Category Archives: Cocktails and cinema

For achievement in sound mixing, here are the nominees for your Oscars watching party

The Divorcee
Actress Norma Shearer shares a drink with a suspicious Conrad Nagel in Robert Z. Leonard’s 1930 film “The Divorcee.” (Photo courtesy of John Kobal Foundation/Getty Images)

If you’re looking for a starring role in whatever Oscars watching party you’re headed to on Sunday, you could do worse than to come armed with cocktails.

Need direction? Maybe you’re a do-it-yourselfie, determined to devise a cocktail menu that plays off this year’s Best Picture nominees. Here are some modest tongue-in-cheek suggestions:

THE BIRDMAN: A play on the Aviation, but with a handlebar mustache garnish. Like the film’s title character, this once famous star built his legend around flight – then, years later, fights in vain to achieve misguided respectability.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL: A swig of Zwack, the Hungarian herbal liqueur, poured through an ice luge into the drinker’s mouth, which in honor of Wisconsin-born Willem Dafoe – is furiously chased by a beer.

THE FLIPLASH: A tequila flip with a tiny cymbal garnish – and in deference to the subject of the film Whiplash, a smattering of beets to help keep rhythm.

THE ROB-ROY-HOOD: This take on the classic Rob Roy isn’t meant to be consumed. Instead, like the subject of Boyhood, it’s meant to be watched, getting progressively older before your very eyes.

THE AMERICAN SNIPER: A lethal shot of overproof rum, of course.

OK, maybe not.

Plenty of other nominees abound, from the classic Los Angeles cocktail to the actor-inspired list of drinks recently featured by Liquor.com from beverage consultant Brian Van Flandern’s book, Celebrity Cocktails.

The best way to show your achievement in sound mixing, though, might be to whip up the cocktail served to the stars themselves at the Governor’s Ball following the star-studded awards ceremony. That would be the Scot’s Pear, among the items featured this week at a sampling of the annual feast’s menu conducted by various Wolfgang Puck Catering operations around the U.S., including Dallas.

Wolfgang Puck Catering
The Scot’s Pear: Make this drink and soon all your guests will be delivering acceptance speeches.

Wolfgang Puck Catering is marking its 21st year planning the annual post-Oscars feast, and the preview spread, held at Reunion Tower’s Cloud Nine, featured the drink alongside treats like mini Wagyu beef burgers and chicken pot pie.

A winning blend of premium Johnnie Walker Platinum Label whiskey, tawny port, ginger syrup, pear/lemongrass puree and lemon, the Scot’s Pear’s apple-like sweetness, tinged with hints of citrus and spice, nicely balanced the whiskey and kept it from going all Robert Benigni over everything.

SCOT’S PEAR

1.5oz Johnnie Walker Platinum Label

.25oz Tawny Port

1oz Pear Juice

.75oz Ginger Syrup

.75oz Lemon Juice

Shake and strain into a double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a piece of candied ginger.

 

Liquor.com’s list includes the most intriguing House of Friends, a nod to actor George Clooney and his partnership in Casamigos tequila – a mix of tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, Cointreau, agave and lime. (Coincidentally, Matt Orth at Dallas’ LARK on the Park last year crafted an excellent, similarly named drink that also featured Casamigos, an approximation of the Spanish words for the same phrase.)

Courvoisier cognac has also thrown together a few cocktails to recommend for the occasion. The most interesting of them is probably The Talented Mr. Cooper, a nod to Bradley Cooper’s Best Actor nomination for American Sniper.

Courvoisier cognac

THE TALENTED MR. COOPER

1 ½ oz Courvoisier VSOP

½ oz Cherry Heering

6 black cherries

Dash of gomme (you can use simple syrup)

Soda water

Mint garnish

 

Muddle five cherries in a shaker, then add the Courvoisier, Cherry Heering and syrup. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled rocks glass. Top with soda and garnish with a sprig of mint and a single cherry.

Happy Oscar’ing.

Talkin’ ’bout the Midnight Rambler, Dallas’ ambitious new cocktail arrival

Dallas cocktails
Everything is illuminated: The new gem in Dallas’ cocktail scene.

With a month gone by since the jewel that is Midnight Rambler beamed into downtown, it’s hard to believe it was barely a year ago that the Dallas cocktail scene seemed lost in free-fall… To recap: Everything was going just fine – better than fine, actually, with two notable spots, Bar Smyth and The Cedars Social, getting national acclaim, and then – Bam! Both places were suddenly gut-punched with the overnight departure of Michael Martensen and his top-notch bartending posse. Meanwhile, Eddie “Lucky” Campbell, an equally well-known luminary behind the stick, was still bouncing around after leaving the failed Chesterfield downtown. Sure, both said they had projects in the works, but DELAYS. The imbiberati were verklempt.

