Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Working for the weekend: Dropping in on Eben Freeman

It wasn't too long ago when I used to joke about occupational vs. recreational drinking with friends. Lately, even that line is starting to blur a bit.

After trying the garam masala rum and hearing about the Masala Mai Tai and alcoholic gummy bears from Eben Freeman my curiosity had been piqued and I decided to stop by Tailor on the 17th, with fingers crossed, to see if I could get a sneak preview of some sorts. It was a Saturday, but I was already out and it was way too early to head back home.

I watched Eben scoop some ice into the metal half of a Boston shaker and then almost jumped back as he proceeded to pound the everliving life out of it with a muddler to make crushed ice for the Mai Tai.

I knew the answer, but had to ask if this was going to be standard procedure once this drink was on the menu. Eben said that the ice would definitely not be hand-crushed like that. In fact, don't even expect the finalized version to come with crushed ice. Eben explained that he was using crushed ice now because he thought the current Super Cinnamon strain of the garam masala rum would benefit from it. The recipe isn't different from a regular Mai Tai besides the use of the garam masala rum.

After chatting a bit about what else might be coming up on the new menu (wrestling with trying to create a pancake cream of sorts. It's for a breakfast-themed drink), I left promising to stop by when the new menu was in place.

I stopped by again on Friday though, because yet again I found myself to be in the area and had a good chunk of time to kill. I wasn't sure what the place would be like considering it was the start of the long weekend. It could've gone either way, but luckily it was quiet when I winded my way down to the bar. One of the bartenders, Troy, recognized me from Saturday and asked, "Does Eben know you're here?"

"No, no!" I said quickly, "I'm just here to hang out today."

But then curiosity got the best of me and I couldn't help but ask if there was anything new. This sent Troy upstairs to ask Eben before I could reach out and stop him to say, "Nnnnnooooo, I don't want to be a bother! I'm just here for a drink or two!"

While a bother I might have inadvertently made myself, I was glad I asked because soon I was given a three-piece serving of Sambuca Gummy Bears. So cute! So soft! These were test gummy bears in anticipation for the absinthe gummy bears that would go on the menu as part of the updated Solids beginning in June.

When Eben came downstairs he explained the bears were soft because they came from a batch made that day needed to sit for a day to firm up a bit.

"That's the basic idea for the absinthe gummy bears," he told me as I thoughtfully squished one of the sambuca bears between my thumb and forefinger. "Except, it'll be green."

I dutifully chomped off the head like I do whenever I encounter bear-shaped confections, whether they be of the gummy or graham cracker variety. As I contemplated the aniseed flavor, I realized I'd fallen for another one of Eben's puns again. It had its own logic. Absinthe and sambuca have that licorice-like flavor. Licorice=candy.

"My God, it comes full circle," I thought, as I nibbled the arms and legs off the gummy bear torso.

When Sam Mason came downstairs to snag some of Eben's house-made cocktail onions for something he was working on in the kitchen, Eben speared one for me out of the jar so that I could have a taste. It was more briny than vinegary, and on top of that, super crunchy. It made me think I should order a Gibson the next time I was in.

There was nothing else new to report on. The pancake cream was still a headache, but Eben made me a Kaffir Lime Collins he used to make at WD-50. A Tom Collins amplified with some muddled kaffir lime leaves, it was simple, but full of flavor and refreshing.