For several years now I have been feeling the whole cocktail vibe in the air-it started two years ago when I had with a meyer lemon martini at Zuni Café in San Francisco, compliments of my good friend Rob Phillip at JMH who bought it for me! I kept reading tidbits about cocktails making a comeback in various trade journals and the cocktail menus seemed to be getting more interesting and I was also seeing lots of classic prohibition era cocktails making a comeback, but its really during the past few months that I have been massively bombarded with cocktail information starting with the CIA Flavor Summit and ending with San Francisco Cocktail week and right in between at the James Beard Awards after party Gala- I had, what could very well be, the best cocktail of my life (which is a big deal considering I have been of legal drinking age for 17 years and have had very few cocktails that I like). The Washington Cobbler completely blew my mind and tastebuds-a mix of Amontillado Sherry, honey and tea, it was smooth and so incredibly well balanced it almost made me cry to realize that a cocktail can be so good, and I have been missing out somehow. Master mixologist Chantal Tseng from the Hotel Tabar Inn was kind enough to share the recipe with me!


2 1/2 oz. Lustau Amontillado “Los Arcos” Sherry

3/4 oz. Chamomile Honey Syrup

Orange Zest &Mint Sprig

served over crushed ice


The syrup is equal parts loose bud/leaf chamomile tea & honey. Simply combine sherry & syrup and pour over crushed ice. Stir ice & top off as needed. Garnish with fresh grated orange zest & mint sprig. (To awaken the mint, you can tear the leaves a little, as well.) Ideally, you’ll want a straw that lets your nose hover over the garnishes.


But..back to the 2009 CIA Greystone Flavor Summit, celebrating the Art of Flavor in the World of High Quality High Volume dining. Co presented by the CIA and Food Art magazine, this summit was a complete change of tune from the CIA World of Healthy Flavors that I went to back in January, the CIA flavor summit had no doctors from Harvard up on stage talking about heart disease and the importance of fiber.. our snack breaks were orange crepes with banana foster filling and there were lamb sliders with BBQ sauce. This event was all about food, flavor and all health aspects were tossed aside during this two day celebration. I was sorry that I could only go for one day because I know I missed out on hearing Paul Bartolotta discuss Seduction and Competition in a World of flavors, but I had a red eye to NYC –for James Beard! However, I did attend the first day and a half and got to hear all about cocktails from experts like Lally Brennan and Ti Martin , co owners of Commanders Palace, Lu Brow from the Swizzle Stick bar, New Orleans and Marco Dionysos, Clock Bar, San Francisco. Retro cocktails making a comeback, the use of egg whites to give viscosity and the cocktail movement-were all discussed by the multitasking experts who were able to talk and mix drinks at the same time. It was during opening reception and tasting that first night that I had another mind blowing cocktail experience when I sampled Marco Dionysos’s “Rouge”

Plymouth Gin-1.5 oz

Grand Marnier ¾ oz

Lemon Juice ¾ oz

Fresh Strawberries as needed


Black pepper essential oil


Garnish Strawberry and Fresh mint


Coat a chilled cocktail glass with the absithe and set aside. Muddle the strawberries, shake the remaining ingredients with ice and double strain into a prepared glass, finish with black pepper spray. Garnish with a strawberry and mint spring

Recipe Credit Marco Dionysis, as presented at the 2009 Flavor Summit.


Pepper sprays! Egg whites? Fresh Strawberries… hello ingredient suppliers out there, get ready for the onslaught of cocktail mania and find opportunities now! We all love to talk about the whole trickle down white tablecloth to the masses and cocktails are already (I think) more than halfway there and you need to have everything shelf stable, clean, organic and flavorful ready to go. With the retro prohibition stuff coming back you don’t even need to get supercreative with cocktail ideas, just pull out your books from the 1950’s and industrialize from there. I am here to help you with any technical questions that you might have!

Forget wine for now, wine is dead (unless its wine cocktails!) and cocktail hour is back with a vengence!

Stay tune tomorrow to hear about my cocktail 101 class that I took at the Elixir Bar , where I learned how to shake and stir, about how egg whites add viscosity, using gum Arabic syrup in drinks and the shelf life of refrigerated fresh squeezed lemons and oranges.

About rachel zemser