Cocktails of the Week: Introducing Lift, Flirt & Slide
Interpersonal Neurobiology is a recently touted approach pulling from several disciplines, namely science and psychology, to advance the premise that the way we focus our attention has the power to change the way the circuitry of the brain sends messages. Started by Dr. Daniel Siegel of The Mindsight Institute (by way of Harvard and UCLA), it's an integrated science with a lot of moving parts, the most intriguing of which is the idea that how we make distinctions and connections between thoughts and feelings will affect the trajectories of our actions and, it follows, their outcomes.
Eating and drinking are ephemeral experiences at best, ones which easily put the senses on overload. They are feeling-led activities ~ we come to a restaurant in a specific state of mind we want enhanced or softened as we look to satisfy "hunger" on more than one level. The role alcohol plays ~ while its absence is not a deal breaker ~can be significant, not least because in limited amounts alcohol increases dopamine in the part of the brain that triggers feelings of pleasure. For both the customer and the restaurant, pleasure isn’t just the endgame, it’s a journey, one that starts the minute you walk in the door.
I first started thinking about a series of spirit elixirs called Lift, Flirt and Slide a number of years ago as a way of bringing aromatherapy to the cocktail glass. Like many innovative bars across the country we were already incorporating herbs and edible flowers into our drinks, based rather loosely on their perceived curative qualities ~ citrus to enliven, spice to invigorate, mint to soothe ~ but very few drinks I’d ever come across took homeopathic tinctures seriously, much less engaged the powerful sense of smell as it affects mood and memory. Most people are creatures of habit when it comes to ordering cocktails ~ they get a favorite stuck in their minds and order it year after year. What I wanted was a different approach based less on preconceived notions of what a guest "thought" they wanted, more on a sensually triggered desire to lift the spirit, engage in social play, or just channel the day's exhaustion into sliding home and into bed.
I did some research, wrote up my notes, then moved on. While I was more than intrigued with the concept, I could see that a great deal of trial and error would be necessary in order to take the next steps. I needed a bartender who was not just spirit smart but had energy and patience in equal measure. Great cocktails, at the end of the day, aren’t about whiz kids using esoteric ingredients with procedures that belong in a laboratory setting. They are about balancing science and art, having a great palate, a methodical mind, and a healthy dose of humility. When Rachel arrived three months ago, happily, she seemed to possess all four qualities. And a fifth: that finding out how a customer feels when they sidle up to the bar goes a long way in making them a drink that heightens or changes their mood. In a restaurant like ours, cocktails are also crucial to opening a way into the food, and the total experience of dining here.
So here's how it's going to work: tell us how you feel when you walk in the door and we’ll give you a drink designed to keep you there (if that’s what you desire) or take you somewhere else (if that’s what you need). Lift, Flirt and Slide are experimental cocktails. While we don't promise they will re-wire your brain, they damn well will taste good and get you started in the direction you want to go on the night. The best part? If they work, all you’ll need is one.
The steps to making A Flirt Cocktail
1. Rachel chars the peppers in a dry skillet. 2. slices and 3. mixes them with a platinum tequila where they are allowed to steep for 4-6 hours. 4. She combine the ingredients: the pepper infused tequila brings an earthy profile to the drink while Agave syrup lends sweet smokiness, Curaçao and fresh lime juice lift the flavors while adding citrus punch, a hint of peach bitters softens the heat and bite of the peppers. 5. Before shaking, she turns a chilled martini glass in red pepper sugar (made with dried pepper flakes left in a fine grain sugar for at least two days, then repeatedly sifted out). 6. Shake vigorously. 7. Strain into the rimmed glass. 8. Spritz with Rhodiola Rosea, a dioecious herb thought to be effective for improving mood, physical and mental performance, and may (according to the Chinese) increase sexual energy. 9. Garnish with baby mustard leaves (variety: Giant Red, harvested just after sprouting).
If you're interested in a decidedly more comprehensive take on Interpersonal Neurobiology follow this link to Diane Ackerman's The Brain on Love, an article published in the NY Times Sunday Review. It provided a nifty bridge to my thoughts about the way we think about cocktails. With apologies for my hubris, there's a lot more to think about here.
Barndiva will be serving an expanded Brunch menu this Easter with special additions ~ an entrée featuring Fritschen Lamb with all the fixings and Octavio's version of Hot Cross Buns ~ in honor of this special Holiday. For the kids there will be a few chocolate eggs hidden in the garden (weather permitting). For the adults, Mimosas, Bloody Marys, and a chance to Lift, Flirt or Slide your way through Easter. For reservations and the full menu call the Barn: 707 431 0100.
All text Jil Hales. All photos Jil Hales(unless otherwise noted).