Food in my cocktail? Yes, Please! How we incorporate culinary items into our mixology
When you take a sip of a good cocktail, you’re (rightly) focused on the liquid in your glass. But what many cocktail enthusiasts forget about is the importance of food products when it comes to creating that perfect drink.
Whether it’s produce-infused alcohol, or freshly-cut garnishes, we appreciate how important food is not only to our regular menu, but also our cocktail menu.
On our current menu, our “Some Like It Hot” jalapeno-infused tequila is a customer favorite and some of you may remember our old menu favorite, the “Gin Ne Sais Quoi,” which featured cucumber- and jalapeno-infused gin to create a spicy-yet-refreshing taste.
Both of these infusions happen via a process called “sous vide,” which means “under vacuum.” It’s a cooking process where foods or liquids are placed in vacuum-sealed plastic, then immersed into a circulation water bath held at a precise temperature (we hold ours to 145 degrees for two hours).
If jalapenos aren’t your thing, we have a few other regularly-circulating infusions that are always available: a house-made limoncello, which uses fresh lemons from Valley Produce and sits for about a month, and a horseradish vodka, which sits for about a week. This one goes pretty quickly, especially after our weekend brunch hours, when we’re making Bloody Mary after Bloody Mary.
Infusions are equal parts science and art. We meticulously label and seal our infusions to let them marinate for the exact amount of time it will take to create the strongest flavor. But sometimes we add our own little twist to the process. Our secret is to give the jar a little shake every so often when you pass nearby. This moves the contents around and makes sure flavor is evenly spread throughout.
For our drinks that don’t include infused alcohol, food is equally important to the rest of our cocktail menu. You’ve seen these visible reminders of how our cocktails use fresh produce to create the flavors you love -- garnish.
Many bars will pre-prepare their garnishes so they can be ready to go as quickly as possible. But here’s where our mixology-as-an-art-form philosophy comes into play. Most of our garnishes are made fresh, right after someone orders their drink. Occasionally we’ll keep a few prepared lime wedges as backup, but the vast majority of our garnishes are made to order.
We order our produce daily from Tennessee-based Valley Produce, and stock the bar with everything we might need throughout the night. Then we cut or prepare it after a guest orders a drink. This maintains top-notch freshness in each ingredient, and prevents you from drinking something with an hours-old orange wedge thrown in. But preparing garnishes to order also makes the whole preparation of your cocktail more exciting. So enjoy the show!
Cocktail garnishes are both for taste and appearance. Think about a classic drink like a mint julep. A good bartender will “spank” or “smack” the herb around the drink to release the herb’s oils into the cocktail. But as much as the mint adds to the flavor of the drink, it also adds important aesthetics. Lying that sprig of mint on top adds an aromatic element, but also completes the visual picture of what a classic cocktail is supposed to look like. (And makes your drink not only ready to drink, but ready to Instagram).
At Oliver Royale, we have a deep appreciation for complex flavors and quality ingredients when it comes to our food menu. But that appreciation extends to our cocktail menu too. Food plays just as important of a role in our drinks as it does in our dishes. So come join us for both!