The bartenders at Danny Meyer's wildly popular restaurants are known for their creative concoctions. Guests at Union Square Caf or Gramercy Tavern expect not only the finest cuisine but also Meyer's special brand of hospitality that often begins with a Venetian Spritz or a Cranberry Daiquiri. In MIX SHAKE STIR, Meyer offers all the tips and tools needed to become a masterful mixologist and supplements the cocktail recipes with gourmet takes on bar snacks. There are over 100 recipes of bar classics, signature favorites, and original, refreshing libations--from the Modern's elegant mojito made with champagne and rose water to Tabla's Pomegranate Gimlet. Shaken or stirred, straight up or on the rocks, these cocktails make this collection an invaluable resource for elegant entertaining. The bartenders at Danny Meyer's wildly popular restaurants are known for their creative concoctions. Guests at Union Square Caf or Gramercy Tavern expect not only the finest cuisine but also Meyer's special brand of hospitality that often begins with a Venetian Spritz or a Cranberry Daiquiri. In Mix Shake Stir, Meyer offers all the tips and tools needed to become a masterful mixologist and supplements the cocktail recipes with gourmet takes on bar snacks. There are over 100 recipes of bar classics, signature favorites, and original, refreshing libations--from the Modern's elegant mojito made with champagne and rose water to Tabla's Pomegranate Gimlet. Shaken or stirred, straight up or on the rocks, these cocktails make this collection an invaluable resource for elegant entertaining.
Straight Up: Talking Cocktails with Danny Meyer
As the owner of some of New York's most acclaimed restaurants (with 19 James Beard Awards between them), restaurateur Danny Meyer has been raising the bar on hospitality for a generation of diners. In Mix Shake Stir, a gorgeous collection of creative cocktails, mixology tips, and gourmet nibbles, Meyer extends his legendary level of service behind the bar, offering readers the ultimate resource for elegant entertaining at home. Amazon.com senior editor Brad Thomas Parsons checked in with Meyer to talk about cocktail culture, signature drinks and spirits, and entertaining at home.
Amazon.com: So I imagine you and your staff had a grand time testing the recipes for Mix Shake Stir. What are some of your favorite drinks in the book?
Danny Meyer: I'm fond of anything that does not include Tequila or Gin. There. Now you know the two spirits I just can't stomach. Seriously, one of my top favorites is the Dirty Pete [recipe follows]--so named because it's a dirty martini juiced up with Texas Pete hot sauce. There's a fun story behind its creation. It fits perfectly at Blue Smoke.
Amazon.com: In the introduction to the book you ruminate on the "ritual of cocktail hour" your parents and their friends observed when you were growing up in St. Louis. There's even a drink in the book, the Mortoni, in honor of your father. Do you think the at-home cocktail hour will ever regain its Mad Men-era popularity?
Meyer: Every now and then, one or two--or more--people find themselves tempted by the idea of a cocktail--even though it had been the furthest thing from their mind when they arrived. When entertaining at home I sometimes begin by saying, "I'm having a cocktail--but we also have wine and beer if you'd prefer." Cocktails will probably not regain their early dominance--mostly because there weren't as many really good wines back in the Mad Men era. But they'll always have a place at the table.
Amazon.com: What are some of your tips, regarding cocktails, for successful entertaining at home?
Meyer: Always have plenty of ice on hand, and make sure to have a bottle of each major spirit--vodka, gin, white and dark rum, scotch, and bourbon. It helps to have vermouth in case someone might want a martini, and it can't hurt to have lemon, lime, and green olives.
Amazon.com: I'm a firm believer that every man should have a go-to drink at the ready when he steps up to order at the bar. What's yours?
Meyer: The Mortoni. Equal parts Campari, vodka, and tonic; over lots of ice and garnished with a lime. I named it for my late father, Morton Meyer, whose go-to drink was a Negroni (which is classically gin or vodka mixed with Campari and vermouth). I'd drink a Mortoni over a Negroni any day.
Amazon.com: Do you have a favorite signature drink at each of your restaurants?
