The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2015

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54  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2015 MAVERICK MIXOLOGY W hen mixologist Greg Bryson makes his Cowboy Killer, there may be no mirrors, but there's plenty of smoke. Bryson is Director of Beverages for The Wallace, a vibrant, casual and self-styled "true California restaurant" in downtown Culver City, one of the most food- and drink-obsessed neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Fittingly, the cocktails here are part show, all savor. The Cowboy Killer, for example, consists of Griff's Cowboy Whiskey (from Iowa's Cedar Ridge Distillery), Bryson's house-made tobacco syrup—originally conceived using Marlboros, hence the drink's name—and locally sourced Miracle Mile Chocolate Chili Bitters. But always looking for extra flair and flavor, Bryson smokes each drink in front of the guest, using a food smoker that burns hickory chips. The result, as with all of his mixed drinks, is a palate- opener—a tribute to behind-the-bar technique and a haunting evocation of the Old West. Yes, the drink does contain nicotine, but the smoke that wafts out of the drink's lidded glass jar is redolent of a cowboy campfire, not cigarettes. Bryson is a Culver City local ("I grew up down the street") who was lead barman at Santa Monica's Bar Chloe before moving to his current position at The Wallace. "I wanted to be in charge," he says, and now he is—fully in charge of spirits buying and cocktail development. His bible is Portland-based Andrew Willett's Elemental Mixology, a volume that resembles an advanced calculus textbook to the untrained eye. "It's fundamentally simple and basic," Bryson says, noting that Willett's tome breaks mixed drinks down to simple categories and ingredients, and then shows how these can be used to create new drinks. Here at The Wallace, mixed drinks are called "Tipples"—the term "cocktail" properly being a subset of tipples which are, in classic spirits taxonomy, "aromatic, strong and sweet." "I'm a purist," Bryson freely admits, as if we had any doubt. Spending four nights a week behind the bar in addition to his duties as buyer and drink creator, he loves giving The Wallace's guests a show. "I can switch out spirits in a cocktail for a typical L.A. customer who wants something new," he says, "but I love it when the guest says, 'Give me a classic that I've never had before.'" Bryson says he also has "an amazing synergy with the chef"—Chef Joel David Miller—and works with the kitchen to develop new cocktails for a list on which a drink about once a week. Bryson's potent Poison Ivy is a concoction based on The Botanist Gin and includes pomegranate syrup, lemon juice, Dolin Dry Vermouth and fresh tarragon. The surface of the drink, served in a classic cocktail coupe, shimmers with absinthe-colored drops of mizuna oil. The drink is as delicious as it is dangerous-looking. "It's a matter of knowing the elements," Bryson says of the skills he has learned and puts into practice nightly. The bottom line for Bryson: "I like to feel that I'm rediscovering an American craft." "Rediscovering an American Craft" BEVERAGE DIRECTOR GREG BRYSON MAKES MIXOLOGY MAGIC AT THE WALLACE IN LOS ANGELES by David Gadd / photos by Cal Bingham Greg Bryson, Beverage Director at The Wallace in Culver City, CA. The Cowboy Killer is a smoked cocktail featuring Griff's Cowboy Whiskey and house-made tobacco syrup. Drops of mizuna oil garnish the Poison Ivy.

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