On the day we launched our Kickstarter, we met with our friend Brandon Curry at The Patio on Goldfinch here in San Diego. We were there to shoot some cocktail photos, and the timing for the launch just worked out to be on the same day, so we did it on site (via a failed Facebook Live Broadcast – ha!)
We thought it was time to post another storytelling series of a great bartender making a great drink. It starts, of course, with an empty mixing glass…
Brandon is the bar program manager for The Patio on Goldfinch, but we met him when he was over at The Lion’s Share. Both are great bars with great people behind them. Brandon is one of those guys who has a lot of knowledge, and can really get into the nitty-gritty of cocktails, mixology, spirits and technique, but is incredibly approachable at the same time. He studied Comparative Literature at UCSD, so for you literary types (like me), Brandon is a bibliophile’s refuge at the bar. He’s also always up for having thoughtful conversation (although when it’s 8PM on a Saturday night, my advice is to just order a drink!).
And the cocktail? It’s pretty hard to turn down a Negroni, even at 10 in the morning. A classic cocktail with just three ingredients: gin, vermouth, and Campari. Most recipes use these easy-to-remember measurements: 1 oz of each. I can’t get over this shot of the rich, dark vermouth being added to bright red Campari:
Brandon reminded me last week that sounds are such important contributions to a memorable experience. The swish of spirits being added to a glass—-clunk of the metal scoop hitting a pile of ice rocks just out of view—- cubes jostling into the mixing glass, a tap-tap-tap on the bar to settle them—-the ‘ting! ting!’ of a cocktail spoon nestling into the glass and starting the turn—-swirling sounds of spinning ice and a cocktail chilling down—a tightly wound coil of metal separating viscous liquid from melting ice….
A myriad of sounds in the bar combine to create an environmental symphony that we often tune out, but constantly runs in the background and infuses our brainwaves with emotional memories. In my case, those emotions are of warmth and comfort, friendship and celebration, times of leisure and relaxation, good conversation, exploration, hospitality, and a general sense of letting your hair down and being real and authentic in a community that values just that.
One of my favorite steps in the process of making a cocktail at a craft cocktail bar is the garnish. (I specify ‘craft bar’ here, because getting a drink at a dive bar is satisfying in a completely different way).
Garnishing is that one moment when the cocktail all comes together at the finish, yet the drink is still not in front of you. It’s not ready to be consumed, it’s just time for it to be admired and anticipated. It’s this beautiful moment that the creator and the cocktail reserve for themselves.
I absolutely love the care that intentional bartenders use when garnishing. If the garnishing process is a sloppy plop of an olive, or a lemon wedge hastily mashed onto the rim of the glass, I feel like that bartender missed the point.
Ahh, the Negroni. Bright and beautiful, crisp and refreshing, bitter and sweet, simple and complex all at the same time. Thanks Brandon for letting us capture the crafting of this drink, and thanks Shawn Michael for capturing it in a way that makes me feel like I can grab it off this page and take a sip. Cheers!
All photos by Shawn Michael. Dang he’s good!