A sommelier’s day encompasses far more than roving between the cellar and myriad tables, decoding what their customers really want to drink, and spouting off astute suggestions to match with their dinner.
At Providence, the upscale seafood restaurant in Los Angeles, Chef Michael Cimarusti imaginatively pairs abalone with avocado and tortilla, and white seabass with artichoke and buttermilk. It’s a thoughtful menu—not only in terms of its creativity, but also in the products it highlights.
On a recent morning, I walked into one of the coffee shops where I usually kick off a day of writing over an iced Americano and a Swedish cardamom bun. It was unusually warm out, so I sprang for an especially quenching, effervescent espresso tonic, one of their seasonal specialties.
Any restaurant that opens without a solid beverage program in place risks disappointing clientele who are increasingly cocktail-savvy. Furthermore, a loss of profit is inevitable when the menu makes only wine and beer the alcoholic priorities.
In January I joined bartenders from Istanbul and Vienna to judge a Diplomático Rum competition in Budapest. One by one, enthusiastic Hungarian barkeeps took the spotlight, showing off concoctions starring the spirit—my favorite featured pineapple juice and Ethiopian cold-brew coffee—that they hoped would garner them a plane ticket to Venezuela for the April finals.
Spirited SuccessesTwelve restaurants where the bar is raised to exceptional standards. by Alia AkkamA staggering number of bars today—whether an upscale speakeasy or neighborhood dive—astound with their rich collections of obscure spirits, carefully created concoctions, and knowledgeable staff.
When a bartender whips up cocktails before the eyes of guests, it is not merely a utilitarian conduit to sliding over a Sazerac. Twisting the bar spoon and dropping in precise splashes of bitters are sensorial elements that are vital to the interactive drink-making ritual.
It is rare that I don’t spend an evening holed up at a wine bar exploring (mostly for the better, sometimes for the worse) bold whites, rosés, and reds from small, family-owned vineyards I never heard of, or relishing a bartender-made tipple—whether crowned with an egg white pre-dinner, or unapologetically dark and boozy just before bed.
Seattle’s dining scene, a quirky one propelled by petite-sized restaurants big on celebrating Pacific Northwest ingredients, has grown considerably since Tom Douglas opened Dahlia Lounge with wife Jackie Cross in 1989.
Amor y Amargo is a tiny space, a cozy New York City bar that only has room for an equally petite-sized crowd. Yet imbibers flock here, undeterred by the lack of seating, because the cocktails—bitter tipples like the Black Rock Chiller (Suze, Branca Menta, resposado tequila) and 8 Amaro Sazerac—are exactly what they want to sip after a filling, three-course dinner elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Gin plays a starring role in a number of classic cocktails—the Negroni, the Bee’s Knees, and the Gimlet among them. Most often it is coveted in the forms of the elegant Martini and summer’s go-to Gin & Tonic.