Talking with Lindsay Laubenstein could drive you to drink — in a good way. Her enthusiasm for cocktail culture is contagious. Laubenstein, vice president of the Southern Ohio Bartenders’ Guild and currently behind the bar at Igby’s (122 E. Sixth St., Downtown), recently developed the cocktail menu at Barrio Tequileria in Northside, and previously tended bar at Enoteca Emilia in O’Bryonvillle.
During her stint at Enoteca Emilia, and shortly after returning from a visit to a thrift shop where she got a crazy deal on a selection of one-of-a-kind cocktail glasses, Laubenstein started a project. She decided to create a drink for each unique glass and document them on her blog, Alcohol Alchemy (alcoholalchemy.com). One of her creations, Myrrah’s Passion, has been selected for Gary “Gaz” Regan’s 101 Best New Cocktails of 2013.
Regan, author of The Bartender’s Bible: 1001 Mixed Drinks and Everything You Need to Know to Set up Your Bar, is one of the world’s expert mixologists. He also has his own brand of bitters, Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6, which are indispensable in my favorite version of a Manhattan. If you’re going to impress anyone by innovating a new cocktail, Gaz would be the guy — and Laubenstein did it.
“Bartenders from all over the globe are on this list,” she says. “It’s really great to represent Ohio, and Cincinnati in particular.”
Myrrah’s Passion isn’t an amateur drink. The technique — which involves dry-shaking egg white foam — is intimidating, but not impossible. Regan praised Laubenstein’s use of another unique brand of bitters, Aphrodite, as an aromatic garnish. And he calls the base of the cocktail, Buffalo Trace bourbon and Crème de Violette, “intriguing.”
Laubenstein and her husband Dan Berger moved to Cincinnati in 2009 from Kalamazoo, Mich. She says they’ve fallen in love with the city.
“Cincinnati is unique in that it builds organically,” she says.
“It doesn’t run with trends, so it’s authentic and that helps it succeed.”
Each bar where Laubenstein has worked has given her a different kind of experience. Enoteca Emilia’s wine-centric focus was interesting, but she really enjoys creative mixology. She loves using fresh muddled herbs and seasonal fruits and vegetables in her drinks, like the aloe juice she incorporated into La Familia, one of the drinks she created for Barrio Tequileria. That project gave her the chance to showcase an ingredient — tequila — that tends to get pigeonholed into either shots or margaritas.
“People should taste each of the ‘ages’ of tequila to find out what they like,” Laubenstein suggests. “They are distinctive, and lend themselves to different drinks.”
She explained that young, unaged blanco tequilas are peppery and fiery, while the “rested” reposados are balanced, with a little more caramel and vanilla. Aged anejo tequilas have sweet caramel and vanilla flavors, but also briny, salty notes, and she laughs as she compares them to “trail mix.” The extra anejo, aged at least three years, is closer to a cognac, an “after-dinner sipper.”
“People are surprised that extra anejo tequila has so much character after aging just three to five years,” she says. “But aging happens faster in Mexico’s warmer climate than, say, Kentucky or Scotland. An extra anejo tequila can be comparable to a 20-year-old scotch.”
Here are two of her favorite cocktails, perfect for the current season. “The first is super-easy,” she says, “and the second is pretty much me in a cocktail nutshell.”
Bourbon and Blues
Glass: Short 12-oz. rocks glass
Garnish: Long orange spiral
2 oz. Bulleit bourbon
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz. rich simple syrup (2:1 ratio sugar to water)
1 barspoon blueberry preserves
Shake all ingredients with ice in a mixing tin and strain into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist and enjoy!
Glass: Large cocktail/martini glass
Garnish: 3 watermelon balls and 2 cucumber quarters on a pick
6 watermelon cubes (about 1 inch x 1 inch)
3 leaves basil
1 tsp Roland balsamic glaze
2 oz. Effen cucumber vodka
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. rich simple syrup (2:1 ratio sugar to water)
Shake all ingredients with ice in mixing tin and strain into large cocktail glass. Finish with a light dash of freshly cracked sea salt and garnish.
To get the recipe for Laubenstein’s winning Myrrah’s Passion, visit gazregan.com.
CONTACT ANNE MITCHELL: firstname.lastname@example.org