May 24, 2016 – Late last week, lead bartender Josh Perry set up a bar beneath the redwood tree and invited media folks to preview of his brand new cocktail menu. Though Perry has been part of the Restaurant 1833 staff since March of 2015, this is the first cocktail menu that showcases all of his own creations.
“I started developing this menu in January,” Perry said. “I was looking for maximum flavor with minimal ingredients.” As we eagerly eyed the menu, devouring the cocktail titles and descriptions, he continued, “You should see the six hundred and twenty five recipes that didn’t make the cut!”
Standing over a tray of his Coconut Milk Punch, Perry told us the story of how he started mixing drinks two decades ago – when he was six years old. It was Easter Sunday and his grandfather decided it was time for him to learn how to make an Old Fashioned. When he got to describing the pour, Perry held up three fingers, “’Normally you would pour two fingers’ worth. But my grandfather said ‘your fingers are small, so make it three.’”
The Coconut Milk Punch takes four days to make and involves seven different strainings; Perry describes it as a clarified piña colada. It features copper pot-distilled Trinidad rum and a liqueur that oozes the essence of the Caribbean with flavors of vanilla, ginger, and clove. While I can appreciate the craftsmanship involved, it was not my favorite of the five we tried that evening.
Perry’s Hummingbird was inspired by the lavender bushes just outside the kitchen window. The cocktail includes a homemade lavender tincture, something akin to lavender bitters, made from those fragrant bushes and is decorated with a lavender sprig.
While Perry mixed and poured, Chef Jason Franey brought out some bites for us to share, including the Guajillo Chile-Crusted Baby Back Pork Ribs, Seasonal Mushroom Flatbread, and Homemade Falafel. As Perry talked about how the bar menu must complement the restaurant menu, we finally made it to his favorite cocktail: the Banana Boulevardier.
A Boulevardier is the mysterious cousin to the Negroni. While the Negroni is simultaneously sharp and smooth, substituting whiskey for gin lends the Boulevardier a robust richness. “I love the Boulevardier because it takes such classic flavors of the original cocktail and throws in a twist that is both bold and nuanced within the drink,” explained Perry. When I asked what he would pair with his favorite cocktail, he paused for a moment and said, “The Banana Boulevardier goes very well with the Fire Roasted Sunchokes or our market fish selections.”
My favorite cocktail of the night was his Smokey & the Bandit. A concoction with both bourbon and mezcal, it was sort of like a sultry, supple kiss—tongue-tingling with a lingering sweetness and just a caress of heat from the homemade poblano-tabasco syrup. Perry let me try the syrup aside from the cocktail and I was instantly smitten. My mind began spinning with a dozen of other applications. But in the cocktail, it provided the perfect balance of sweetness to the citrus, smoky, and spicy flavors.
The menu is officially launched. Up next for Perry, he has submitted a cocktail for Bombay Sapphire’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition. “I am currently waiting to hear back on the results of my submission. If selected, I will be traveling to London to compete in the finals,” he said. While he didn’t share the name of his drink, he did share that the cocktail contains Bombay Sapphire, mango curry, sherry, Rangpur limes, Thai basil, and egg whites. Whether the cocktail is honored, or not, I hope it makes it to the menu at 1833. It sounds fabulous.