The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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march 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  55 WHAT WE'RE DRINKING I t's 3 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, and Anthony Laborin, Bar Manager at Farmhouse at Roger's Gardens in Newport Beach, California, has just arrived for his shift behind the stick. In reality, though, Laborin's workday started hours ago: Like all Wednesdays, he spent his morning accompanying Farmhouse Executive Chef Rich Mead to the Santa Monica Farmers' Market, some 55 miles away from his bar, to seek out uncommon ingredients for his cocktail program. Laborin has created a killer bar pro- gram in an off-kilter space. The "Roger's Gardens" in Farmhouse's full name refers to a seven-acre nursery that's spent decades selling plants and patio swag to well-heeled locals—not exactly the type of place you'd expect to stumble upon a stellar cocktail menu. But since Farmhouse opened in its par- ent venue's back-left corner in September 2016, Laborin has steadily grown its bar from a novel curiosity to a serious drinking destination. "Our bar is ripe for experi- mentation, particularly because our setting is so inspired," Laborin says. "No idea is too crazy or outside the box. Sometimes, a weird, funky ingredient is what's needed to create something unique." As an example, consider Laborin's unorthodox creation Not Mushroom in This Bar: a rye whiskey–based beverage infused with housemade mushroom and vodka-soaked Granny Smith tinc- tures. The ingredients coalesce into a smooth, robust beverage with a nuanced earthiness that melds with the property's verdant surroundings. Creative riffing also dominates Laborin's conversations with Mead, a pioneering Orange County chef whose advocacy for fresh and sustainable cui- sine was solidified well before the term "farm to table" was coined. According to Laborin, Mead's inventiveness in the kitchen strongly informs his bar program. "Rich always tells me that if an ingredient I'm playing around with isn't working, he'll just figure out a way to use it in his food," he says. "This provides me with a tremendous amount of freedom." This chef-sanctioned artistic license isn't wasted, as the mushroom-kissed cocktail demonstrates, and if you ask Laborin, it's also far from exhausted. "If there is a ceiling to what we can do with Farmhouse's bar program, we haven't seen it yet," he says. "Personally, I don't think there is one." Farm to Bar FARMHOUSE AT ROGER'S GARDENS WHIPS UP INVENTIVE COCKTAILS IN A BOTANICAL ENVIRONMENT Anthony Laborin is the Bar Manager at the Farmhouse at Roger's Gardens in Newport Beach, CA. Not Mushroom in This Bar ◗ 1½ oz. High West Double Rye Whiskey ◗ 1 oz. Vya sweet vermouth ◗ ¼ oz. absinthe ◗ ¼ oz. old-fashioned simple syrup ◗ 1 dash Angostura Aromatic Bitters ◗ 2 dashes shiitake mushroom tincture ◗ 5 dashes Granny Smith apple tincture Build ingredients into a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until diluted. Strain into a martini glass. Express oil from a lemon twist over the glass. by Rich Manning PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE FARMHOUSE

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