four ingredients or less,” recalls Kalkofen.
“At that time, no one had any idea what
an Aviation was. I’ve witnessed the bar-
tender and the consumer becoming more
educated about classic cocktails, the in-
gredients on the back bar and the differ-
ent ways one can achieve thoughtful, bal-
anced cocktails. I’ve watched as at times
the drinks have become too precious and
as bartenders have—in the words of my
mother—‘gotten too big for their britches’
while the guest has paid the price because
of a lack of hospitality.”
When she and Sullivan developed the
concept for Brick and Mortar, the empha-
sis was on serving customers (like them-
selves) who had been around the cocktail
block, so to speak, and appreciate the
strong flavors of a spirit-forward cocktail.
But as a neighborhood bar, they also real-
ized the drinks need to be accessible. The
resulting menu showcases boozy drinks
like the Streets of Gettysburg (sherry,
rye, Benedictine, ristretto, bit-
ters) and lighter choices like
the popular Sister Mary (blanco tequila,
St. Germain, Aperol, grapefruit juice).
“In either case we knew it was necessary
to create a menu that could be executed
quickly. We weren’t looking for a high
touch concept. We were looking for bal-
anced cocktails that would showcase the
quality ingredients that we had chosen
and could be presented in a timely fash-
ion,” says Kalkofen.
The pared-down cocktail concept can
also be seen at Prizefighter, which opened
in November 2011 in Emeryville, CA.
The brainchild of Jon Santer and Dylan
O’Brien, veterans of the San Francisco
drink scene, there’s a focus on uncompli-
cated classic cocktails like the Margarita
(tequila, lime, agave nectar), Bee’s Knees
(gin, lemon, honey) and Daiquiri (rum,
lime, cane syrup). And in the venerable
cocktail mecca of New Orleans, Maurepas
Foods offers a list of creative options with
just a handful of ingredients like Delight
(Nardini Tagliatella, Giffard Crème de
Cassis, Clear Creek Douglas Fir eau de vie)
and Parse Through Pursed (gin, honey,
parsley, lemon).
Why Less Can Be More
So what constitutes simple? Winchester
believes the greatest cocktails “have four
types of ingredients (strong and weak,
sweet and sour/bitter), and there are very
few great drinks that include more than
five ingredients in total.”
Kalkofen concurs: “Simple is usually a
word that is associated with the number of
ingredients and steps needed to produce a
cocktail. It is a very rare occurrence to find
a cocktail on the Brick and Mortar list with
over five ingredients. In fact I tell the staff
that if they are at five ingredients and they
still don’t like the cocktail they should prob-
ably go back to the drawing board.”
Number of ingredients aside, both
Winchester and Kalkofen point out that
“simple” does not necessarily
correlate to taste. Using the
right combination of fresh,
quality ingredients coupled
with a skillful, friendly bar-
tender is what makes a great
cocktail. Based on her theory
that what goes around comes
around (in the cocktail world
and in life), Kalkofen says, “As
it always happens, the pen-
dulum is swinging back and
bartenders are seeing that the
cocktail is only one part of a
program that results in consis-
tently happy guests.”
simple cocktails
The Kingston Daiquiri (right)
is one of the many simple
cocktails served at Prizefighter
in Emeryville, CA.
LEFT: Misty Kalkofen,
bar manager at
Brick and Mortar in
Cambridge, MA
RIGHT: At Neat Bar
in Glendale, CA, a
simple pour is set
on a wood tray, with
space for a second
glass of ice or a
chaser.
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