call it a drink. Just because you have a fancy office and a fancy embroidered jacket doesn’t mean you can make a well balanced, tasty….
Oh…it tastes f*cking awesome.
Lush, creamy texture, a hint of sweetness, some acidity, and enough heat to remind you that you’re sitting at the big kids table. With four ounces of liquor, fresh ingredients, and a great backstory, Andrea is playing for keeps, and pretty much killing it. She has a firm grasp of flavor and ingredients, even when those ingredients include slightly soured cream.
“Thanks so much for coming out and including me. My favorite days at this job are development days when we get to spend all day in the test kitchen, and just play, so I was really happy Logan challenged me. ”
No Andrea, thank you. Feel free to call me on the next development day, if this is any indication of what you’re mixing up.
Oh…and sorry for calling you a corporate drone, I didn’t mean it. I’ll start eating my hat immediately.
Pushing the envelope even further, Andrea has challenged fellow badass bartender Marisa Torres of Press Grill, to create a drink using sauerkraut, an ingredient that I have never been fond of on my plate, let alone in a glass, although I’m sure it will taste better than my hat.