Building upon both the classic cocktails of speakeasies, and those that incorporate seasonal ingredients from farmers’ markets, LA mixologists are adopting a new tippling trend: meat.
To find out more about these protein-laced potables, we turn to Aidan Demarest, one of LA’s best-known mixologists and beverage director of The Spare Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt. Put simply, “Cocktails are going culinary,” says Demarest. “There’s an impetus to create something new and different, and a lot of bartenders are going into the kitchen to do that, and playing around with spices and meats.
“Pork, in particular, is having a renaissance in cocktails,” says Demarest. “I like working with bacon or even beef jerky because they are flavorful and salty, and lend that savory note I’m usually looking for.”
Meat: A Cocktail's Best Friend
He’s not alone. In Santa Monica, the Wilbur’s Nemesis at Michael’s has a strip of bacon hanging off the side of the glass, while the Smoky Godfather at Locanda del Lago is a snifter of Scotch, amaretto, jasmine liqueur, Meyer lemon and rosemary with a plate of fried speck on the side.
Hatfield’s Bleached Blonde Bloody Mary contains bacon-infused vodka with fresh tomato water and horseradish, harissa, celery bitters, arugula and lemon, while Napa Valley Grille garnishes its Golden Bloody Mary (made with vodka infused with gazpacho ingredients) with a house-made beef jerky swizzle stick. Beef jerky also adorns Rivera’s Barbacoa cocktail of tequila or mezcal, chipotle, bell pepper, ginger syrup, lemon juice, agave nectar and lime.
The Comme Ça Wingin’ It is like a tailgate party in a glass, with añejo tequila, Bloody Mary mix, lime and carrot juice, Tabasco, ginger syrup and chicken stock with a Gorgonzola-stuffed celery stalk as garnish.
Demarest’s signature meat cocktail at The Spare Room is the Figgy Smalls, a rich drink of fig jam, egg white, lemon, bitters, thyme essence and Bulleit bourbon with a bacon wash. He also extols the bar’s new Sangrita, which one of his bartenders created with a shot of tequila and a chaser of carrot, mango, papaya, ginger juice and… a splash of fish sauce.
So is fish the next frontier for cocktails? Actually, Demarest has one word: “Spam.” We’ll leave it at that.