the genius: Tony Abou-Ganim
The Modern Mixologist
Las Vegas, Nevada
Photo © Tim Turner Photography
the inspiration: I've been an advocate of never overlooking the importance of the garnish — it's an ingredient in the cocktail. A lot of drinks these days stand up on their own, however, especially those with egg-white foams. For example, if you decide to serve a well-made sexy bachelorette party cocktail sans garnish, I think it would still look and perform beautifully naked, just like a bridesmaid on a wedding night.
the genius: Brian Miller
Death & Co
the inspiration: I'm inspired by many people, places and things. One of my big passions is infusing tea into spirits. Recently I was inspired to play with coconut and scotch. A friend of mine was visiting some family from Puerto Rico and told me that the locals down there will cut the top off of a coconut and add scotch to it. So when I went to my local tea purveyor and he gave me some green tea with coconut, I was off and running. After several attempts I found a nice blend of tea and scotch — you're looking for the balance between spirit and tea that doesn't let the tannins to take over. I found the creamy, vanilla notes in the scotch were a good match with the coconut in the tea. Then I started working on a new cocktail. Usually I try not to hide the infusion because that is the star of the show, after all. Daydreaming about how I'd rather be on a beach than be behind a bar right now, I based my drink on the classic Ti Punch. I used a bit of Strega to give it a slight kick and honey syrup as the sweetener. Stir it together with a lemon disc and you have my latest, "Tea In The Sahara."
the genius: Jonathan Harris
Photo credit: Sam Vasfi
the inspiration: I draw a lot from music. I did a series of drinks corresponding to lines from the Jimi Hendrix song "Bold As Love," for example. All the drinks are about colors and the emotions they evoke in the context of a relationship with a woman. The Green Gown is one such drink. I also am enjoying reading fairy tales now. I'm playing with a Little Red Riding Hood drink and am also working with a musician and my chef to organize an experience based on Oscar Wilde's story The Nightingale and The Rose. It'll be a shot, a bite and a short two-minute tune. Poetry also figures heavily, with a couple of drinks drawn from Baudelaire. One of my favorite things to do is draw portraits of friends in booze. Probably the biggest influence right now is perfumery. I like finding old perfume formulae and transforming them into bitters or cocktails. And of course, women.
the genius: Yuri Kato
Author, Japanese Cocktails, Chronicle Books
Media Julep, LLC
the inspiration: The yubari melon is one of the most expensive fruits in Japan and one melon could be sold for anywhere from $200 to $10,000. They are sometimes given as gifts to people who are really sick. What's remarkable is that Midori melon liqueur has a similar fragrance to the yubari melon. Some people might think Midori is tacky or they might be turned off by the color, but it's a spirit I like to mix cocktails with. The Midori Caipirinha is one of my favorites and in the summer time I like to pour Midori over shaved ice, it's so refreshing.
the genius: Scott Beattie
Author, Artisanal Cocktails: Drinks Inspired by the Seasons from the Bar at Cyrus
It's easy to create an incredible dehydrated fruit cocktail garnish at home. Use a meat slicer, mandoline or extremely sharp knife to cut paper-thin slices of fresh fruit — several good ones are persimmons, apples or pears. Then set on a baking sheet in a 150-degree to 180-degree oven for about 5 hours, or until the fruit is dry. You could even use citrus if you soak it in simple syrup before dehydrating. The fruit sits beautifully on top of cocktails with an egg white or foam head.
Master Absinthe Distiller
New Orleans, LA
the inspiration: The things that inspire me really are the oppositions and ongoing challenges. The fact that absinthe was illegal in the U.S. inspired me to work to change that. If I wanted to identify a single source of inspiration, it would be history, just because I’ve been watching history be maligned for 16 years and I became determined to set the record straight. Bartending and mixology is a realm that recently viewed every invention that made something cheaper and faster as an improvement. I am glad to see that attitude go the way of the dodo. I have a real appreciation for the craftsmanship of the past, as does anyone who truly appreciates the pre-Prohibition apex of cocktail culture. Not a book or a bottle, it’s just that in a world that recently viewed the juice gun as a great invention, what’s inspiring me is that I’m saying no, that’s an abomination. Only by recreating past accurately can we truly appreciate it, and that is what I do.
the genius: Duggan McDonnell
Campo de Encanto Pisco
San Francisco, CA
the inspiration: I'm inspired by taste, memory and time. Taste everything and keep a mental library, remembering every nuance of flavor so that later, you can employ it as needed. Of course, this practice can only be developed over time.
the genius: Meaghan Dorman
Raines Law Room
Photo Credit: Lush Life Productions
the inspiration: I'm really into apéritif drinks. I just got back from a trip to Italy where they had great options on what to drink before dinner, to open up the appetite but that aren’t too booze-heavy. It's not such a focus here in the States, but I think it's really interesting. And champagne cocktails, I will never get tired of creating those!
the genius: Manny Hinojosa
Bacardi Portfolio Mixologist
Specialized in Cazadores and Corzo Tequila
San Francisco Bay Area
http://cazadores.com - http://corzo.com
the inspiration: I travel for business and I like to learn from people. Everyday I’m learning from the places I go. If I’m in Hawaii, I will learn to use their fruits and understand how they are using them. If I’m in Chicago, same thing. I like to use fresh fruits, fresh herbs and premium spirits. I also like to use ingredients that people recognize, at the same time always checking out what’s new, what’s going on. As a foodie, I’m always creating. I’ll check out farmer’s markets ... eat out in restaurants ... when someone delivers a dish to my table I like to see how those flavors play with each other and then think about how I can incorporate them into my drink. Taking a chef’s ideas and making a cocktail that delivers the same flavor profile. I like to make cocktails that are food-friendly.
the genius: Giuseppe Gonzalez
New York, NY
the inspiration: I’m playing with the idea that fresh juice isn't necessarily better than juice that’s slightly aged. Dave Arnold posted something on his Web site and now it’s stuck in my head. Lime juice, in particular, has been on my mind a bit. I’m doing some of my own work to see where we end up here.