Seeing that drink maven Gary Regan was paired with beer expert Stephen Beaumont as the mixologists for the Spirited Dinner at Wolfe’s in the Warehouse during Tales of the Cocktail certainly piqued my interest when I was making my plans for attending the five-day cocktail confab. I knew Regan would bring forth some fun and unexpected cocktails, but I had to wonder where Beaumont would go with this. Beer at a Spirited Dinner? That’s a first. I’m in!
The series of Spirited Dinners is a highlight of Tales of the Cocktail. Noted mixologists work with the chefs of top New Orleans restaurants to pair innovative and original cocktails with the venues’ cuisine. The goal is to demonstrate the compatibility of cocktails with food, not to mention showcase hot drink talent; the result is often the discovery of a unique drink and food combination.
What we all discovered at this particular Spirited Dinner is that beer should indeed be given a seat at the cocktail development table (or bar, as it were) and deserves the credit it’s been getting lately as a perfect accompaniment to food.
Beaumont was modest during his turn as cocktail host, crediting “sheer cowardice” for his choice of Schneider and Sohn Aventinus to accompany the Apple Wood Smoked Bacon Wrapped Duck Roulade. The move was anything but cowardice; in fact it was quite bold. The robust wheat doppelbock perfectly complemented the smoky, pork-laced dish, its spiciness bringing warmth and balancing the pungent duck. It was also bold in the fact that it wasn’t a cocktail at all, just a lovely glass of German beer.
The entrée was where beer—and Beaumont—truly shined. The heat of the Southwest Dry Rub Ribeye was set off by the rich smokiness of the Yorkshire Buffalo. Featuring Yorkshire Imperial Stout from Samuel Smith married with Buffalo Trace Bourbon and finished with a dash of Fee Brothers Bourbon Barrel Aged Bitters, the cocktail was dark with a thick viscosity. This drink was not for the light-hearted, as it was anything but.
“Stout and bourbon blend really well,” Beaumont noted, and indeed he was correct; it was a match made in heaven. The trick to using beer in cocktails, he advised, is to use small amounts, not an entire bottle. As with any cocktail, balance is key, and beer’s presence in the correct quantity evokes a “harmony of flavors,” Beaumont said.
Regan’s creations were also bold. The Elegant Fizz aperitif combined Champagne with Milagro white tequila and Domaine de Canton; the mild effervescence delivered the spice of the tequila long with the ginger of the Canton. Pan Fried Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes were then paired with Regan’s Piscorita Milanese. His enthusiasm for Pisco was palpable as he described the cocktail, a marriage of Pisco, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and lime juice, finished with Campari (hence the Milanese). The finale was a Chocolate Torte accompanied by Regan’s Prairie Dog—Domaine de Canton, Hendrick’s Gin and lemon juice. Tart, refreshing and fun.
Hats off to Tales for bringing beer into the Spirited Dinners and thus, the cocktail celebration taking place in New Orleans. And Cheers to Beaumont and Regan for pairing their talents and leading us on a discovery of delights.