FEBRUARY 2017 – As any good bartender can tell you, playing around with different ingredients is what makes their job so much fun. And intriguing. And delicious. And sometimes even a little mysterious. The job of a good mixologist is being able to differentiate between all those ingredients and know what works well together. That often takes plenty of experimentation and tasting through a variety of spirits, liqueurs, tinctures, bitters and an array of other things that could make up a cocktail.
If you’ve ever been to Cindy’s and looked behind the bar, you’ll have noticed a serious collection of bottles that go beyond your obvious bourbon, tequila and gin. Cindy’s Spirit Guide, Nandini Khaund, pulls back the curtain — just a little — to give you a peek into her bag of tricks. She has plenty more, but here are just a few of her favorite things to maneuver into her current cocktail list.
At Cindy’s, Activated Charcoal is used to add a natural cleansing element and a very cool black color to some drinks, like the non-alcoholic Reanimator (blueberry, ginger, demerara, lime and activated charcoal). Khaund likes to use charcoal made of organic coconut shells that has been “activated” by heating in the presence of steam. It yields a velvety powder that contains miniscule pores to capture, bind and remove up to 100 times the charcoal’s weight in toxins.
Fernet Branca is somewhat like a bartender’s secret handshake. If you belly up to any decent bar in America and order a shot of Fernet, chances are the bartender will know you work in the industry. But more than a wink between bartenders, Fernet is a medicinal digestif that also serves as a hangover cure (next time you have one, pour some into a cup of coffee and see how quickly you feel better). Fernet originally came about in 1845 comprising 27 herbs including aloe, gentian root, rhubarb, red cinchona bark, galangal, chamomile, cinnamon and saffron. If you want to give it a taste, you can mix it with Coca-Cola like they do in Argentina.
The Cinchona tree grows throughout Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador and its bark was used as a muscle relaxant: people suffering from Malaria would suffer from extreme shivering when their body temperature would drop. It was later discovered that the bark medicinally produces quinine, which is a main ingredient in tonic water. While many commercial tonics exist, Khaund and her friend and former Violet Hour co-worker Ira Koplowtiz of Wisconsin-based Bittercube Bitters collaborated to create a house tonic for Cindy’s. Made with gentian, cinchona and Angelica root, it has a refreshing, citrusy flavor profile with hints of cinnamon, calamansi, fennel and lemongrass that lends itself well to mixing with various floral gins and Dolin Blanc white vermouth. It’s not on our main drink list so just ask for it — we always have it and love to share it with you.