“I’ve been in the service industry my whole life. Managed comedy clubs, nightclubs, and my dad managed nightclubs. I remember playing bar at my grandparents’ house in California, making up drinks like the Yoda or the Chewbacca with fruit juices, and my dad would sit there when he wasn’t working.
After my last gig [at Chef Phillip Lopez’ Square Root], I couldn’t find work in this city. So come to my rescue—books, which I’ve collected over the years—and I did a whole research of the marketplace for cocktail ingredients. The bitters market is saturated, but that got me thinking. An old-fashioned cocktail is basically four things—booze, syrup, bitters and ice. I’m not getting into the ice business—not down here! [laughs] The syrup business is what caught my eye. I’ve been making syrups and cordials and tea concentrates and vermouths over the past seven years. What I discovered is that there are three different kinds of syrups in the market. These are my own definitions, but there are the enhancers, like mint simple syrup or hibiscus syrup, and then there are the RTDs, ready-to-drinks, basically cocktails in a bottle, often full of chemicals and flavorings, like Margarita mix—all you need is ice. Then there are the components, like grenadines and tonics and orgeats. So my question was, how can we take classic cocktails and build syrups for those drinks?
I came up with these core four. Spiced Demerara for old-fashioneds and Sazeracs, so for scotches, ryes, bourbons and rums. The Spiced Demerara has white peppercorns, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon bark, allspice, coriander, cherry bark and orange peel. The next one is Oleo Saccharum—scary name, I know—but what it means is just oil and sugar. You take citrus peels and the sugar pulls out the oils naturally. We use lemongrass, cardamom and ginger tea to make the syrup. It’s for gins, vodkas. The third one is Honeysuckle & Peppercorn, and that’s built for agave, like mezcals and tequilas. Then we have the Mint & Lemon Verbena, which is really fun to play with—mint is such a mind game, you need to smell it, taste it, feel it—and we use this for juleps and daiquiris. We source all of our raw sugar from a farmer in Youngsville outside Lafayette who actually drives it to my kitchen.
Are you familiar with snout to tail? Well, we’re doing that at the farmers market on Saturday mornings, with citrus. We’re taking the peels we use for the Honeysuckle & Pepper and the Oleo Saccharum, and we candy them with cayenne and ginger and sell them in small bags, and then we take the syrup we cook the peels in and make another simple syrup, and then we juice the citrus and make lemonade, too.
The drink I’m making today is a Vieux Carré variation. The original has cognac, rye, Benedictine and sweet vermouth. But what I’m doing is Pierre Ferran cognac and dry vermouth and we’re going to add the Spiced Demerara to this.
I grew up in the Central Valley and there’s a lot of metal there. I love metal. That, and dance music. Techno, disco and metal have stayed with me all my life and I’m almost 40. Metal is such a diverse category, with so many genres. One genre I’ve always loved is doom. Low-tempo, it’s good film music. Crowbar and Eyehategod are the two bands from Louisiana that have been really influential. Crowbar helped define the Southern rock sound.
Doom is very heavy and slow, and Crowbar has a lot of punk elements as well. What I like about cognac is that it’s really heavy with a long finish to it, and I wanted to pair it with the Spiced Demerara, which is bold and huge and fast, and then the dry vermouth, which is floral. The thing about doom is that it’s extremely pretty, too—the compositions, everything about it. Elegant, and huge.”
2 parts Pierre Ferrand cognac
3/4 parts Dolin dry vermouth
1/4 part Cocktail & Sons Spiced Demerara
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir and serve with ice and a sliver of lemon peel that you rub along the rim.