The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 78 of 112

78  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2018 BAR PROGRAM S ome bartenders read books for inspiration, while others flesh out new ideas by treating their kitchen like a makeshift laboratory. Gabe Whorley, Partner/Bar Manager of Olea in Newport Beach, California, takes a different approach: firing up an old-school Nintendo with Partner/ Executive Chef Jared Cook. "It works wonders, so we'll get together and play every so often," Whorley says. "Inevitably, we'll start bouncing food and drink ideas off each other." Whorley's method of conjuring his muse may be a bit unorthodox, but you can't dispute its success. Olea marks the third bar program he's launched with Cook and fellow restaurant partner Russ Bendel since 2013; the other two concepts, Vine and Ironwood, stand as two of Orange County's most acclaimed and adored restaurants. The crowds swarming Olea every night since its opening last November seem to have already assured a third triumph, but Whorley makes a conscious effort to avoid replication at the new venue. The massive rect- angular bar in the middle of the sleek space, for example, is a deliberate departure from Whorley's previous designs. "We decided to put it in the center to represent the restaurant's heartbeat, and I also wanted to create a space that would help show off my style and creativity," he explains. So far, Whorley's style at Olea manifests in the form of whimsically- named cocktails that meld old flair with new flavors, like the Bad Decision with rhubarb bitters, rye, and amaro. His craftsmanship also takes a few cues from Cook, who has injected several Euro-inspired twists into his much-ballyhooed menu of farm-to- table cuisine. "I've added a few more European liqueurs and grappas so I can build some more international flavor profiles," Whorley says. "My goal is to reproduce the best cocktail you've ever had in Spain or Italy." Whorley's sense of global ambi- tion ties in well with his overarching strategy at Olea. "Every drink is made to provide a connection to a sense of place," he says. "This connection could be to a beach in Mexico. It could be a garden in Napa. Wherever it is, we want to take you there." Whether that place includes a Nintendo is entirely up to the imbiber's discretion. Ready Drinker One WITH OLEA, GABE WHORLEY ADDS ANOTHER SPACE TO HIS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA RESTAURANT AND BAR EMPIRE by Rich Manning Bad Decision ◗ 2 oz. rye whiskey ◗ ½ oz. Crème de Mûre ◗ ½ oz. Cynar ◗ ½ oz. sweet vermouth ◗ ½ oz. amaro ◗ 2 dashes rhubarb bitters Combine ingredients in tin with ice. Stir and serve straight up in a Martini glass. Garnish with two brandied cherries. Gabe Whorley is the Partner/Bar Manager of Olea in Newport Beach, CA.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - March 2018