A guy walks into a bar (and says, “make me a drink”)

Cocktail omakase at EN Japanese Brasserie

My article on bespoke and “omakase” cocktails is out in the Jan/Feb issue of Food Arts magazine

Yes, just as cocktail menus have become an industry standard, it’s become a knowledgeable wink among savvy imbibers to ask the bartender to stray from that list.

One of my favorite parts of the article is the sidebar:  I asked several bartenders to “make me a drink” appropriate for cold-weather tippling. If pressed, I also specified dark spirits (rye or Bourbon), spirit-forward, and appropriate to drink before dinner. It was amazing to see the variety of drinks that bartenders constructed within those directives! The bartenders included Michael Neff of Ward III; Jeffrey Morgenthaler of Clyde Common; Leo Robitschek of Eleven Madison Park; Eric Alperin of The Varnish; Brian Floyd of The Vanderbilt; and Gen Yamamoto of EN Japanese Brasserie.

Speaking of EN Japanese Brasserie, I was there for the Food Arts photo shoot (the photo above is mine, taken of the drinks assembled for the professionals to capture on film). Here’s my blog post from that outing.

Cocktails at EN Japanese Brasserie

Last week, I spent the afternoon at EN Japanese Brasserie. It was a fun afternoon for a journalist:  essentially, I watched from the sidelines as other people did all the heavy lifting on a photo shoot; asked impertinent questions between photos (they were all relevant to the article I’m working on – sorry, can’t tell you more just yet), and finished up by sipping some lovely drinks made by mixologist Gen Yamamoto.

Two special cocktails to share:

The Daikon Cocktail. If you liked the Daikon Green-Tini, this one is for you. Gen (that’s a hard “G,” by the way) makes a refreshing version with muddled daikon, shochu and lots more grated daikon on top.

Still life with Daikon Radish and fennel

Gen in action behind the bar

Daikon Cocktail

Tomato Cocktail: So if a traditional (or non-traditiona) Bloody Mary is more your style, this is closer to that category. However, this is one of the lightest, sweetest versions of a Bloody I’ve ever had. It was also crazy addictive.

Gen makes this drink with a combination of fresh cherry tomatoes and sweetened, house-made tomato preserves, as well as Rain vodka.  He also has a fabulous technique for seasoning the drink:  he rims the glass (but only half of it!) with salt, and then sprinkles finely ground pepper on the surface of the drink. Simple, but elegant and effective.

Tomato Cocktail

Don’t you love the glassware? It’s his own, hand-blown and brought in from home for the photo shoot. I was honored to be allowed to drink from this glass — and to be honest, terrified that I might drop it and break it! I swear it made the drink taste even better, though.