Cocktails and the kitchen: CUT
“It’s what you might find in a chef’s larder: spices, fruits and vegetables.”David McIntyre, executive chef, CUT 45 Park Lane
David McIntyre doesn’t go so far as to suggest you pair one of CUT’s famous steaks with a sweet cocktail, but if ever there were a chef more passionate about cocktails I would like to meet him or her.
David has invited me to Bar 45, the sleek accompaniment to Wolfgang Puck’s first European restaurant, CUT at 45 Park Lane, which opened in September 2011. Standing handle to spout along the bar is an ordered line of glass teapots, all the lids tilted at a jaunty angle. Each contains a different liqueur infused with tea blended to a recipe closely guarded by David.
Smoky lapsang souchong is brewed to the perfect strength and infused into peaty Glenfiddich, while black tea speckled with orange mango flowers infuses vodka. In the restaurant later I am shown through to a room where David keeps the tea, but he won’t be sharing recipes or suppliers.
Tea cocktails are the bar’s signature, he explains. “Teas each react differently with the alcohol, that’s where I as a chef, and everyone else involved, have played around. You won’t infuse a black tea the same way you do a white tea; it’s playing and balancing with heat and time and amount.”
He describes the cocktail list as “chef driven” – something that has been going on in America for a long time. “It’s the same way of looking at food. You’re mixing different ingredients together that might not work, but you start playing around with your taste buds and seeing what comes out of it, for example the smokiness of lapsang souchong with whisky. Think how you smoke quail. It’s what you might find in a chef’s larder: spices, fruits and vegetables. I love cocktails and I love going out to try them. This is what chefs like to do.”
The other people responsible for CUT’s cocktails include the team in America where these “chef driven” cocktails originally came from and Bar 45’s head bartender Stefano Cossio, who is also area chairman for the UK Bartenders Guild in London and the south-east.
Stefano makes up three cocktails for me to try: Pepino’s revenge, made with 7 Legua blanco tequila, Japanese cucumber, fresh basil and lime, the Garden of Eden, which features mango black tea infused vodka, lemon juice and cane sugar syrup, and rolling fog over Mt Fuji, which is a blend of Hibiki 17-year whisky, Aperol and lemon juice.
The cocktails are intended to be light and well balanced rather than very boozy – using a few ingredients carefully. Just how carefully is perhaps demonstrated by the fact that every morning David checks the bar’s freshly squeezed range of juices, while Stefano has a very specific method for making up each one.
I find the cool Japanese cucumber in Pepino’s revenge works very well with the tuna tartar sandwiches made with wasabi and togarashi toast, while my favourite is the fruity Garden of Eden – a bit like an alcoholic iced tea. Just don’t ask me for the recipe.
Read further features in The Artful Diner series on food and cocktails.
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