February 25, 2013 | 6:43am
If you're in the mood for a well-handcrafted cocktail this evening, head to Hullabaloo in West Palm Beach. Unlike most bars, here you won't find a single bottle of simple syrup -- and we think that says something. At this new Italian-themed gastropub, it's all about doing things from scratch -- and that includes the bar's "kitchen cocktail" menu lineup.
These days, everyone has latched onto the handcrafted cocktail bandwagon, but the ingredients used will be what sets one fancy menu apart from another. Rather than default to the standard ingredients found behind most bars -- the same used for making well drinks at two-for-one happy hours -- Hullabaloo mixologist Brett Collins has assembled an arsenal of high-end spirits and liqueurs to make flavorful, intense drinks with no artificial ingredients.
"All mixologists are being creative, coming up with their own infusions and creating some pretty amazing stuff lately," said Collins. "But there's one thing most of them still have in common. They're sill using simple syrup."
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Instead, Collins relies on herbal liqueurs and high-quality, small-batch spirits for the bar's 11 cocktails, each named for a late, legendary musician. However, unlike the musicians they represent, these drinks are alive with flavor. And reasonably priced at $12 despite the use of top-shelf liquors and fresh ingredients.
To best describe Collins' style, take a look at one of his favorite products: hum. A handcrafted botanical spirit made by well-known Chicago mixologist Adam Segar, who is the consulting mixologist for Boca Raton's iPic restaurant, Tanzy, it's a powerful drink that can stand on its own but is also versatile enough to blend with any other base liquor, including wines, champagne, and even beer. Infused with hibiscus, ginger, cardamom, and kaffir lime, its flavors represent the idea behind Collins' "kitchen cocktails," a term he coined to describe his liquid recipes that use ingredients straight from the kitchen.
"Adam Seger has been a major influence on how I do things, and his work is the inspiration behind my cocktails, where drinks are created using fresh ingredients and without the use of sugar or simple syrup," Collins told Clean Plate Charlie. "It's a more natual way of doing things, and that's how a drink in the 21st Century should be made."
Collins began his bartending career in the late '90s, working the South Florida restaurant scene while putting himself through college. His true passion, however, stayed behind the bar -- not tending it but mixing different flavors to create liquid masterpieces. Today, Collins considers himself a chef of sorts, embracing the trend toward fresh-made, all-natural ingredients in liquid form. His ethos: nothing artificial.
Take Collins' favorite cocktail on the menu, the "Morrison." The drink begins with Pierre Ferrand Ambre, a superluxe cognac with flavors of apricot, honey, fig, and just a hint of citrus. Rather than ruin the taste of the brandy with an average triple sec, Collins pairs it with Clement's Creole Shrubb, an artisanal orange liqueur made with sun-bleached curaçao orange peels aged in oak casks with a secret blend of spices, pure cane sugar, and a blend of white and aged rums. The drink is finished with a dash of orange bitters and a touch of agave syrup.
Another trend you'll see happening at Hullabaloo: the use of innovative ingredients like aloe vera juice and fresh coconut water, each imparting a unique flavor when mixed with certain spirits. Similarly, Collins has been infusing high-end aperitifs like Dolin Vermouth (a French fortified herbal wine) and Lillet (a French aperitif that fuses Bordeaux wines and citrus liqueur).
It's what makes the "Tupac," so special -- a drink that blends Basil Hayden bourbon with Tuaca, a sweet vanilla-citrus liqueur that has been muddled with fresh orange. Or take Hullabaloo owner Rodney Mayo's personal favorite: the "Ian." Made with Jameson Irish whiskey, orange bitters, fresh-muddled citrus, and a dash of Italian amaretto-flavored Di Saronno liqueur and finished with fresh-pressed thyme.
"Because I'm not using any sugar, these are true 'skinny' drinks," said Collins. "But they don't taste that way. Your drink should have just as much flavor as the meal you're pairing it with. In fact, each of my drinks can be considered a meal themselves."
That's especially true of his take on the bloody mary, here made as one of his signature "kitchen cocktails," a specialty house-made tomato-based mix cooked fresh each week with a secret blend of spices and ingredients including cayenne pepper, fresh basil, and porcini mushrooms. Dubbed the Smoke N' Mary, it's an intense, flavorful kickoff for the bar's new Sunday brunch, which can be made with a choice of tequila or vodka, garnished with prosciutto-wrapped Manchego cheese and a slice of cucumber and celery.
Below, Collins offers up the "Mercury," a cocktail made with Nolet's gin and lemon-infused Lillet. Garnished with a mint sprig, it's surprisingly well-balanced, zesty, fresh, and fragrant.
Starting Sunday, March 3, Hullabaloo will begin serving a regular Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. To learn more about Hullabaloo, visit the restaurant Facebook page or call 561-833.1033.
Follow Nicole Danna at@SoFloNicole.