Along with my growing interest in cocktails comes the inevitable desire to watch the masters of the craft at work. I've never been much of a person for bars - even when I was younger I preferred a dark, quiet pub to a dance club - so finding one I'd be happy to return to is always a bit of a challenge.
Last night we went downtown San Antonio to a bar I had heard some great things about. We decided to show up early to beat the crowds and have a few cocktails before heading out to find dinner. This turned out to be the right call as the bartender, Rob, had time to and was willing to chat with us about classic cocktails.
We started off with a charcuterie board, because you can't go wrong with cured meats and cheeses. It had a very nice, small selection that was plenty for 2 people to nibble at. For cocktails I decided to kick things off with a French 75 since I'd always heard that it was a stepped up Tom Collins, which is one of my favorites. The blend was perfect and the mix of lemon and effervescence was great to offset the hot weather I'd been out in all day. I was also pleased to see the bartenders cutting and zesting fresh fruit rather than having bowls of dried out wedges.
Rob, our diligent mixologist, informed me that the name French 75 was drawn from the idea that the drink had such a kick that it felt like being shelled with a French 75mm field gun.
Paul started the evening with a Moscow Mule because it's sort of a staple in these parts and he had never had one. We don't keep much in the way of vodka in the house and he's not the biggest fan of ginger so I was watching from the corner of my eye to see his reaction. He took one sip and put the drink down in front of him. I was about to ask if he hated it when he informed me it was fantastic. Turns out they make their own ginger beer in house and it is just the right balance of sweet and spicy.
We got chatting with the bartender more as we enjoyed our first sips and by the time we were ready for round two we had covered our favorite rums and discussed many gins. Paul stuck with the rum theme and had a classic daiquiri (the kind made with rum, lime and simple syrup not the kind made of pink in a blender) and I asked for a surprise.
I watched as the ingredients came out and was pleased when presented with a Last Word. Considering the name of the bar it seemed quite fitting. I had heard many praises for this cocktail but I don't normally keep green Chartreuse in the house because of it's price point. You can't blame them, it's made by monks on the other side of the world and the recipe is a closely guarded secret.
I liked the drink very much, it gave a citrusy up front flavor but had some floral notes toward the end from the Chartreuse. It seemed like one of those drinks that would sneak up on you with it's alcohol content.
While we discussed my current favorite gin, The Botanist, he had us try a sip of Blackwoods Dry Gin 2012 from Shetland, Scotland. The juniper was very mild and it with with a heavy lime flavor at the end. It was perfect and now I'll have to hunt down a liquor store that an get it!
We rounded out the night with a Rum Punch (made with Rhum JM) and a negroni - solely because I'd heard Alton Brown discussing them and I was curious. The negroni was served with an orange peel rather than lemon, apparently the San Antonio fashion, and had sweet caramel type notes and ended with a hint of spice (think chai not jalapeno).
Overall this bar was everything I had hoped for. The decor was clean, comfortable and stylish, the staff was friendly, interesting and skilled. I'd say the chance of us returning will be 100%. Check them out for a strong classics menu (ignore their website, it seems they have new management and it hasn't been updated at all).