Thursday 02 August, 2012

Summer Sipping at Drago Centro

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For anyone keeping score (and I know you’re out there), Jaymee Mandeville is undoubtedly one of Los Angeles’ most interesting and creative mixologists of the moment. Note that I didn’t say ‘female’ because while that was once a novelty, gender has quickly become a moot issue when it comes to mixology talent (Naomi Schimek, Mia […]




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For anyone keeping score (and I know you're out there), Jaymee Mandeville is undoubtedly one of Los Angeles' most interesting and creative mixologists of the moment. Note that I didn't say 'female' because while that was once a novelty, gender has quickly become a moot issue when it comes to mixology talent (Naomi Schimek, Mia Sarazen, Kate Grutman are three others that come quickly to mind when talking about our best). Also note that I didn't say bartender, because any schlub can pour you a shot and a beer, and I'm tired of the mixology term backlash.

Mandeville can be found behind the bar at Drago Centro now, and though it's located in the "snofficey" part of downtown (as an old friend once called it) hipster tipplers should no less let the location discourage them than that of Villains. There's a lot of good deals on the happy hour menu as well (although the kitchen's best is certainly reserved for dinner).Doctors and nurses, lawyers and paralegals, chefs and cooks, mixologists and bartenders. Got it?

Recently I got to join some fellow professionals in trying out Jaymee's extensive menu of Summer originals. Some were great, some fell a little short of the mark for me, and at least one deserved the title "Nuovi Classici," the menu heading for all nine. But what impressed me overall was Mandeville's willingness to try totally new combinations, to play with expectations, and to balance flavor and presentation.

"I wanted them to taste summery, but have hidden surprises," Jaymee told me. "Most summer drinks are easy to drink but not memorable."

 

The first, American Cherub (Buffalo Trace bourbon, lillet rosé, strawberry shrub, cherry tomatoes, toasted fennel tincture), was one of my favorites, a true aperitif with a vinegary tart-strawberry mouth, from the shrub of course, that would pair excellently with some small bites.

Don’t Be Square (Templeton rye, Jacopo poli miele grappa, Benedectine, Rock saké junmai daiginjo, Bitter Truth creole bitters) by comparison, felt mostly like an over-worked attempt at basically recreating a Negroni. Interesting to mix a rye, wine-based grappa, liqueur and rice-brewed sake...but not sure the results bore out.

Down the Rabbit Hole (Novo Fogo silver cachaça, Dimmi liquore, poppy seed ginger syrup, blackberries, kiwi, lime, sage, parfait amour foam) was a bit dominated by all the sugar fruit to justify the work involved.

However, Freshly Cut (Karlsson’s vodka, celery, cucumber, honeydew, lime, basil, Miracle Mile candy cap mushroom bitters, Miracle Mile yuzu bitters), a sort of tribute to summer lawns, was truly inspired, a deft balance of herbal and sweet, crisp, refreshing, complex but not distracting. This is the Classic in the bunch.

Jet Setter (Famous Grouse scotch, Licor 43, truffle honey syrup, lime, fair. café) was quite earthy for a summer drink, but I enjoyed the complexity and presentation (frosted glass), it would make a good digestif

Modern Botanist (St. George botanivore gin, byrrh, lemon, mint, raspberry white pepper soda) was another nice one, a tall cooler with a peppery edge.

Summer Dalliance (Nolet’s gin, St. George absinthe, crème de violette, bing cherries,
lemon, prosecco) regrettably didn't come across as lighthearted as its name implies.

Twist and Shout (Casa Noble reposado, hibiscus-infused Sombra mezcal, mariposa, papaya, cilantro, lime, Bittermens hellfire bitters) was another favorite, bracing, smoky, herbal, and just a little fruity--a slow sipper that rewarded over and over.

Lastly the White Picket Fence (Laird’s bonded apple brandy, Schizandra white tea, peach, lemon, egg white, Miracle Mile forbidden bitters) was inspired by the archaic Stone Fence cocktail, but came out closer to a Pisco Sour. And there's not a thing wrong with that.

All the cocktails are $12. Don't forget to tip your bartender, or mixologist...whatever!

Thanks again, Jaymee!

Drago Centro


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