Edible South Florida Winter 2011 : Page 16
High Spirits What do the Barbary Coast, Mary Pickford and bloodhounds have in bargoers will be seeing more of them on drink menus very soon. #ĉ$ùñĂñ-ñ7õüüõt1øÿĄÿ÷ĂñĀøĉòĉ3ÿòõĂĄ1ñĂõþĄõ common? Each is the namesake of a classic cocktail – and South Florida edible SouthFlorida.com | fall 2010 | 17
CLASSIC COCKTAILS, COMING RIGHT UP!
High Spirits<br /> <br /> What do the Barbary Coast, Mary Pickford and bloodhounds have in common? Each is the namesake of a classic cocktail - and South Florida bargoers will be seeing more of them on drink menus very soon.<br /> <br /> BY CIARA LAVELLE • PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROBERT PARENTE<br /> <br /> THESE AREN'T YOUR GRANDFATHER'S DRINKS. BARTENDERS have taken the nation's growing obsession with finely crafted cocktails and given it South Florida finesse with unique takes on classic recipes using local ingredients. The result: a bar scene unlike anyplace else in the country.<br /> <br /> MIXING IT UP<br /> <br /> It was only a matter of time before Miami's love of fine food and drink caught up to the cocktail scene, according to Tad Carducci, beverage director at Mercadito, the contemporary Mexican hotspot at Midtown Miami. "Americans are in love with gastronomy – eating and drinking and everything that surrounds it – the social dynamic, the camaraderie." First came food, with diners demanding higher quality and innovative dishes. Then wine followed suit, inspiring consumers to indulge their oenophile desires. Now, Carducci says, "people have access to all things culinary that they didn't used to. They have the food and wine and craft beer. Cocktails were the next logical step."<br /> <br /> Cocktail revivals in other parts of the country focus on traditional preparations of classic recipes. In South Florida, many bartenders add a modern flair to the drinks of yesteryear. Take Mercadito's tequila-heavy cocktail menu, for example – they offer a gourmet version of a margarita, plus a handful of other tequila concoctions.<br /> <br /> "I'm an agave-head," Carducci says. "I love tequila. There are so many out there, and so much range of flavor that, for lack of a better word, it's like a palette for an artist." But working primarily in tequila, rather than more popular spirits, has its challenges. "We have to make sure our flavors really pop," he says.<br /> <br /> Tequila is on the rise, both in Miami and around the country, Carducci says. But the next big thing, from his standpoint, will be mescal, a similar spirit to tequila with a stronger, often smokier flavor. "Mescal is steeped in tradition and history and artisanship," he says. "It's kind of tequila's grandfather."<br /> <br /> SHAKEN AND STIRRED<br /> <br /> Of course, there's more to a great drink than liquor and mixers. Correct preparation makes a cocktail more than the sum of its parts. With the increased demand for cocktails in South Florida, more bartenders are taking extra care in carefully measuring their ingredients, rather than "free-pouring," to achieve that perfect mix. "I like to compare it to the difference between being a line cook and being a pastry chef," says Will Rivas, bar manager at Sra. Martinez, Michelle Bernstein's tapas restaurant in Miami's Design District. "As a line cook, you're always adding different types of things to manipulate the dish. When you're a pastry chef, you follow the recipe."<br /> <br /> Rivas and the rest of the bar staff at Sra. Martinez have plenty of unique ingredients at their fingertips, mixing drinks with a wide range of juices, syrups and liquors infused with the flavors of South Florida. Simple syrups are enhanced with ingredients like jalapenos, cinnamon and clove. Fresh juices include local orange and grapefruit. Even the liquor itself doesn't escape a touch of the tropical. "Right now we have caraway-infused cachaça and a jasmine-infused pisco, and we have a bacon-infused bourbon," he says. "There are coffee tequilas on the market, but we make our own by infusing it with espresso."