Meyer: I love the Dark and Stormy at Blue Smoke. And the Martini at Eleven Madison Park (have it mixed tableside!) is peerless. At Tabla, I'd order the Tablatini, and at Union Square Cafe, I tend to drink wine.
Amazon.com: I would think that, after the reservationist and the host or hostess, the bartender plays a pivotal customer-service role in your organization. What special touches do the bartenders working for your Union Square Hospitality Group bring to your bars?
Meyer: They are hosts, listeners, and guides--long before they're mixologists! They need to understand our food, our service style, and important details about our guests.
Amazon.com: Whether I'm alone or even with a friend, I often prefer sitting and eating at the bar rather than a table. What's your take on dining at the bar? Should it be reserved for drinking?
Meyer: No! Going all the way back to 1985 when Union Square Cafe first opened, we've never even contemplated building a bar without imagining it full of diners as well as drinkers.
Amazon.com: With a return to vintage recipes like fizzes, smashes, swizzles, and slings and housemade infusions, syrups, sodas, and bitters, many bars and restaurants are displaying a renewed interest the pre-Prohibition Golden Age of the American cocktail. Do you think this is a trend that's here to stay?
Meyer: I think for a number of years, peoples' interest in wine leapfrogged their passion for cocktails. But now cocktails are enjoying a renaissance in terms of the interest they're generating among inquisitive hedonists. There will always be adventuresome and aspirational types who seek what's new, and what is good. For that reason, there's no going back!
Amazon.com: You also touch upon the importance of ice in the book, an increasingly popular topic among drink aficionados. Have you installed Kold-Draft ice machines (the ones that crank out those slow-melting, perfect 1.25 x 1.25 cubes of nearly impurity-free ice) in any of your restaurants?
Meyer: Yes. Eleven Madison Park and Gramercy Tavern take their ice especially seriously. And regardless of the ice machine at our places, we filter the water before it becomes ice.
Amazon.com: Mix Shake Stir features many drinks inspired by greenmarkets, and more bartenders seem to be taking cues from kitchen (and vice versa) when creating their cocktails. Your Heirloom Bloody Mary is a great example. How have your bartenders surprised you with their renewed attention to using seasonal ingredients?
Meyer: It's really not a surprise, because many of our bartenders were once either waiters or even cooks. They're around good food and ingredients all day, and they want to use those same quality ingredients they see elsewhere in the restaurant behind their bars.
Amazon.com: I really admired the use of spirits like Aperol, Chartreuse, Punt e Mes, and Cherry Heering in the book. What do you think is an underrated spirit that more people need to pay more attention to?
Meyer: The one you like the best! Not that it is underrated, but I am an avowed nut for Campari.
Amazon.com: I like to see a bartender dip a cocktail straw into a mixed drink to sample it to make sure it's achieved its proper balance. You mention in the book it's like a chef tasting a dish before sending out. Do you think enough bartenders are doing this?
Meyer: It's important that bar patrons understand what's going on with that straw dip... I can imagine that for many people it's like, "get your straw out of my cocktail!" In any case, we owe it to our guests to make sure that food and drinks taste as good as theyre supposed to. Tasting helps.
Amazon.com: You even include many nibbles and bar snacks to complement the drinks in Mix Shake Stir but I have to ask how Blue Smoke's BBQ potato chips and blue cheese dip didn't make the final cut? If I ask really nicely could you share the recipe?
Meyer: I'm sorry that I havent been able to get Chef Kenny Callaghan to share it. It is mighty good, though!
Amazon.com: It's been a tough time for many restaurants, but here in Seattle, with every restaurant that closes there's another big-buzz debut in the works and many downtown joints are seem to have a "what recession?" vibe as they're SRO at 9PM on a weeknight. Hospitality seems more important than ever. What are some keys for a restaurateur to attract and maintain loyal customers in this economic time?
Meyer: The same as always: good food, deft service, and a warm, genuine welcome. The recession has been humbling for everyone. But it's not hard to show humility when you know that it is harder than ever for people to part with hard-earned dollars in your restaurant. Extra appreciation goes a long way. I will say that our hospitality industry never ceases to amaze with can-do entrepreneurs. Behind every fallen leaf lies a fresh, green bud.