Gin is a bartender’s favorite these days, but not so much that of the average consumer. Still, many bars keep trying, and most interesting is the Gin & Tonic bar, where a variety of gins are matched with mixers and other ingredients.
Now enter Santa Monica, Calif.’s, Bar Pintxo, a Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant that has launched a spirit bar and new Gin & Tonic menu. Bar Pintxo uses a variety of gins and flavors to bring a distinctive taste to the old classic: Gin de Toronja y Tomillo con Tonica, with grapefruit and thyme-infused Farmer's Organic Gin; Gin de Regaliz Negro y Lima con Tonica with black licorice-infused Plymouth Gin; and Gin con Albaca, Aceitunas Manzanillas y Tonica, featuring basil and Manzanilla olives, among other versions.
Why gin and tonic? Bar Pintxo is small, and owner Joe Miller wanted to focus on one particular libation to do it justice.
Here’s our interview with Miller:
Mix: Gin-focused bars are few and far between, but you've done something special here by doubling down with gin and tonic — why?
Miller: Because it is a trend in Spain, and the Spanish people I know here and in Spain love Gin & Tonics. When I was out at the tapas bars in Spain, I noticed that while they had lots of wine and a couple beers on tap, the big thing they would really try to push was the gin. It's been an absolute favorite of the Spaniards, and often, the chefs there liked to drink gin later in the evenings after a long, hot day in the kitchen.
Mix: Gins are already flavored spirits, but you've increased the impact by infusing them: Plymouth with licorice and Farmer's Organic with grapefruit — why?
Miller: To make them even more interesting. We do not have a real bar space in the restaurant, so these infusions make the cocktails more unique, but are also quick and easy for the servers to mix for the guests.
Mix: Cocktail geeks love gin, but the general public hasn't responded in quite the same way. Did that play into your thinking in developing this menu?
Miller: Not really. I think those who love gin will try them, and those who do not may want to try something new. I also think most bars don't highlight gin enough in Los Angeles, so we are.
Mix: You've also included some fairly dominant flavors in these drinks; I'm thinking about the Manzanilla olives, basil and ginger you use in a couple of versions. Was there a lot of trial and error to get these right?
Miller: We did have to experiment and get the proportions right, but for me as a chef, that is the fun part of coming up with a really great new drink.
Mix: Is there something particular about your food menu that makes the Gin & Tonic menu work for you?
Miller: The food is made up of strong and bold flavors. Gin is balanced and has a calming effect on what you are eating and a refreshing effect.
Mix: Does it take a lot of hand-selling to get the younger drinker into Gin & Tonics?
Miller: Yes, but we are very small, so for the most part we are selling gin to those who like it and getting a really great response from people who don’t ordinarily drink gin.
Mix: What's your favorite drink right now?
Miller: I really like the grapefruit and thyme infusion we are doing with Hendrick's Gin. Together with the Fever Tree Tonic, it is really refreshing.