Some of you may remember reading about my trip to San Franciso in April for the American Distilling Institute conference on brandy. It was an enjoyable and informative jaunt—barring my crippling hangover on day two—but one of the best parts of my visit was the afternoon spent at Absinthe Brasserie in Hayes Valley.
We (being DoodMatt, GabeNerd and myself) hoofed it to the restaurant from Ike’s Place in the Castro—a goodly walk, especially for the lone female stupidly wearing heels. I admit some of my enthusiasm toward visiting Absinthe was based on my early hopes that chef Jamie Lauren would win Top Chef Season 5 (but really, anyone but Hosea!). The remainder of my heel-clad quest was fueled by the absolutely stunning book The Art of the Bar: Cocktails Inspired by the Classics, authored by Absinthe bartenders Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz.
It turned out that luck was with us and Jeff was at the bar that afternoon, prepping drinks to be featured in a newspaper article. Our bartender,
Zan Xan, made introductions and Jeff was more than hospitable, mixing drinks and conversing with our merry triumvirate of starry-eyed boozehounds. Pretty much every drink we had while seated at the gorgeous copper bar was fantastic, so I was understandably excited when a copy of The Art of the Bar appeared at my door as a wedding gift. Many of the cocktail recipes in the book are classics—Martinez, Sazerac, Old-Fashioned—interspersed with the drinks Absinthe, and most bars in San Francisco, are known for, which feature fresh local ingredients and house-made syrups, bitters, tinctures and garnishes. Given that the SLOSHED! garden is presently overflowing with lemon cucumbers, it seemed sensible to pull out the cocktail book that would help us use up our bounty. After all, it doesn’t get much more local than the backyard.
2 slices cucumber, plus more for garnish
¼ oz Pimm’s No. 1
1 oz Plymouth gin
¼ oz fresh lemon juice
splash of simple syrup
2 dashes Bitter Truth Celery Bitters
Muddle cucumber slices and Pimm’s in a mixing glass, breaking down the cucumber almost completely. Top with gin, lemon and simple syrup and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, top with two dashes of bitters and garnish with cucumber slice.
This is my adapted recipe for the 21 Hayes; the original did not include celery bitters. In making my cocktail I used two bar spoons of simple syrup, which seemed to me to be just about enough sugar. Overall the flavor of this cocktail is light and very pleasant. The cucumber and Pimm’s are great together, though the drink is a bit flat until you add the bitters. I highly recommend using a cucumber garnish, as the aromatic kick is very nice, and I don’t think a more strongly flavored New Western-style gin, like Hendrick’s, would hurt anything—Pimm’s isn’t overly delicate and, well, gin just tastes good.