Aisha Sharpe on The Breslin’s Gin-Heavy Cocktail Menu


April Bloomfield’s fatty fare at The Breslin has been the talk of the town lately. But what of the cocktail list created to accompany the pork-centric menu? Mixologist Aisha Sharpe of the drinks consulting firm Contemporary Cocktails designed a collection of libations that is heavy on gin, albeit light and refreshing. Which is just what you’ll need to help get that two-foot-long pig trotter down.

What was the original idea behind the cocktail menu?

Well, there were a couple of things we were going for. Obviously, we wanted to design something for very high volume. So the cocktails had to be simple, yet still unique and innovative. We mostly worked with four ingredients, but we made a lot of syrups in-house.

Were you designing drinks specifically to pair with the fat-filled food menu?

The Breslin has a very pubby feel. You have the feeling of being in England or Ireland. We wanted the drinks to go with the food, which, yes, is very fatty and porky. So, we came up with three different gin and tonics, which are crisp and refreshing, and can be consumed all year long.

So, gin is a good pairing for fatty pork, then?

Yeah, especially is you use acid with it. It cuts through the fat… The gin-and-tonic menu is branded. There’s the Classic, which is made with Tanqueray; then one that has grapefruit bitters and grapefruit zest and is made with Beefeater 24; and the last one has muddled cucumber and celery bitters and is made with Hendrick’s. The rest of the menu has cocktails named after albums.

Why albums?

Because Ken Friedman, one of the owners, has a music background. And the hotel just has a rock-and-roll feel to it.

Gin made its comeback in the last few years, or so say the experts. Is it still enjoying the lime(no pun intended)light or have people moved on to rye and bourbon?

It’s all about finding the right balance. I think people are more accepting of huge flavors now. People aren’t scared of spirits other than vodka anymore. The cocktail craze keeps spreading across the country — and the world, really. It’s a time — for food, as well — when people are more willing to experiment.

Can you weigh in on the gin debate over whether certain less juniper-forward styles should qualify as gin?

If it’s done well, then great. If it’s done poorly, then not so much. Sometimes, there are too many botanicals, which can muddy the flavor of the gin. Sometimes, all the botanicals work well. [As for introducing a new category name for “western-style” gins], I’m fine with it. Anything to get people drinking more gin is great. Gin is an amazing spirit.

Indeed. What else are you particularly proud of on the menu?

We make all our syrups in-house. I did one with Ribena. If you’ve every spent any time [in England], you know how crazy people go over it. And I really love the Lust for Life, which is made with Plymouth gin, fresh lemon juice, lavender syrup, fresh mint, and a soda top. It goes best with the food, I think. It’s like an English garden in a glass.

What is the most important cocktail trend of the moment?

Let me answer that with this: one of the cocktails on the Breslin menu, the Beggar’s Banquet, is made with Bourbon, maple syrup, lemon juice, and beer. Someone asked me recently about drinking trends for 2010 and I said beer in cocktails. So, I thought I better put one on the menu here.

Any trend you’re sick of?

Chartreuse in every single cocktail. It’s not Chartreuse [that’s the problem] — it’s whatever is the spirit or liqueur of the moment. People will use whatever it is to death. You need balance.

What do you like to drink at home?

I don’t drink cocktails at home. I drink wine. At the end of the day, I want to not think about cocktails. I just want to relax with a glass of wine.

Lust for Life by Aisha Sharpe for The Breslin

1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz lavender syrup
2 oz Plymouth gin
5 mint leaves
club soda, to top
mint sprig, for garnish

In a mixing glass, combine the mint and lemon juice, and gently muddle. Add the remaining ingredients except the soda, along with ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a highball glass over fresh ice. Top with club soda, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

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