Cocktails & Food

With bartenders resembling chefs more than the drink slingers of yesteryear, and sommeliers looking for the newest endeavour to pair food with, it wasn't long before cocktails made it on the scene. It is not unusual to see wine paired with food but what about tea, water and of course cocktails.

I spoke to renowned mixologist Junior Merino about this latest movement; Junior is on the forefront of cocktail degustation in the US. His company, liquidchefinc is in the forefront of cocktail and food pairing based in New York. Junior is always busy with his company and with the website I spoke to Junior about his philosophy; "I think that cocktails can be paired with food as long as we understand every element in the cocktail and the food. For example a glass of wine has a low alcohol percentage (12-16), it has juice left naturally from the grapes, it has acidity and it has a little bit of sugar left from the fermentation. Now when we are creating a cocktail to go with food we need all those elements except that we can create our flavors". Junior's philosophy is very contagious and the cocktail degustation menu is spreading across the world.

In Australia, places like Sling in Brisbane and Zeta in Sydney are taking the bulls by the horns and wrestling out some great little cocktail degustation menus. Dustin Davis and Martin Lang of Sling Lounge hold monthly cocktail degustation dinners, where the fusion of cocktails, history and cuisine meet in a battle of the senses for anyone who attends these styles of events. These boys are pushing the envelope on a local scale that is rippling throughout the bar industry. How about the recent Red Bull Degustation Dinner they held. This is the blurb for the event.

"We love Red Bull; it gives us wings... really. We decided to pay our respect to them in our fashion. We grabbed a few and did everything we could to them. Torched, Froze, Gellify, Dried, Crystallized, Evaporated, Boiled, Reduced, Expanded, Foamed, increased its density and called NASA and asked them to take it to space and back. After all that we created some cracking Cocktails for our Degustation Menu!

Do you want to fly with us? Come and get some Wings!"

With these sort of crazy experiments going with food and cocktail pairing, what could be next? Be on the lookout for some weird, wacky and fantastic journeys into the throngs of degustation. If this is anything to gauge the trend, it's far from explored.

I am one lucky guy, I work with one of the best chefs I have ever worked with, and his skills and creativity is an asset when we put together a wine dinner menu or a cocktail degustation menu. Chef Andy Moore is a trained chef from Vancouver Island and created the fantastic dishes that you see before you. We sat down one afternoon and tried the cocktails I had created for him. Beside him was his bible, his manifesto of flavour. It's a flavour profile book that is about six inches thick and has every flavour and pairing you could ever need. Chef tasted each cocktail, letting each one roll down and around his tongue. On a small scrap of paper he jotted little nuances and flavour hints that he tasted. About two days later he came back to me with these recipes, each specially designed and created to make the food taste better and the cocktail taste different. The great thing that I love about Chef Andy Moore is that his view on food is simple but creative. Try some of these parings at home, have your own little degustation dinner and force the movement further into the spotlight.

Anchovy & Green Olive Tapenade Flat Bread

  • 10 oz. Fresh Pizza Dough or 10" Pizza Shell
  • 1 tsp. Anchovy Paste
  • 2 fl oz. Green Olive Tapenade (recipe to follow)

Roll fresh dough to 10" diameter Spread anchovy paste over entire shell followed by tapenade Bake in 500 degree oven for about 6 min or until golden brown has been achieved. Remove from oven and cut into 8-10 strips and stack alternately criss-cross on plate in shape of tepee. Serve immediately.

Green Olive Tapenade
  • 6 oz. Stuffed Green Olives
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 3 fl oz. Olive Oil
  • 1 oz. Fresh Basil
  • 1/2 juice of lemon

Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse for 10 seconds.

Served with

Red Snapper - the original Bloody Mary
  • 2 oz. Hendricks Gin
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • Dash Tabasco Sauce
  • Dash Worcestershire Sauce
  • Squeeze of lime juice
  • 2 oz. Tomato Juice

Muddle cucumber with Tabasco, Worcestershire and lime. Add Hendricks, Tomato Juice and ice, shake and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Steamed Mussels with a Coconut Milk, Basil and Fresh Lime Broth
  • 1 lb. fresh mussels
  • Juice and zest of 1/2 Lime
  • 1/2 oz. fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk

Combine all ingredients into pan and simmer on medium - high heat about 5 minutes or until all mussel shells have opened. Discard any mussels that will not open. Place into dish. Garnish with Lemon Grass. (Optional) Serve alone or with Garlic Baguette.

Served with

Ginger& Lemongrass Gimlet- an Asian twist on a classic
  • 2 o.z Victoria Gin
  • 1 oz. Ginger and Lemongrass syrup**

Place both in shaker with ice and shake, strain into a chilled martini glass.

**Ginger & Lemongrass Syrup
  • 2 Litres water
  • 2 kg. sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped ginger
  • stalk of lemongrass

Boil water and add sugar, ginger and lemongrass. Boil until sugar is dissolved, strain and bottle. Will last about 2 weeks in the cooler.

Cedar Baked Brie topped with Strawberries, Almonds & Rosemary Butter Crostinis
  • 1 Cedar shake
  • Small wedge of Brie cheese
  • 2-3 strawberries
  • 1 tbsp. slivered almonds
  • 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup

Rub maple syrup over Cedar shake. Place brie wedge on cedar shake. Slice strawberries and place on brie with almonds. Bake in 500 degree oven for 5 minutes or until cheese just starts to melt. Serve on plate and garnish with garlic butter crostinis with fresh rosemary.

served with

Sapphire Dream
  • 1 oz. Bombay Sapphire
  • 1 oz. Giffard Pink Grapefruit Liqueur
  • 2 oz. White Cranberry Juice
  • Topped with Violette flavoured foam**

Place all ingredients except foam in a shaker, add ice and shake. Double strain into a chilled martini glass and top with a Violette flavoured foam.

**Violette Flavoured Foam Place 1/2 litre sugar syrup in a saucepan and start to simmer. Bloom 2 gelatine sheets in warm water, once bloomed place into the saucepan and dissolve. Take off the heat and let cool slightly, place into a soda siphon. Add 1 oz of Giffard Violette Liqueur and put lid on, gas with nitrous bulbs and let chill completely in cooler.


Shawn Soole