<br /> <br /> But for all the inventive flavors at Sra. Martinez, Rivas says he expects the cocktail scene in Miami to stay based in tradition. "Here in Miami, you're going to keep seeing a lot of classics," he says. The bar's most popular drink is a hybrid of a martini and a mojito called a Buena Vista. "It's essentially cucumber, mint, lime juice, simple syrup, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, Hendrick's gin and vodka. It's been on the menu since we opened, and if we take it off for a week, we start getting complaints."<br /> <br /> TASTE OF THE TROPICS<br /> Local ingredients are the backbone of the cocktail list at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill at Midtown Miami, according to beverage manager Mackenzie Parks. "I'm a big believer in 'what grows together goes together,'" she says, noting the locally sourced oranges, pomegranates, passion fruit, hibiscus flowers and jalapenos used behind the bar.<br /> <br /> It's those ingredients that have given Miami its own unique cocktail culture. "In New York, you have this revival of classic cocktails," she says. "Miami's kind of on island time ... Our most popular drink is also the simplest. It's called the Spice of Love, and it's just fresh jalapeno with mango, passion fruit and vodka." In Miami, Parks says, strong and balanced flavors rule: "You need acidity, flavor, spice. Miami still loves the mojito and the caipirinha."<br /> <br /> Freshly made melon juice, fresh herbs and garnishes, and star anise lined up at the Martini Bar.<br /> <br /> WHAT'S NEXT?<br /> <br /> Local ingredients mixed into classic drink recipes are also at The Raleigh's stylish Martini Bar, says bartender Ben Scorah. "We're moving away from classic speakeasy cocktails," he says. "Now people are more interested in the tiki revolution and drinks using really delicious fresh fruit and fresh herbs." Take, for example, the pina colada. "For years and years it was something regarded as fluffy, something you'd serve at 80s parties," Scorah says. But at The Raleigh, bartenders serve a grown-up version using "really good dark rum and fresh lime juice."<br /> <br /> Scorah himself admits that his favorite drink is a daiquiri, as long as it's made properly. "You need a really good white rum, fresh lime juice and sweetness with sugar cane, all shaken really hard."<br /> <br /> With fruity beverages here to stay, Scorah says the biggest thing in cocktails moving forward will be one of the most overlooked elements: the ice. "You're going to see restaurants using large-format blocks of ice, bars making their own ice using unusually shaped ice molds." The shape of the ice affects dilution, he explains, and "a large block of ice in a glass can be beautiful."<br /> <br /> Ultimately, for Scorah, there's only one essential element in a good drink. "If the drink is made with passion, it's going to taste good."<br /> <br /> Classic Martini<br /> A classic martini is always made with gin and should be stirred, not shaken, so melting ice doesn't overdilute it.<br /> <br /> <br /> 2 oz. gin<br /> 1 oz. dry vermouth<br /> 2 dashes orange bitters Lemon twist or olives (optional)<br /> <br /> Stir all ingredients briskly with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist or an olive.<br /> <br /> Classic Mojito<br /> <br /> This Cuban cocktail has become a refreshing South Florida must-order<br /> <br /> 2-3 oz. light rum Juice of 1 lime (about 1 oz.)<br /> 2 teaspoons extra-fine sugar Small handful mint sprigs Club soda<br /> <br /> Combine mint, sugar and a splash of club soda in a glass and muddle. Add lime juice, rum and ice and shake. Strain over ice into a highball glass and top up with club soda. Garnish with fresh mint and/or a lime wedge.<br /> <br /> St-Germain and Champagne<br /> <br /> St-Germain, an all-natural, artisanal ligueur made from hand-picked elderflowers, is turning up in sophisticated cocktails. Here, its subtle flavor pairs perfectly with a dry sparkling wine.<br /> <br /> 1.5 oz. St-Germain Brut Champagne or dry sparkling wine Sliced strawberries or a lemon twist (optional)<br /> <br /> Pour ingredients into a chilled fluted glass and stir lightly. Float a slice or two of strawberry or a lemon twist as a garnish.<br />