This week AOC, Lucques and Tavern will debut a slew of cocktails by head barman Christiaan Rollich. Now, I’ve said this before but I really love Christiaan’s work. He’s a natural talent and his unusual housemade ingredients work seamlessly to bring his reinvented classic cocktails to a new level. (For this season’s round of new drinks he uses Negroni syrup, grapefruit marmalade, black rice horchata — all housemade.) And unlike most other restaurant cocktails, they can stand up on their own for drinking at the bar. I usually find restaurant cocktails unsatisfying since apparently the thinking is that they don’t want them competing with the food. But here, aperitif, digestif, nightcap, you can’t go wrong.
Here’s a look at the new drinks, minus one: the Tavern’s Companion with Bols Genever, housemade kola syrup and Angostura bitters.
Xolito (“Sho-lito”): “It’s a play on Blood & Sand, but this has tequila, sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering and grapefruit,” said Christiaan. “When I first made the Blood & Sand I thought I got something wrong so I tried to find something that was a little bit more balanced.”
Coschocton: This cocktail was named after a newspaper that Orson Welles used to write for, where he introduced the Negroni cocktail to the U.S. And yes, Christiaan actually made his own gin. It’s a fun drink, and despite its appearances not for ye of weak palate as it has a bitter backbone. Try this as your pre-dinner drink.
Mocambo: Named after an LA club in the 1900s. This is Christiaan’s, and coincidentally my, favorite cocktail. He started with orgeat but that didn’t turn out too well. So when he found black rice in Suzanne Goin’s kitchen he decided to make a horchata out of that. “It’s just a fun drink. I always try to have some kind of fun; not be too serious.” Baking spices with maltiness. Very comforting.
Tenderfoot: Originally Christiaan wanted to do this as a flip but when he did it turned out “too disgusting” with the egg coming on strong. But as a tall drink it works wonderfully.
Trocadero: “I wanted gin that had a pine-y flavor so I used St. George gin and added a little port to it and a little sassafras infusion to add a little extra layer to it.”
Holland Gin Rebel: Talk about a manly pink drink, despite its appearance this one isn’t frou-y or sweet at all. The maltiness from the genever and sweetness of the blood orange give way to bitterness. Have this one with brunch.
White Bull: “This is the first gin cocktail that sells solidly at the Tavern because everybody loves it. It has layers, it’s delicate.” Funnily enough, this cocktail was also inspired by the Blood & Sand cocktail, so its name is a hat tip to the movie about a bullfighter. Love his use of beer foam here. This was the hands-down favorite of the group tasting. Complex but approachable and refreshing.
Monk’s Dream: This is the requisite vodka drink for Tavern. Named after a Thelonius Monk song. “I wanted to add some body to it since vodka by itself doesn’t have any body so I thought a little Benedictine would give it some flavor. So it’s easy to drink.”