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Youngblood bartender – ultimate service provider

"The ciociaro is a digestif, but it’s going to have a slight nutty vibe"

Abandon menus, all ye who enter here.
Abandon menus, all ye who enter here.

Last month, a friend visited with his family from out of town, and as thanks for my hospitality, he bought ingredients for my favorite cocktail these days: a Vieux Carre. There are variations out there, but in my house, that means bourbon, cognac, good sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, cocktail cherries, and orange rind. It’s a lovely drink, but it’s a bit of a production, especially when you’re scrambling to dig up a dozen decent glasses. Sometimes, you just want a professional to handle the making. For that matter, sometimes you just want a professional to handle the choosing.

That’s why the Wife and I are sitting at the underlit alabaster bar at Youngblood, taking in the Frenchy fin de siecle decor and listening to bartender Liza set the scene: “Basically, three courses of cocktails, first one is an appetizer. Is there something specific you’d like to use as a base spirit?”

“An appetizer?” asks the Wife. “Something salty, like with an olive. Maybe gin?”

“Like a dirty martini vibe, or more savory/umami?”

“Dirty martini.”

That’s the direct route. But it’s been a long week; I want to start on a refreshing note. “Tequila. I remember a Paloma I had in Coronado with slices of habanero and a black salt rim.”

Liza works methodically and without apparent hesitation, selecting very particular glasses to go with the very particular spirits, liqueurs, and drops of this and that; carving an Art Deco wedge of lemon rind for the Wife and a long ribbon of cucumber for me, then carving a clear column of ice to cool my refresher and topping the drink with a tiny carnation. “Have a couple sips, and I’ll check back.”

The Wife, over the ‘60s bossa nova: “Delicious. Gin and bitters, direct, but lemony, salty. Manhattan-y, but lighter. And the rim of this glass is so thin, it provides its own tactile experience.”

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Me: “Banana. Refreshing. Past that, it’s almost raspberry, almost strawberry...”

I’m wrong, of course. It’s pomegranate, not berries, along with “freshly juiced lime, muddled cucumber, Angostura bitters, with some blanc vermouth, tequila, and soda water.” No bananas. I blame the vermouth.

Place

Young Blood

777 G Street, San Diego

The Wife, however, was right about bitters: “Cardamom and orange, with a pinch of salt, dry and blanc vermouth, with some amaro ciociaro and Beefeater gin. The ciociaro is a digestif, but it’s going to have a slight nutty vibe, so it gives that sweet/salty savory note.”

Much to my chagrin, I’m wrong again with my rye-based main course. By dessert, I’m feeling defeated but daffy. “Calvados.”

“More direct, or with cream?” asks Liza.

I think of Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited, knocking back four Brandy Alexanders in rapid succession. Down the little red lane they go. “Creamy.”

“I agree with you.” It’s kind of her to say so.

She has to leave the bar for the Calvados, get the ladder and fetch the bottle off the back wall. What arrives is fantastic: transmogrified pie. “I tasted the Calvados with the cream, and thought, ‘This needs stone fruit.’ We have this creme de peach that’s my favorite.”

The Wife inquires after method. “You gotta think about your basic cocktail families,” says Liza. “Your negroni build, your Alexander build. I have all these builds already, and you can swap stuff out and in” — if you know your business. “I know that if I use lemon, I’m going put in equal parts lemon and sugar, because that’s how the flavor sticks. But if I use lime, sometimes the citrus notes are not going to stand up with the sugar, so you add a little bit more. It’s all about flavor and balance.” Striking that balance, she says, “takes reading a lot of books — and drinking.”

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Abandon menus, all ye who enter here.
Abandon menus, all ye who enter here.

Last month, a friend visited with his family from out of town, and as thanks for my hospitality, he bought ingredients for my favorite cocktail these days: a Vieux Carre. There are variations out there, but in my house, that means bourbon, cognac, good sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud’s and Angostura bitters, cocktail cherries, and orange rind. It’s a lovely drink, but it’s a bit of a production, especially when you’re scrambling to dig up a dozen decent glasses. Sometimes, you just want a professional to handle the making. For that matter, sometimes you just want a professional to handle the choosing.

That’s why the Wife and I are sitting at the underlit alabaster bar at Youngblood, taking in the Frenchy fin de siecle decor and listening to bartender Liza set the scene: “Basically, three courses of cocktails, first one is an appetizer. Is there something specific you’d like to use as a base spirit?”

“An appetizer?” asks the Wife. “Something salty, like with an olive. Maybe gin?”

“Like a dirty martini vibe, or more savory/umami?”

“Dirty martini.”

That’s the direct route. But it’s been a long week; I want to start on a refreshing note. “Tequila. I remember a Paloma I had in Coronado with slices of habanero and a black salt rim.”

Liza works methodically and without apparent hesitation, selecting very particular glasses to go with the very particular spirits, liqueurs, and drops of this and that; carving an Art Deco wedge of lemon rind for the Wife and a long ribbon of cucumber for me, then carving a clear column of ice to cool my refresher and topping the drink with a tiny carnation. “Have a couple sips, and I’ll check back.”

The Wife, over the ‘60s bossa nova: “Delicious. Gin and bitters, direct, but lemony, salty. Manhattan-y, but lighter. And the rim of this glass is so thin, it provides its own tactile experience.”

Sponsored
Sponsored

Me: “Banana. Refreshing. Past that, it’s almost raspberry, almost strawberry...”

I’m wrong, of course. It’s pomegranate, not berries, along with “freshly juiced lime, muddled cucumber, Angostura bitters, with some blanc vermouth, tequila, and soda water.” No bananas. I blame the vermouth.

Place

Young Blood

777 G Street, San Diego

The Wife, however, was right about bitters: “Cardamom and orange, with a pinch of salt, dry and blanc vermouth, with some amaro ciociaro and Beefeater gin. The ciociaro is a digestif, but it’s going to have a slight nutty vibe, so it gives that sweet/salty savory note.”

Much to my chagrin, I’m wrong again with my rye-based main course. By dessert, I’m feeling defeated but daffy. “Calvados.”

“More direct, or with cream?” asks Liza.

I think of Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited, knocking back four Brandy Alexanders in rapid succession. Down the little red lane they go. “Creamy.”

“I agree with you.” It’s kind of her to say so.

She has to leave the bar for the Calvados, get the ladder and fetch the bottle off the back wall. What arrives is fantastic: transmogrified pie. “I tasted the Calvados with the cream, and thought, ‘This needs stone fruit.’ We have this creme de peach that’s my favorite.”

The Wife inquires after method. “You gotta think about your basic cocktail families,” says Liza. “Your negroni build, your Alexander build. I have all these builds already, and you can swap stuff out and in” — if you know your business. “I know that if I use lemon, I’m going put in equal parts lemon and sugar, because that’s how the flavor sticks. But if I use lime, sometimes the citrus notes are not going to stand up with the sugar, so you add a little bit more. It’s all about flavor and balance.” Striking that balance, she says, “takes reading a lot of books — and drinking.”

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The latest copy of the Reader

Please enjoy this clickable Reader flipbook. Linked text and ads are flash-highlighted in blue for your convenience. To enhance your viewing, please open full screen mode by clicking the icon on the far right of the black flipbook toolbar.

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