Drinking trends continue to veer off in many different directions, offering new experiences based on old ideas and ginned up to meet today’s exalted cocktail standards. Two recent restaurant openings make the point that quality drink making and paying attention to detail is required if an operation really wants to stand out.
José Andrés has developed an international reputation from his home base in Washington, DC, for stunning cooking and the willingness to take chances with new ideas. His new opus, barmini, a culinary cocktail lab in the space adjoining his phenomenon minibar, offers more than one hundred artisan cocktails from new creations to takes on classic cocktails. Just opened and reservations-only, the new barmini was planned as Andres’ cocktail lab for all of his restaurants and projects, “a true extension of minibar, a learning center where chefs and bartenders collaborate, where heritage meets modernization.” Juan Coronado is Barmini’s cocktail innovator in charge of the list which includes Jersey Lightning (applejack, peach brandy, egg, lime, sugar and seltzer), Big in Japan, (a mescal marshmallow, Japanese whiskey, French aperitifs Salers and Suze), along with Jack Roses, Mai-Tais, Clover Clubs and the like. Coronado’s favorite is said to be the Veruka Salt (peanut rum, Drambuie 15, pineapple grog, simple syrup and salt).
Also good to hear about is the growth of the draft cocktail movement, which promises, once matters of preservation are resolved, to make getting a craft-like cocktail quickly a more common experience. At San Diego’s Polite Provisions, Erick Castro has put together a menu employing more than 50 types of bitters and 45 or so beverages on tap, including beer, soda, some spirits (including Fernet Branca and sherry), cold-brewed coffee and cocktails, like Casual Encounter (London gin, organic strawberries and housemade rose petal soda) and the Full Windsor (single malt Scotch, apple brandy, sweet vermouth, Benedictine and bitters). The full menu can be viewed here.
Serving drinks straight from the tap has yet to be tested broadly enough to see how well systems age and flourish. But with guys like Castro joining the movement, expect to see more outposts open. Those two openings are this week's "good" news.
For the really good, we turn to gaz regan, the bartender previously known as Gary Regan, who has announced the start of “Just One Shift” (www.justoneshift.com), a plan to raise a quarter million dollars for charity in a one-week time period by inviting bartenders to donate all or part of their tips from just one shift. The beneficiary will be Wine to Water (www.winetowater.org), a non-profit organization founded by a bartender that focuses on providing clean water to needy people worldwide.
Launching the program will be gaz’s efforts to make Monday, April 8 through Sunday, April 14 the week for really good works. Supplier companies have been encouraged to join in, as have consumers who are urged to tip well that week or to donate directly. The aim is to engage 2,500 bartenders, with each being able to raise $100, in order to reach the $250,000 mark. As the gazer says, “This idea was borne of one of my favorite quotes from the Dalai Lama, which in fact had been my email signature line for years: ‘The capacity to devote yourself to the welfare of others yields otherwise unobtainable … potential for good,’ which is exactly how I would like to use my network. For years I’ve been telling everyone who’ll listen that bartenders can change the world and together with Doc Hendley, the ex-bartender who founded Wine to Water, we’re about to prove it.”
Bartenders can sign up at www.justoneshift.com, which will maintain a running list of participating bars sorted by city and a calendar of shifts.