Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Drinks at Tailor don't always tailor to the seasons

Last week I caught Tailor's Eben Freeman on the phone to talk a bit about the drink menu at Tailor. With the change of the weather, I'd been feeling out to see what kinds of changes were happening to beverage menus out there, so I asked Eben if the beverage menu at Tailor menu was doing anything seasonal.

"I wouldn't necessarily call it seasonal," Eben answered. "We change things up all time. We're constantly developing new ideas and the bartenders are playing with things. There are a few drinks that are not on the list yet that we're happy to make changes with."

At the same time, he added, "We can't ignore the season. There are certain ingredients that come into play and the seasonality of drinking in the winter is different from the summer. But it's not a case of 'It's spring. It's fall.' It's not how it really works."

Eben said that while he doesn't collaborate directly with Sam Mason to come up with the drinks menu at Tailor, he tries to make drinks that "express the vocabulary of the kitchen." And the main drive behind his creations are about "putting things in liquid form that haven't been in liquid form before."

A direct collaboration isn't necessary between him and Sam considering their long working relationship together, which includes WD-50 and time at Jean-Louis Palladin's restaurant.

"It's about working in a certain milieu and a certain mindset," Eben said, crediting also their mutual familiarity with vocabularies and techniques.

"When you're a bartender in a restaurant, your responsibility is to know food well. For me that extends to knowing how to work in the kitchen. To know what the rules of the kitchen are, how you clean up after yourself, how the kitchen works, how to use the equipment...also not to step on anyone's toes." For example, smoking the syrup for the smoked Coke would be difficult if the kitchen was not equipped for smoking or if the kitchen staff did now know how to smoke things already.

Word of mouth has been going around about Eben's creations and he's been what he called, "very fortunate coverage." Especially for the smoked Coke and bourbon, which was also featured by NRN's food writer Bret Thorn in a food trends piece on smoked items. It started out as a food idea since some barbecue recipes call for cola. Other drinks that are turning heads include the pear crumble, which is made with sparkling pear cider, cloves and brown butter rum.

Some new drinks are being/will be rolled out this week. One of those drinks uses a lovage-flavored ingredient first developed by Sam as an infusion with juniper, clove, dry vermouth and a little bit of sugar. Eben added mescal, lime, juice and sea salt to the mix and calls it Mi Amor.

The lovage has a celery-like flavor, and Eben said that the drink is seasonal in its on way because lovage is no longer available and it's not a fall or winter flavor. The flavor of lovage intrigues with something unfamiliar and people who tasted the beverage reacted very favorably.

Eben also mentioned his Pumpernickel Flip. A flip is a classic mixed drink made with an egg yolk that's served either hot or cold. Eben's touch on this particular drink is the use of a pumpernickel raisin bread infused Scotch. The drink is rounded out with cream, simple syrup and nutmeg.