Cocktail Pairings & Courses
Cocktails, despite their recent surge in popularity, were in years past really just a primer for a meal but lacked the culinary stature of, say, a vintage Bordeaux. Today, however, the craft cocktail is taken to the next level by mixologists, cocktail enthusiasts, and most importantly chefs, who are pairing them with specific dishes and meals. Dave Arnold, who opened Booker and Dax bar in New York City with Momofuku chef David Chang in 2012, notes that cocktails are an ideal complement to boldly flavored foods.
The rise of "small bites" menus makes cocktail pairings especially seductive, though fine dining restaurants are also getting with the program. Eleven Madison Park's tasting menu now touts "beverage pairings" instead of "wine pairings," and barman Leo Robitschek suggests complementing suckling pig with the "Repossession" made with reposado tequila, Amontillado sherry, apricot liqueur and lemon.
At Rivera in Los Angeles, chef John Sedlar creates a six-course "Hallucination Menu" that marries dishes made with tequila to custom tequila cocktails from Julian Cox and Jeremy Lake; one such course unites Malpeque oysters and cucumber "caviar" with a "Sangrita Verde" tipple blending mezcal, greens, pineapple and spices.
Chefs are also looking at cocktails as a course or culinary creation unto itself. At Grant Achatz' The Aviary in Chicago (attached to his Next Restaurant), the "Midnight Mary" melds North Shore Aquavit, fresh heirloom tomato, galangal syrup and nitrogen-frozen basil foam. The foam is presented tableside, and spooned into your smoking glass, then muddled into powder and poured with the finished cocktail. Don't try this at home!