The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2017

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42  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2017 ON OUR PANEL C an a tiki bar change your life? It did for Martin Cate. One fateful night in 1994, Martin stepped foot into the Washington, D.C., location of Trader Vic's and his life hasn't been the same since, culminating in 2016 with his tiki-inspired bar, Smuggler's Cove winning "Best American Cocktail Bar" at Tales of the Cocktail and the release of his first book Smuggler's Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki. The last 22 years have been an excit- ing ride for Cate. After he worked in export cargo logistics in the Bay Area, he decided it was time to follow his pas- sion and bartend at the San Francisco location of Trader Vic's. Forbidden Island in Alameda became Cate's first tiki bar. After several successful years, Martin sold his shares in Forbidden Island and opened Smuggler's Cove in San Francisco's Hayes Valley, where Cate now tells the fascinating 350-year- old story of rum. Next up on Cate's list: Whitechapel. Opened in San Francisco's Embassy Hotel in 2015, this "Victorian-era distillery in an abandoned London Underground station" features the larg- est selection of gin in North America. No doubt he'll do the same for gin that he's done for rum. Your bar programs at Smuggler's Cove and Whitechapel feature many very rare gins and rums. Does it make more sense to feature these in a cocktail or have them neat? In most cases, I'd say neat, particularly if it's historic. You may be looking for particular nuances to get a better understanding of early spirit produc- tion. However, if it's a contemporary gin that happens to be rare, then I don't see why you shouldn't enjoy it as its producer intended—in a cocktail, as very few un-aged gins are intended to be enjoyed alone. Is there a limit to the number of ingredients in a good cocktail? What's your philosophy in general? Sure. If there are 11 ingredients in a cocktail, I need to be able to taste all of them, and there are many historic exotic cocktails that can handle this deftly. When I'm making a new drink, sometimes I'll arrive at those numbers of ingredients, but then I ask myself what each ingredient is bringing to the table and I'll start pulling them out until I reach a more reasonable goal . . . like nine. When you discover old recipes, how necessary is it to update them for modern tastes? When reproducing an old recipe, there are some variables that we either don't know exactly and others that have evolved. So we tweak some things, and we look at what the rums called for and carefully select analogous styles. What's the most unique rum you have at Smuggler's Cove? And gin at Whitechapel? At Smuggler's, we've been fortunate to have several 19th-century rums over the years, and many from the merchant bottlers of the London Docks before they were destroyed in the Blitz. At Whitechapel, we can offer vertical historic flights of some brands. Rum, now gin. What other spirits, mixers, etc. do you see becoming big in the near future? I think fine Irish whiskeys will continue to grow in popularity for their combina- tion of character and approachability. And I think rhum agricole will slowly increase market share. Do you think certain bar concepts work better in the Bay Area than they would in other cities in the U.S.? Maybe once upon a time, but not anymore. There are outstanding bar concepts in virtually every major American city. In fact, I often think that tiki bars work even better outside of the sunny climes of California. Where bet- ter to escape to the tropics than from a Midwestern winter? BARTENDER Q&A WITH Martin Cate OWNER, SMUGGLER'S COVE AND WHITECHAPEL, AND AUTHOR, SMUGGLER'S COVE: EXOTIC COCKTAILS, RUM AND THE CULT OF TIKI by Bob Bath, MS PHOTO: DYLAN + JENI

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