They're doing it in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami. . . in Delray Beach, not so much. A new generation of--don't call them "bartenders," call them "mixologists"--is flavoring their own spirits, making their own infusions and syrups and garnishes, creating cocktails that go far beyond the usual "vodka-rocks" and assorted abominations that have defiled the holy martini.
Just as Brian Albe and Brandon Belluscio gave the old-fashioned steakhouse a kick in the ass with their chic Cut 432 on Delray's Atlantic Avenue, now they're applying swift, creative foot to dull, boring cocktail posterior with a whole new roster of hand-made spirits and mixers assembled into a slate of inventive new drinks.
I hung out with Brian at the bar awhile back and tasted my way through his handiwork, and I gotta tell ya, if anything can make serial drunkenness a spiritually uplifting activity, it's the cool stuff he's pouring.
His fig vodka, made with dried black mission figs, is a kick in the
pants, so figgy it's like it grew in bottles in a fig orchard. He plans
to serve it with a slice of crispy prosciutto as a sort of
appetizer-cocktail combo. For a little seasonal head-clearing, he's got
a pumpkin-spice vodka that tastes like pumpkin pie with a right cross
to the kisser; it's flavored with nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and vanilla
and is served with cubes of candied pumpkin.
at least until you check out his bacon-infused vodka, a marriage of
pork and booze that will have you drinking your breakfast and passing
out before lunch. If you ignore the fact that it's 80 proof, you'd
swear you were smelling and tasting bacon fresh out of the skillet. The
way it works, Brian explained, is you cook off a bunch of bacon, put it
and all the drippings in a jar with some vodka, then jam the thing in
the freezer for a couple of hours until the fat solidifies and you can
scrape it off. Defrost, strain and serve. Amazing shit. Look for it in
a Bloody Mary, though I'm trying to convince him to use it in a Ramos
Fizz, so you can drink your bacon and eggs.
He's got plenty
more ideas for infused spirits too, from buttered popcorn rum and
cigar-flavored bourbon to spiced pear tequila and
strawberry-basil-infused gin. It's not just wacky-ass infusions
either. He's got some killer new cocktails even I would order, and I
think anyone who puts anything other than gin, vermouth and an olive in
a martini should have his nuts crushed into an ashtray. My fave is the
cucumber cosmo, so goddamn good even that horse-faced old Sarah Jessica
Parker can't ruin it for me. It's gin, Cointreau, white cranberry juice
and cucumber "water," which you make by shredding a buttload of
cucumbers and hanging them in cheesecloth to drip out their liquid.
also really like the "Lady Lavender," a blend of vodka, grapefruit
juice and club soda, with house-made lavender syrup and grenadine. And
the margarita with pineapple juice and jalapeno-spiked tequila ain't
too shabby either. And I shouldn't leave without mentioning the
house-made maraschino and ass-kicking brandied cherries.
Hand-made booze. Hip cocktails. A cool bar. In Delray.
Who'da thunk it?