“I picked Wayne Toups, Louisiana native and one of the only zydeco musicians to ever win a Grammy. We’ve done several events with him, and he’s a real big Caymus [Cabernet Sauvignon] drinker. So this cocktail is based off of red wine flavor profiles. I did a bell pepper–infused brandy, tobacco syrup and there are chocolate bitters in there—everything that makes cabernets what they are. Also, I’ve got some lime juice and stuff from the garden—just as we do farm to table food, we do garden to glass drinks—at any given time I use about 8 to 10 fresh herbs at the bar, but we have about 30 to 40 to choose from out there in our garden. Lemon verbena is what’s going into this cocktail.
I grew up in Northwest Louisiana in a small town about 30 minutes from Shreveport. I grew up every day going outside, picking fresh ingredients off of vines, so to me, working with herbs brings up memories; it’s nostalgic.
I moved to East Texas when I hit high school, so my working years began there and in East Texas there are no private, mom-and-pop, fine dining anything—it’s corporate America all the way. Chili’s, Applebee’s, Cheddar’s… The whole run. So I started off that way and my first fine dining experience was in Shreveport at a place called Wine Country and I just really enjoyed it—they welcomed creativity and there were no mistakes; there was no plethora of comps and voids—just a full change of pace.
At one point, and this will sound like a country song, but I loaded up my truck and grabbed my dog, got rid of everything I owned and moved to Florida. Bartended little dive bars and ended up at Fisher’s in Orange Beach. Fisher’s is kind of the pinnacle out there; there’s not much room for growth, and that’s how I ended up in New Orleans. Started off at CellarDoor, helped open Kenton’s, and then got invited to come over here.
We’re neither a Cajun nor Creole restaurant; we’re Louisiana to the core. Sac-a-Lait literally means ‘milk sack’ in French, but here in Louisiana it’s a fish, actually—a crappie, or a white perch.
Wayne Toups is as Louisiana as it gets. We’ll call this drink the Opelousas Air Compressor, which is another name for the accordion.”
Here’s a few more recipes from Christopher:
Bell Pepper Brandy
1 green bell pepper
1 bottle Copper & Kings brandy
Cut up bell pepper and place in a storage container. Pour in brandy and let sit, covered, for 24 hours. Remove bell pepper, strain and rebottle.
1 cup raw cane sugar
1 cup water
5 grams natural tobacco
2 dried star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
Bring water and sugar to a simmer. Stir to dissolve sugar and remove from heat. Add tobacco, 1 star anise and 1 cinnamon stick, and let steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain into a jar. Add the remaining star anise and cinnamon stick.