Thursday, September 30, 2010
Book Gathers "Left Coast Libations" Between Covers
I remember, a couple Tales of the Cocktails back, being handed a humble little pamphlet called "Left Coast Librations." It was a collection of cocktail recipes from bartenders (and a blogger or two) from San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver.
That tiny booklet has grown up. It is now a full-fledged book, self-published by Ted Munat with Michael Lazar, and sporting an introduction by cocktail journalist Paul Clarke. It is a much grander affair. There are many beautiful photographs by Jenn Farrington of succulent-looking drinks, and a chunk of purple text heralding the Second-Coming-like qualities of each bartender who contributed recipes. Munat does not lack enthusiasm for his subjects.
Among the better known barkeeps tabulated here are Eric Alperin of Los Angeles (The Varnish); Neyah White (until recently of Nopa) and Jon Santer of San Francisco; Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Portland; and Zane Harris, Erik Hakkinen, Jamie Boudreau and Murray Stenson of Seattle. (The former volume included recipes by bloggers. These have been scrapped, unfortunately.)
I enjoy having this book around. Quite frequently, I'll make myself a cocktail that was birthed on the west coast. It helps me keep in touch with what's going on in the bar scene on that side of the country. And, often, the inventions are first rate. Owen Westman's Laphroaig Project is one of my favorite modern cocktails. (I was sorry not to see Westman or his Rickhouse compatriot Erick Castro included in the book. It's my general impression that most of the recipes still harken back to a time a few years ago.)
The book has given me the chance to try out a few other drinks I've heard tell about, but haven't had the chance to make. Among the most storied concoctions here: Morgenthaler's Richmond Gimlet, which sort of lives where the Gin Fizz meets the Mojito; Jon Santer's The Revolver, an addictive Bourbon Manhattan made with Tia Maria instead of Vermouth; and Marco Dionysos' Chartreuse Swizzle, which might as well be San Francisco's official drink.
I also whipped up Stenson's lovely Stephan's Sour, a Gin Fizz with celery bitters; Boudreau's Pax Sax Sarax, a heady mix of Highland single malt Scotch, Cherry Heering and Absinthe that really does need the garnish of three cherries like Jamie says it does; Zane Harris' Charlie's Vacation, a dreamy, frothy gin egg drink given color by Campari; Lance Mayhew's slightly too sweet The Swafford, made of rye, applejack, maraschino and Chartreuse; and White's 606, a strong mix of genever, sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca which, if it does not exactly sweet-talk you, certainly commands attention.
There are certain cocktails in this book which, I'm afraid, I'll probably never going to make, because they require me to make, among other things, pear foam, roasted pineapple feathers, kumquat marmalade, lavender-infused honey syrup, banana-chip-infused rum and lime-whey mixture. Honestly guys, this is a book for the home drink enthusiast. Leave those drink behind the bar, where they belong. Simple does it.
Other things the book tells us about west coast bartenders: they love gin, Chartreuse, the taste of celery, Sherry, Ramazotti, and like to support local distillers like Oregon's Clear Creek. I hope soon I can experience many of these biases, and the bartenders who hold them, in person.