Jim Meehan’s favorite cocktail resources
Killer Cocktails
Dave Wondrich
Joy of Mixology
Gary Regan
Difford’s Guide
Simon Difford
Vintage Spirits and Forgotton Cocktails
Ted Haigh
Gentleman’s Companion of 1937
Chris Baker
4 Questions, 3 Mixologists and 1 Journalist
August 2007

The Mixologists:

John Kinder
MK — Chicago, IL

StarChefs:What have you been working on lately?
John Kinder: I’ve been working on summer drinks — one with a sweeter flavor profile has watermelon juice, vodka, vanilla syrup, basil, moscato d’Asti and lemon. Another has cucumber juice, lemon, dill syrup, vodka, sake and “seeds” of lychee puree, and a jasmine tea tincture. I’ve been putting a black walnut tincture in a blueberry drink.

SC: What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
JK: Seasonal cocktails, by the Adam Segers of the world, and bitters. Toby Malone at Violet Hour here in Chicago is making a lot of bitters — he came from Pegu Club and Milk & Honey in New York. And people are going garnish–crazy!

Also, cocktails are catching up with wine, business–wise. They’re being paired with food, and there’s a lot of education going on. The US Bartender’s Guild is making great efforts to get information out there. On the whole Chicago has been a bit behind, but we’re playing catch–up.

I’m curious whether we’ll start seeing a trickle–down effect soon. Will the Hyatt start mixing with fresh juices? Fresh lemon and lime in margaritas and sours?

SC: Which spirit is due for a renaissance?
JK: It’s all about gin, not vodka.

SC: What’s the price point on your cocktails?
JK: $6 for the non-alcoholic (I’m trying to offer more of those) and $13 for the cocktails.

Todd Thrasher
Restaurant Eve, The PX and The Majestic — Alexandria, VA

StarChefs: What have you been working on lately?
Todd Thrasher: Market–driven cocktails. Lots of fresh berries, and cherries: I’ve been using bing cherries at Restaurant Eve, sour cherries at PX and white cherries at The Majestic. I make a rhubarb cocktail with lemon balm simple syrup, lemons and rhubarb, but the stalks kill the juicer — you have to use a Bar Boss. I also have a savory coconut cocktail with coconut water, rum, Lillet Blanc and coconut air. I made a tobacco drink that’s a play on the smoking ban: I make a sweetened tobacco reduction and mix it with bourbon, honey and lemon juice. It has a slight burn, like black pepper.

SC: What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
TT: I’m seeing a lot of fresh fruits verses purees in DC. Also we’re moving away from vodka — it’s just too safe. The cocktail trend hasn’t really spread to fine dining yet though. It’s there, but why don’t more fine dining restaurants have specialty cocktails?

SC: Which spirit is due for a renaissance?
TT: Gin, bourbon and rum.

SC: What’s the price point on your cocktails?
TT: At Eve they range from $11–13, and at PX the standard cocktails are $11 and sparkling cocktails are $16.

Jim Meehan
PDT and Pegu Club — New York, NY

StarChefs: What have you been working on lately?
Jim Meehan: Summer cocktails: a 21st Century cocktail at Pegu with silver tequila, white crème de cacao, lemon juice, and Pernod. Before I left Gramercy I made a bourbon tea highball called an “R&R” with bourbon, tea, rose flower water and muddled raspberries. At PDT I’m making a sour called “El Puente” with silver tequila, bianco vermouth, St. Germain elderflower, grapefruit juice and mescal.

SC: What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
JM: Bitters like Amari and Zwack, and more bitter drinks in general. Also higher-end mixers, like Q Tonic, Fever Tree, Gus, Izze, Fentimans, etc. In London there is a focus on historical cocktails; same goes for New York, where you’re also seeing cocktails as food and cocktails with food. Junior Merino and Ivan Lemoine are doing a lot to promote this.
Drinks are getting more savory, and molecular mixology is taking off, with the help of the pastry kitchen.

SC: Which spirit is due for a renaissance?
JM: I feel like we’re still trying to get back the 19th Century ingredients: Dutch Genever, Creme Yvette, Arrack, and all the old bitters. After that, we should start importing products like Suze, Amer Picon, Plymouth Sloe Gin, and Absinthe. Maybe after that we’ll see Pisco finally make a run for the money…

SC: What’s the price point on your cocktails?
JM: There seems to be no limit for what people will pay for spirits these days: $50 for Stoli Elit, $300 for Charbay Whiskey, pre–phylloxera Cognac Sidecars, etc. If you use it in a drink, you’ve got to charge for it…and people are calling for it.

The Journalist:

Bret Thorn
Nation’s Restaurant News

StarChefs: What are some current trends you’ve seen in the cocktail market?
Bret Thorn: The American palate is sweet — people like pomegranate and blueberries. Margaritas and vodka-based cocktails are huge, and like with food, trends start on the coasts and move inland.

SC: Have mixology trends spread to the mass market?
BT: Mixologists have been making their own syrups, bitters and infusions, but this is nowhere near hitting the mass market. Basic bitters aren’t even at the mass market level yet.

SC: Do you think the resurgence of classic cocktails will continue?
BT: Yes — they still havn’t made it to casual dining. In your average restaurant or bar, 51% of cocktails sold are vodka–based, and 38% are frozen. Margaritas account for 18% of sales, martinis for 12% and cosmopolitans for 12%. We haven’t moved beyond those quite yet.

SC: Which spirit is due for a renaissance?
BT: Bourbon. And South American spirits are going to get big soon.

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