Q&A: Mixology 101's Joe Brooke
Cocktail guru shares cocktail-making secrets, fall's top flavors, and more.
September 12, 2012
Mixology 101's Joe Brooke schools us on the art of cocktail-creating.
During Prohibition, the US outlawed the sale of alcohol and thus put the profession of bartending on a hiatus. According to Joe Brooke, head of the mixology program at Mixology 101, we’re still playing catch up. Despite its elementary name, Mixology 101 is serving up some of the most sophisticated cocktails in Los Angeles. Even the simple bellini (prosecco plus peach puree) has a complex method—Brooke literally tosses the mixture from his shaker into your glass. This isn’t about showmanship, it’s about properly combining the ingredients without compromising the sparkling nature of the cocktail.
Brooke studied under renowned Italian mixologist Salvatore “The Maestro” Calabrese, who helped to develop the menu at Mixology 101. While Brooke may claim the most exciting cocktail creations are happening abroad right now, after watching him make an Old Fashioned, we might beg to differ. 6333 W 3rd St. Ste. 02, 323-370-6560
What is the secret to making a good cocktail?
JOE BROOKE: There are four things you want to happen. The first one is a no-brainer, to mix the ingredients. Second, you want to bring the temperature down, drinks should be cold. The third, you want to increase the dilution—it’s best to have 25 percent dilution from the ice. The final one, you want to aerate the ingredients. Liquors and liqueurs need to breathe just like wine, to release all the aromatics and flavors.
What type of alcohol is trending right now?
JB: LA’s a vodka town, it’s kind of like the highest score so it doesn’t get counted. Pisco, especially Chilean Pisco, is going to be really exciting to watch. Peruvians have very, very strict rules, while Chileans are kind of like, ‘eh.’ Not that the quality’s not there, but it will be fun to see what that sort of [flippancy] gives way to.
What’s the best drink to grab before dinner?
JB: I will never not want to drink a Negroni. Do you know why spirits with Campari are meant for pre-dinner? It dries out your tongue so your saliva glands start working and it’s like a hard-wired reaction, where it’s like ‘oh we got a meal coming’ and [your stomach] will start churning it up. Anything that drums up that appetite and doesn’t weigh the palette down with sugar [is great]. Sparkling cocktails are always good, [and] if you don’t want to dive in you can just dip a toe. Poolside Brass is one of my contributions to the menu. It’s definitely a territorial cocktail in that it’s a riff off the French 75, except it’s gin, coconut, grapefruit, elderflower, and prosecco. It’s milky white—it looks so weird—but it is so refreshing, especially with the heat out here. Chances are if you’re coming in for dinner you need to cool off a bit, catch your breath from having walked from your car.
What flavors can we look forward to in the fall?
JB: Fall’s my favorite because all the fruits and vegetables come into season. Especially out here where you have two seasons instead of the typical four, there really aren't many ways to tell [the] passage of time. We don’t have trees turning colors, but the flavors that come with it—the cranberry, orange...and it’s starting to get cold so hot cocktails start to happen. Obviously when December rolls around it’s mulled wine, but leading up to that, it becomes more spicy. It’s more about, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. It’s less fresh-squeezed, and more hearty, rich, dense, aromatic cocktails.
What inspires you?
JB: I love re-creating experiences for people. When I see a customer—regardless of what I know and don’t know about them—I kind of suss out where they are, and the cocktail I make for them will be the perfect counter-balance to whatever it is they’re experiencing.
LAC celebrates the women of its May/June 2013 issue at Palihouse in West Hollywood.