I'm blogging today to blow the whistle on a technique I learned recently at Coco500, one of the most innovative cocktail garages in San Francisco. As you may already know, Coco500's bev list was developed by Thad Vogler, the same mixmaster who manages the bar at Slanted door. If you had to come up with a short description, it would have to be "grand old standards with twisted ingredients". For example, the Manhattan is made with blood orange and they use organic sugar.
When I went to Coco500 a few nights ago, there was a bartender in training who made my cocktails, so I got to watch the blow by blow instruction. I ordered the signature drink (the Coco500), a mojito-inspired affair made with Thai basil and kefir lime vodka (which by the way is delicious). The cool trick they used, however, was to grind up the organic sugar using a coffee grinder into powder, helping the sugar to dissolve quickly and speed up the mixing process.
Serious Social Lubricant
Cocktails are a wonderful thing. They transport time-tested and honored liquors, bathing us in a bit of history with each sip, but they can also prepare the palette for food and loosen your tongue for a steady flow of conversation. But to accomplish all of this, they need to be delicious. And delicious means balanced, interesting, and greater than the sum of its parts. At Coco500, they treat each cocktail as an appetizer. During the training of the new bartender, I personally witnessed at least a dozen drinks being prepared under the careful scrutiny of the head bartender. And after each one was prepared, a fresh swizzle straw was dipped into the freshly poured drink, a little captured by covering the other end with a thumb, and then tasted before sending it out and disposing of the straw.
A Couple of Take-Homes
Get yourself a $15 blade grinder to use for sugar, but don't use it for anything else. Once you get into the habit of pulverizing your sugar, you'll start to think about doing things to it like tossing in a couple of bay leaves, maybe a vanilla bean, or kefir lime leaves to create flavor nuances that can womp up your creations.
Next, invest in a box of those black or red skinny bartender straws. Not only do they look mighty real leaning against the inside of the tumbler when serve your guests at home, they're also indispensable for sanitary, focused tasting of your latest concoction.