I’ll confess: I haven’t always been a huge fan of cocktail and food pairings.
However, there was a time a short while back when it was all the rage. And for some it still is.
Not a few bartenders, who thought they knew food, played with it as much for fun as anything. Sometimes it worked. And sometimes it didn’t. In fact, more often than not it didn’t—which may be why you don’t see much in the way of cocktail pairings on menus these days.
Luckily, some cutting edge players such as the trailblazing Lauren Mote (above, co founder of the immensely successful Bittered Sling bitters and extracts) went to work. She took things to the next level—and continues to do so …
Cocktails in the right hands actually offer a chance at a far more precise food pairing than the sommelier obliged to deal with the inflexibility of a given wine.
Recently Mote was commissioned by Yew restaurant to design a series of cocktails which would complement and enhance Yew executive Chef Ned Bell’s innovative Ocean Wise activities.
Mote says her focus was: “to create a custom cocktail program that pays tribute to Chef Ned’s determined approach to seafood, while also offering guests a unique and educational way to pair cocktails with food.”
Yew says its Oceans cocktail program “is inspired by the world’s five unique oceans, and pairs perfectly with YEW’s highly successful sustainable seafood focus. The program launches with 16 perfectly balanced cocktails designed to complement YEW’s bar, lunch and dinner menus. Each cocktail fits one of four categories — from bright aperitifs to full-bodied seafood and heavier proteins, to “regional expression.”
I was invited to attend the unveiling of a few of the Oceans cocktails the other night.
To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. A bonus, for sure: the small plates that executive chef Ned was trotting out to go along.
It was tough indeed to pick faves from this lineup.
However, I was seduced by the Rock of Gibraltar, a smooth and unabashedly boozy combination of Alvear Sherry, Cocchi Vermouth and Torres Brandy—and that’s not all. The brandy is Cinnamon and Coriander infused and the splash of Mote’s Bittered Sling Malagasy chocolate is the final touch. This dark and handsome date’s a keeper, even on its own, a late night sipper with somebody close. A great match, Chef Ned Bell’s lobster taco is kicked up with just the right amount of sweet ‘n sour jalapeno to make it even more interesting, without being too hot.
I was equally intrigued and charmed by Glacial Snout (top of page), a unique juxtaposition of Laphroaig Islay Quarter Cask, Jameson’s Irish and Chartreuse with Irish moss (seaweed) juniper, rosemary Bittered Sling Cascade Celery, garnished with sprigs of fresh Rosemary. That wonderful smoky, peaty thing (and the Irish moss) which makes the Glacial Snout so intriguing winds up being the perfect pairing with Dungeness crab toast and lime aioli.
There were more good sips and tastes, from the Skookum-Chuk (Granville Island Nigori sake, Fino Sherry, Aperol, lemon, with kaffir lime leaf and more)—matched with & Scallop Ceviche and Blood Orange Vinaigrette); and Dhow’s Route, 7 Year Old Flor de Cana Rum, with Green & Black cardamom Cointreau, Giffard Orgeat Almond, root beer bitters and more), paired with crispy BC Spot Prawns and seaweed aioli.
You can see the entire list of Yew’s Ocean cocktails—and it’s an impressive one—here. Many of the dishes described here are on Yew’s regular bar menu.
Read more about Lauren Mote and Bittered Sling here.