Ian Julian came away from the Bombay Sapphire/USBG "Most Imaginative Bartender" finals with more than a GQ photo spread: he and fellow contestant Nathan Gerdes got to talking about pho-inspired simple syrup.
It was a notion that Ian shared with me last September, well before he was tapped to be bar manager at the newly-opened Dominique's on Magazine. I filed it away as something I really, really wanted to try.
Last night I did, in Ian's Pho Cajun Sour. It's a clean, earthy and refreshing cocktail; surprising, when you consider that there's real beef pho broth in that simple syrup. Ian sources the rich broth from a local Vietnamese restaurant, then heats it with ginger, lime, green onions and habaneros, adding cilantro at the last minute. From there, it's strained and sugar-infused.
On its own, the syrup is a meaty roll call of pho flavors, ending with the cilantro and a tangy, peppery heat. It cools to a pale amber and shows up milky in your glass, thanks to a clarifying shake with smooth Oryza vodka (fittingly, made from Louisiana rice by the Donner-Peltier distillery in Thibodaux) and lime juice.
Other drinks on the list include Ian's takes on the Last Word, French 75, and the margarita, and a popular strawberry-gin daiquiri variation too. Later this spring, Ian plans to lead drinks seminars at Dominique's and add a rotating selection of seasonal cocktails.
As the list's most adventurous and evocative drink, though, the Pho Cajun Sour will remain. I'll come back to it, especially for testing pho's legendary power to ease a hangover.
Dominique's on Magazine, 4213 Magazine, 891.9282
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