Behind the Chinese New Year

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We sat down with Cris Dehlavi of Columbus, Ohio’s M Restaurant to chat about her work and her cocktail for February’s Afterparty Box, the Chinese New Year!

S&S: What’s your specialty?

CD: I have so many different styles of cocktail that I am known for, but I think what I hear the most from people is balance. I strive for this with every cocktail I make, the perfect balance between sweet/sour/bitter/booze!

S&S: How would you describe the craft cocktail scene in Columbus?

CD: I was on the forefront of it about seven years ago, when we had no craft cocktail bars or anyone really doing anything. Now we have 75 members in our USBG chapter—I am the president—and we have many bars focusing on craft cocktails around the city. We have gotten national recognition on many different levels and believe that we are a really emerging market in the industry.

S&S: Is there an ingredient or technique you’re currently fascinated with?

CD: Nothing new—but I will say that I have been focusing more on simple cocktails over the last year, as opposed to ones with many ingredients.  I can make a really complex drink with only three to four ingredients, and as a working bartender it’s also easy to execute and much less time consuming.

S&S: Hey, that’s perfect for us! And what would you say is most unique about the drink you’ve created for us?

CD: Well, I think Chinese five spice is such a cool ingredient and probably a lot of people don’t know about it.  It is so rich in flavor—it has the winter baking spices that people love (cinnamon, clove, star anise), but then the other two are fennel and Szechuan peppercorns, which add savory notes. It really works great in a syrup and as an addition to the cocktail.

S&S: What’s your favorite aspect of the drink?

CD: I like that you can take a basic glass of bubbly and add the syrup and bitters and it feels like a complex and intricate cocktail. Yet very easy for anyone to make.

S&S: Absolutely! We think everyone’s going to love it. What music do you hope people are listening to as they mix and enjoy your cocktail at home?

CD: Haha I never thought about that before! I am a huge lover of all music—I originally went to college as a music major—so I think whatever they are in the mood for! If I had to choose something, I would say jazz, just because I feel like with a glass of bubbly in your hand it feels appropriate.

S&S: Is there any specific food you would recommend pairing with your cocktail?

CD: It is a refreshing cocktail and pairs perfectly with food.  Sushi, sashimi, are ideal—anything spicy would be perfect.

S&S: What do you do when you’re not working?

CD: I am a single parent to a seventeen-year-old daughter, so I certainly dedicate a lot of my off-time to her. I also have many side projects that I work on on my days off from my full-time bartending gig. There’s my USBG work, and I also am one of the managers of the apprentice program at Tales of the Cocktail, and we work all year long to put on that event in New Orleans in July.

S&S: Sounds like a full plate! We certainly appreciate you taking the time to create a cocktail for our Afterparty Box. And speaking of off-time, when you’re on the other side of the bar, what’s your go-to drink order when trying out a new place?

CD: An old fashioned. It is a classic and every bartender should be able to make a really good one.

S&S: Agreed! Last question: any New Year’s resolutions?

CD: Going back to the “what do you do when you’re not working” question, I think my only resolution is to spend a little more “me” time during those rare days off.

S&S: That’s a good one! We’re all hoping for more of that in 2017. Cheers!

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