At the end of each year, amidst a sea of annual recap editorials, restaurant industry insiders and members of the media come together to forecast the trends they envision taking hold in the year ahead. The continued expansion of food courts, fast-casual spots, oat milk, plant-based proteins, and phone-free dining were just some of their predictions for 2019.
But there’s something else that’s changed in recent times that tends to not make such lists, due to its outlasting so many a short-term fad over the years: more and more menu real estate is now being devoted to signature cocktails. No longer an afterthought or hidden in a booklet among hundreds of wines by the bottle, the bartender’s thoughtfully crafted offerings—tailored to fit the cuisine and sensibility of the establishment—have continued to rise in prominence and visibility.
With this inspired synergy between the front and back of the house as our guide, we’ve curated three cocktail collaborations that pair up chef and bartender, each featuring boundary-pushing ingredients assembled with masterful technique and flair. And with a suggested food pairing for each drink, the local hotspot with an hours-long waitlist’s got nothing on your place this March. Make your reservation today and pull up a chair!
Rich and bright tequila reposado is the designated muse for the partnerships in this first edition of the exciting series we’re calling Shift Drinks. Subscribe now through March 2nd to get yours—it’ll ship the week of March 4th.
The Last Night I Dreamed, created by Patrick Natola and Chef Justin Rucobo of Town Tavern in Alameda, is a bracing and crisp daiquiri-margarita hybrid that points the way forward to sunnier days ahead made for perusing the local farmer’s market for ingredients and inspiration. There’s a bounty of fresh, green produce packed into this reposado cocktail by way of an herbaceous jalapeño-cilantro syrup and a dose of fresh lime.
Patrick has worked as a dishwasher, line cook, server, barback, bartender, and manager in New Hampshire, New York City, Chicago, and the Bay Area. He was on the team at Sable Bar in Chicago for 4 years and is currently overseeing the bar at Town Tavern in Alameda, CA.
Justin was born and raised in northern California. He was the opening chef at Péché Austin, has worked for Aramark at the Oakland Coliseum and Las Vegas Convention Center, and can now be found in the kitchen at Town Tavern.
Perhaps you’ve been out with friends at that special point in the night when those shot of spirit + shot of brine “picklebacks” start making an appearance. Or maybe you’ve sat down to a meal at a southern restaurant and seen the glowing, red Kool-Aid-soaked dill pickles known as Koolickles offered up as an appetizer. The Refresco en Vinagre from Chris Simpson and Chef Manuel “Manny” Roca of Austin’s Academia reminds us of both of these adventurous, relatively modern experiences. Bubbles and the bright notes of pomegranate and lemon offset reposado’s sharp, vegetal edge and set the stage for a house-made pickle brine that pulses with the savory flavors of dill, garlic, and coriander.
Chris found his way into the bar industry 10 years ago while studying in Japan and has refined his craft at the karaoke bar Festa, nightclub Hawthorn, fountain revival The Ice Cream Bar, Future Bar’s Tradition and Swig, and the literary-themed Novela. Most recently, he’s made his way to Austin, where he manages our CCO Russell Davis’s bar Academia.
For some behind-the-scenes tidbits from Chris on his work, bartending in Japan, unique ingredients, and all about his cocktail, check out our interview.
As a young boy, Manny fell in love with cooking while watching his mother in the kitchen making his favorite childhood dish, carne guisada with homemade tortillas. When creating a menu, Manny says he wants “to cater to all people . . . ,” proudly serving each dish in family-style portions so that you and yours can experience a bit of everything.
Emilio “Milo” Salehi and Chef Arnold Eric Wong of The Beehive in San Francisco pay tribute to the time-honored traditions of the Mexican kitchen with their old-fashioned, the Mortar & Pestle. The toasted nuttiness from the sesame and coconut nods to the preparation of a mole sauce, which can require dozens of ingredients and several days. Luckily, quite a bit less work is required to combine the syrup and extract on ice and stir, along with tequila and, of course, mole bitters. The result is rich, earthy, and unforgettable.
Milo is a San Francisco bartender who has worked at some of the top cocktail destinations in the city, including The Treasury, Whitechapel, and Mourad. He now leads the bar team at The Beehive.
Arnold is a renowned Bay Area chef and restaurateur who started from humble beginnings by running his family’s grocery in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. From there he went on to open multiple restaurants, bakeries, and bars, including The Beehive, The Treasury, Raison d’etre Bakery, and Joyfull Bakery. While a chef at heart, he often finds himself creating ingredients for the bar.
Sign up and check out our specials this month: delicious cocktails featuring savory elements and inspired by the vast culinary landscape. And each is worthy of a five-star review!
The Shaker & Spoon Team
*not vegan: nothing