The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2012

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Page 36 of 124

WHAT WE'RE DRINKING Heavenly Trend I photo and story by John Curley f you're in San Francisco and in the mood for a libation, most any reputable establishment will have a cocktail menu that features local seasonal produce. "It's become the standard," says Joel Teitelbaum, Bar Manager of the stunningly redecorated Harry Denton's Starlight Room. The night- club sits 21 floors atop the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in Union Square. The dramatic red gilded appointments bring the 1940s into the Starlight Room Bar Manager Joel Teitelbaum and his house-bottled Mojito. 21st century and the awe-inspiring view of the City also invites the heavens into view. In the fourth iteration of his 23-cocktail menu, Teitelbaum features alcohol-forward stirred drinks that are redefining how local seasonal flavors can wind up in the glass. "If you're not doing a seasonal menu, then you're behind the times; but if you do one, you're doing what everyone else is doing. My thought was to do it seasonally, but lean away from seasonal produce." The vanguard drinks here are stirred, not shaken. And some of them even come 36 / the tasting panel / june 2012 in—gasp!—a bottle. The Starlight's Mojito, for example, arrives at your table in a small glass container. It's cracked open and poured over crushed ice and garnished with a sprig of mint. Yes, it's a bottled cocktail, but it's not something you'll find at the checkout counter of the corner liquor store. This Mojito is made in house, with lime essence that Teitelbaum distills himself on his little home cooker. The cocktail is carbonated and bottled, and it has a bit of shelf life, to boot. "We added a little citric acid and a little malic acid, because when you distill the lime juice you lose all the sour. It's as good as any Mojito I've had the other way." The added benefit is that it's a conversa- tion starter. When you serve a Mojito in a bottle, a customer is going to have some questions. And that's when you get to tell them about the drink and the other facets of the bar's cocktail philosophy. There's plenty to talk about. Five of the cocktails on the current menu have been there since September when the space reopened, and they'll stay on it, too—they are dedicated to the four previous bar managers at the Starlight, plus Teitelbaum's own "Smoky Local," a rye-based cocktail that has a bit of scotch in it, too. And for the spring and early summer, Teitelbaum is highlighting lighter spirits—rye and gin figure prominently. "Gin, if you do it right and use a quality gin, really has beautiful spice notes to it. I think spice and a lighter complexion of whisky works really well in spring," he says. In addition to the Mojito, there's a house- bottled Gin and Tonic, too. And what might be coming for the summer? Teitelbaum sees no limits. "You can distill almost anything," he says. "You can barbecue an ear of corn, distill it, and then have barbecue flavored corn water to play around with in cocktails." Summer picnics will never be the same. BOTTLED COCKTAILS—WITH SEASONAL INGREDIENTS— ARE STELLAR AT THE STARLIGHT ROOM

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