Sunday, June 13, 2010

Veronica meets Simo

When I go out for a drink I tend to keep it simple: beer or wine.  In fact I consider myself more of a beer lover above all.  Rum and cokes, vodka and cranberries, gin and tonics, etc. were drinks that filled my oh so “just turned 21 and don’t really know what to order” drinking days with bartenders tending to be heavy on the liquor and just splashing in a mixer.  When most of us were 21 we were most likely trying to get a buzz and not trying to truly enjoy a cocktail.  (At least I hope most of us went through that point in our lives.)  But if you put yourself safely in the hands of an expert mixologist you will find that there is an art form behind cocktails and these purveyors of distilled liquids take as much care with their ingredients as any top chef.  What is seasonal and fresh helps develop the cocktail offerings just as much as the regular menu.

My introduction to Simo, resident Equinox mixologist, has presented me with a vocabulary of techniques and ingredients that I’m still trying to grasp.  But being the avid student that I am, I decided to sit down with him at the bar and be his guinea pig for the night.  It was a tough decision guys, but someone had to do it.  In his able hands, and using dishes for inspiration, I learned that just like wine or beer, a great cocktail could complement and enhance your meal.  So let this be a 3 cocktail story that brought out the best on my plate.  That’s right….3!

Cocktail 1: grapefruit juice, sake, lemon verbena essence, Chinese wolfberry syrup, with start anise garnish.  Out of the 3 cocktails of the night I found this one the most interesting and complex.  The flavors were ones that you would generally encounter in an Asian dish, but now these were put into liquid form, which was just a new taste adventure for me. The cocktail was paired with the crispy blue crab spring rolls with lemon aioli.  Oh my yumminess!!!  The spring rolls are crispy, light, and have a wonderful brininess from the fresh crab.  Its shell is thin and does not take over the entire roll, like you will find with the some of the usual take out Chinese restaurants.  This allows the crab to be the main player; as it should be.  With the cocktail’s hint of lemon, the aioli was enhanced, and the licorice taste of the star anise, which only intensified as it sat in the drink, was the perfect accent to the sweet cream

Cocktail 2: lychee lemonade, Campari, St. Germain, CapRock organic gin, and red wine.  Now this is a cocktail that made me want to high tail it to the pool and let myself soak up the sun (maybe with a cute cabana boy for company).  It was sweet, floral with lavender and elderflower, and pink in color; this is what you want to sip on a hot summer day.  But the addition of red wine mellows the drink out so you are not just having a dessert cocktail.  What also helps calm the sweetness is to combine it with a dish that is savory. A salad of bacon and asparagus that was topped with a refined “toad in the hole” made with brioche toast and a quail egg was the perfect complement.  Both the drink and salad are light and are a great intro for your dining experience.  Nothing is over the top so you are not immediately weighed down, but instead left wanting just a bit more.  The best kind of tease there is!

Cocktail 3: brown sugar, orange bitters, cinnamon infused bourbon, fresh lemon juice, and a touch of sour mix.  Spicy….that is the only way to describe this drink.  The orange hits you toward the end, but you are first bombarded with cinnamon that just warms your throat.  Take a sip of this and then have a bite of perfectly cooked beef.  The meat already tastes amazing because it has the earthy taste that comes through with grass fed cows.  Combine it with this drink and that taste is enhanced ten-fold.  I didn’t want to stop taking a sip and then having a bite.  It was the ying and yang, the Burt and Ernie, a happy marriage of food and cocktail combinations.  In other words, this was good.  Capital g, Good!

So are you ready to try?  Put yourself at the bar and let Simo work his magic on you.  Pick an appetizer, salad, entrée, or dessert and leave your drink choice up to him and you will not regret it.   


1 comment:

  1. Delicious sounding. I can imagine the food (and drink) in my mouth!