Dallas cocktails
More of these? Okay then.

Then, on one night in August, everything was illuminated: Parliament, Campbell’s carefully polished Uptown gem, and Proof + Pantry, Martensen’s much anticipated Arts District venture, opened on the same night with his crafty little bartenders all in a row. This fall, The Bourbon Review named The Standard Pour among its top 60 bourbon bars in America.

Dallas’ cocktail mojo is flowing again, and Midnight Rambler immediately joins the dean’s list – a gorgeous space in the Joule Hotel that reveals itself in holy-moly fashion the moment you plunge into its subterranean home. From the pincushion lighting to the art-deco styling to the arcing, inverted hull of a ceiling with its sleek wooden beams, it’s if you’ve walked into…. New York. Which is no surprise, given the Big Apple origins of owners Chad Solomon and Christy Pope, whose New York-based beverage consulting firm, Cuffs & Buttons, has put its stamp on bars and hotels around the world.

Midnight Rambler has an art deco, midcentury-modern aesthetic that Solomon ascribes to David Lynch’s Silencio space in Paris and the hotel bar in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, minus Lloyd the bartender. Strategically placed curtains hide or reveal adjoining space based on volume, intending a sense of intimacy no matter what the crowd. The punch bowl display is a bling-y touch.

Dallas cocktails
Part of Midnight Rambler’s solid cocktail lineup.

This is what he and Pope have had in mind since – well, since those dark days of last autumn, but as already noted, these things take time. The wait has been worth it. “It’s pretty much exactly how we envisioned it,” Solomon said a few days before a glorious preopening-night party whose guest list included Manhattan mixology legends Audrey Saunders of Pegu Club and Cuffs & Buttons partner Sasha Petraske of Milk & Honey (where Pope and Solomon once tended bar).

The lineup of thoughtfully conceived libations is ladled out by a relatively fresh crew of bartenders whom Solomon and Pope have molded to their well-honed specifications. Labeled vials of premixed cocktail portions sit on the backbar, awaiting call to duty: It’s all about efficiency and consistency, and save for the ample canon of classics with which humankind is blessed, few variations occur off-menu, which is okay-fine because it’s muy excelente. (Being at the Joule, it’s also pricy, with drinks ranging from $12-$15.) Creative, daring and amply sized, it features the orange-y, bourbon-based Soul Clap, the tart, poblano-kissed Wang Dang Dula and the clever Savory Hunter, whose lemongrass- and kaffir-lime infused gin, mixed with coconut and lime evoke the flavors of a delicious Thai tom kha gai soup. There’s a selection of group-friendly punches and a playful trio of shots, including a pho-themed one that incorporates beef stock.

Dallas cocktails
The bar’s midcentury modern aesthetic is “pretty much exactly how we envisioned it,” co-owner Chad Solomon says.

Midnight Rambler is also notable for what you don’t see: A backroom “lab” with nifty toys like refractometers, an evaporative still and a centrifuge, all employed in the making of cocktail ingredients. “We call it a lab, but we’re not back there experimenting all the time,” Solomon says. “It’s more like a flavor house. It’s our own dedicated flavor house.” Many drinks also include a touch of mineral saline – a bit of salt that as in food enhances and brings out other flavors; two drops is all it takes.

Nibbles come from CBD Provisions, up on the main level of The Joule – including charcuterie, a tilefish dip (the fish is smoked on the hotel rooftop), black-eyed pea hummus and a knockout burger. Fries are served in a Moscow Mule mug.

Despite the intense structure and pre-planning, the occasional drink can falter: The Sound System, for instance, which I initially loved for its bold and effective use of super-funky Hamilton pot-still rum, turns out to be fickle; inadequately stirred on a later visit, it was too heavy on the rum’s overripe banana flavor. The pre-prepared vials behind the bar can also visually take some of the appeal out of having your drink prepared to order; they’re more appreciated on a busy weekend night. About the only real minus for Midnight Rambler might be its location in the Joule, whose owner, Tim Headington, has enraged preservation architects with a record of destroying historic buildings, including the recent razing of two century-old structures across the street from the hotel, as noted in a scathing column by Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster in September. Likewise, those who support historic preservation efforts may want to consider whether they want to patronize the businesses within.

Midnight Rambler
The Savory Hunter: Refreshingly recalling your favorite Thai restaurant.

Otherwise, Midnight Rambler is a welcome and needed addition to the DFW cocktail scene. Solomon and Pope had initially considered Austin until the Joule opportunity fell into their laps; they’re now settled in Bishop Arts and have hatched something ambitious, adventurous and more glamorous than any serious cocktail bar Dallas has seen.

“It’s just another layer on top of what’s already here,” Solomon says. “This is next level. We are standing shoulder to shoulder with the best in Chicago and New York. But we’re here.”