Cocktail News - Feb 26, 2013

00:00 February 26, 2013

On the move. Mixologist Christine Jeanine Nielsen has left the Windsor Court’s Cocktail Bar to launch a cocktail catering business with fellow ‘tender Lucinda Weed. The venture, called Ramos Gin Friends, will roll out with a pop-up event, yet to be scheduled. For now, catch Christine behind the stick at Sainte Marie or Elizabeth’s, and Lucinda at Sylvain.

As for who will step into the Cocktail Bar slot, sources at the Windsor Court tell me no one has been hired for the position, as of press time.

A handsome line of local bitters. Iris’ bar manager Scot Mattox has launched his own brand of bitters called El Guapo, which he developed for pairing with certain spirits. Scot’s pineapple bitters, for instance, are a natural with rum or tequila, while the coffee-pecan bitters go well with brown spirits like bourbon. Other bitters in the line (including a six-way citrus blend; cucumber; the orange-oregano Mojo) fi gure in Iris’ new drinks menu, as does El Guapo’s superior tonic syrup, made from cinchona bark, grapefruit, lemon, lime, ginger, cardamom and lemongrass. You can buy them all through El Guapo’s Facebook page.

A peek at Trèo’s cocktail list. Finn McCool’s bartender Tyler Chauvin is helping develop the cocktail list at Trèo, the craft cocktail bar coming soon to Tulane Avenue (and brought to you by Finn's owners Stephen and Pauline Patterson). For Trèo, Tyler is developing a bourbon mint tea with Moroccan bitters, as well as a gin drink lengthened with juice from preserved lemons, and touched with pickled fennel syrup.

Welcome to Freret Street. The newest kid on the block, Publiq House, is primarily an entertainment venue, with a spare, industrial interior offering a roomy stage for bands and comedians. Outside, valuable parking space is available to local food trucks, which for the foreseeable future will make up the Publiq House’s onsite, pop-up kitchen.

But true to their name (a variation of “public house” that recalls our earliest colonial taverns), Publiq House focuses on beer, with a wide, global list of bottled beers and a growing selection on tap.

DIY orgeat. At the base of many exotic drinks – the Mai Tai, the Japanese cocktail – is orgeat, an almond-fl avored syrup that’s surprisingly easy to make, and sippable on its own. The biggest constraints for a bartender who wants to make it are cost (almonds are expensive) and time.

Still, you’ll fi nd housemade orgeat at High Hat Café (where Ryan Iriarte adds it to tea-steeped vodka and Luxardo in the “Life of Leisure”) and at Perestroika @ Pravda, where Nick Detrich pairs it with Herbsaint in an absinthe frappé.

Over at Iris, Scot Mattox let me sample a bit of Fabbri, an Italian-made orgeat that he scored at Central Grocery. It’s rich and silky, and holds up well to the amaro, rye and maraschino liqueur in Scot’s “Buddy Bolden,” while being a potent sweetener.

A recipe I’ve used, which yields a bright and slightly creamy orgeat, follows:

Homemade Orgeat, adapted from

• 2 1/4 cups raw almonds, whole

• 7 cups water, divided

• 1/2 cup cane sugar

• 1 oz. vodka

• 1/4 tsp. orange blossom water, or to taste (if you can’t fi nd it, try a few splashes orange extract)

Place almonds in medium-sized mixing bowl. Cover with 3 ½ cups water for 30 minutes. Strain, discarding water. In a blender, lightly pulse almonds until they are coarsely ground.

Return ground almonds to mixing bowl, cover with 3 ½ cups water and soak for 4 to 5 hours, stirring the mixture well every hour or so. Strain liquid into a glass jar (I used a fi ne strainer; add cheesecloth if you like). Discard the almonds.

Add sugar to the liquid, close the lid tight and shake the jar vigorously until sugar is dissolved.

Add vodka and orange blossom water, and stir thoroughly. Cover and store in the refrigerator for two weeks. Makes 2 to 3 cups of syrup.

Irish pancakes.

Before lighting out for a St. Patrick’s Day parade, down a quick breakfast of dark, meaty Guinness, the base of an Irish Pancake shot. At Irish House, the Guinness is sweetened with butterscotch schnapps, while Finn McCool’s version is spicy and fruity – their stout comes blended with Jameson whiskey, and chased with orange juice.

Cocktail Bar at the Windsor Court Hotel: 300 Gravier St., 523.6000

Elizabeth’s: 601 Gallier St., 944.9272

Finn McCool’s: 3701 Banks St., 486.9080

Iris: 321 N. Peters St., 299.3944

Irish House: 1432 St. Charles Ave., 595.6755

High Hat Café: 4500 Freret St., 754.1336 P@P: 1113 Decatur St., 581.1112

Publiq House: 4528 Freret St., 826.9912

Sainte Marie: 930 Poydras St., 304.6988 Sylvain: 625 Chartres St., 504.265.8123

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