February Cocktail News

00:00 February 17, 2014

Excerpts in Cocktail News are republished in Where Y'at's print edition from Anne Berry's weekly blog, In The Drink, on WhereYat.com.

Amber Peterson, tapped to run all Dickie Brennan bars, launches first list at Bourbon House. Before a recent dinner service at Bourbon House, wait staff and bartenders are huddled around five fresh cocktails that anchor a new drinks list from Amber Peterson. It’s her first since being named corporate bar chef for Dickie Brennan & Company last October.

Like any good teacher, Amber is patient, going over drink ingredients and food pairings, then rousing the staff: “Be sure to explain the drink names! People love a good story.”

Earlier that day, she’d been training bartenders at Tableau. Drawing on her 15 years in the industry, Amber teaches weekly in-house classes, rotating between the four Dickie Brennan restaurants and customizing the curriculum for each restaurant’s distinct vibe.

At Palace Café, the focus will be on premium rum and, eventually, tiki drinks; the list at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse (out in February) will feature classic cocktails and specialize in Irish whisky.

Over at Tableau, Amber plans to create a list around artisanal syrups, infused liqueurs and fresh juices (making good use of the kitchen’s Nutrifaster, which extracts eight quarts of juice in eight minutes, she says).

And it’s no surprise that bourbon and other brown spirits dominate the list at Bourbon House. 

She calls a bourbon sour variation (smoothed with fortified wines) a “gateway” cocktail for the novice; then pairs rye with iced tea and black currant purée in another darkly fruity cooler.  

A still more potent drink blends bourbon, applejack and Amber’s own honey-cardamom-cinnamon syrup. The lone vodka on the list is a lively Bellini variation of locally distilled Oryza and apricot purée, sparked with prosecco.

The clean, complex Winter Still (named for whiskey’s optimal distilling season, Amber says) opens with vanilla-smooth Tennessee whiskey that’s snapped by a tart berry-basil shrub. Byrrh, an aged blend of red wines, spirit-macerated grape must, and quinine bark, brings it to a dry, herbal finish.

“It’s a favorite among the staff,” says Amber, as the dinner shift begins at Bourbon House. She sends them to the floor and behind the oyster bar, adding, “I want to train the next generation of New Orleans bartenders. frenchquarter-dining.com

Drinks in the slow lane at Fulton Alley.While we've been distracted by strapping bourbons and overproof rums, low-proof drinks have slipped onto bar lists - by way of cocktails made from craft beers, digestifs and wines. 

Lately, this includes a revived breed of liqueurs.

"Liqueurs are creeping back into the marketplace because the quality of the products is so much better, no more odd flavors," says Max Messier, bar and beverage director at Fulton Alley. "That quality, plus (broader) distribution, is driving their inclusion in high-end cocktail bars."

Take the bright, juicy and slightly edgy pink grapefruit liqueur made by Giffard & Cie, a Loire Valley distillery run by the same family through four generations. 

Fulton Alley showcases it in their Forbidden Fruit, where a long pour of grapefruit liqueur outpaces the half-shot of buttery reposado tequila and half-ounce of lemon juice. 

The cocktail, inspired by the Paloma, gets aromatics from a spray of Bittermens hopped grapefruit bitters, and a rich bite on the finish from cinnamon bitters.

At 16% ABV, the grapefruit liqueur makes this cooler one of the less potent on the Fulton Alley list (with the possible exception of Max'sBowler's Shandy - Miller beer, sugared citrus oils and lemon juice). 

The list, written by co-owner Kirk Estinopal (and tweaked by Max and co-owner Neal Bodenheimer), includes a vodka sour based on housemade tea syrup and a Manhattan darkened with coffee bitters.

Max is also developing a line of vermouths (including a flower-based fortified wine) that will turn up in the bar's cocktails sometime next year.

"I've been a big fan of low-proof spirits for a long time now," he says, referring to his bar experience in San Francisco and New York City. "That trend will soon arrive in New Orleans." FulltonAlley.com

Read Anne Berry's In The Drink cocktailblog at WhereYat.com every Thursday. Follow Anne on Twitter @AnneBerryWrites.  

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