Urban Cocktail Exploration

Ok, let’s start from the beginning.  How much do I know about bartending?  Uhhhh…almost nothing!  If you ask me what is in a Pink Lady, Hairy Virgin, Gimlet or even a Blue Lagoon, my answer will always be the same; “Hell if I know”!  So how did I get pulled into this late night world of patrons looking for liquid tastes and conversations?

Not too long ago, Gabi, the owner of a Santa Barbara restaurant called Blue Agave, asked me to create a cocktail for a woman’s party they were having that had an Indian theme (dot not feather).  So one thing I do know is flavors and I like to engulf myself in them.  In the past I was never a big fan of fufu cocktails as they were usually too sweet for me.  I’m usually a straight up fine wine, single origin Tequila, X.O Cognac, etc kind a guy.  So I told Gabi I would see what I could do.  Being a chef, this was my starting point.  I sought to balance the flavors and especially tame the sweetness.  In the end, a puree of mango infused with homemade saffron water shaken with fine rum, orange liquor and topped with a creamy mousse of lime and ginger with potent drops of mint oil.  This drink was called “Kama Sutra”.  I usually like to create a layered effect of tastes in my food so why not in a cocktail?  sounds good to me. Anyway,  I’ve had a few drinks from a couple of mixologist that I really liked.  They seemed to push the envelope of intricate flavors and concepts in drinks and even finely balance that overblown sweet and alcoholic element.  Gabi asked me if I was interested in creating a few new cocktails.  I said “actually  yeah,  i’ll give it a shot” (no pun intended)….

Kama Sutra….my very first cocktail

So into the creative laboratory I went, the one that is open 24/7 in my head that never seems to close. First one was the idea for “Melon Bite”.  Starting with a local Charlyne melon, I kept it long enough for it to get juicy ripe, then I compressed it to further enhanced the flavor.  It is then mixed with Herradura Silver Tequila and a splash of spicy vodka, strained then topped with a mousse of St. Germain and fresh lemon thyme flowers.

Adding St. Germain to the “Melon Bite”

Final assembly, ready to drink!

Freshly picked lemon thyme flowers to further enhance the summer element!

Next, I wanted to create a drink with espresso.  Being a connoisseur/addict, it was a convenient decision. Shortly the spark manifested into a “Tiramisu Martini Moderne”.  All the beautiful flavors strategically layered in a drink.  An espresso style martini topped with a marsala wine zabalione and finally grated Jakarta chocolate and a fine ladyfinger powder.

Freshly roasted espresso beans from Master Roaster Velton Ross from Seattle.  I really wanted to focus on stellar ingredients so nothing less than an amazing espresso bean was needed….Thanks Velton!

Tiramisu Martini Moderne

No spoon needed for this Tiramisu!

So me being Mexican and all, I have always had an affinity towards things Mexican, or at least “Cool” things.  Most people love Frida Kahlo and I am no exception.  After seeing most of her entire works last summer in Berlin, I was intertwined emotionally to this incredible artist.  I love the flavors of Mexico and it’s cuisine so I needed to explode some of those flavors in a cocktail.  So I decided to use chilies, spices, juices and Mezcal.  But not just any Mezcal, but Del Mageuy Santo Domingo Albarrada..

This lovely cousin of tequila is gorgeous and has a slightly smoky flavor to it.  This sparked the idea to enhance the overall smokiness.  One thing that was troubling me was Ice.  I noticed that as the ice sitting in someone’s drink melted it really diluted the flavor.  I wasn’t going to have that.  So for this drink I made my own smoked ice.  Serving it in one large piece would slow down the melting process and if it did, it would only add to the flavor.

Smoky Frida

Removing the lid to experience the “smoke” that was incorporated into the drink.

Making my own smoked ice cubes for the Frida Drink using my smoking gun!  No detail was overlooked…

Sparkling Mojito Gelee….


So what do I think about Bartending?  It is just like being on the line.  You get slammed!  Do I want to become a Bartender?  NOPE!  It was a great one off thing that I will probably do every once in a while.  I do have a new intense respect for Bartenders as they have to memorize hundreds of recipes and crank them out at the speed of jackrabbits.

One thing is for sure, I will continue  to further my curiosity of the fermented flavor spectrum.