The general rule for pairing wine with seafood is always go with white so that the delicate flavors of the sea aren’t overpowered. Fishing With Dynamite, Chef David LeFevre’s new 1,100-square-foot Manhattan Beach restaurant, just two doors down from his other MB restaurant M.B. Post, takes this to heart with its cocktail program. All the cocktails are white. OK, well, the base spirits of the specialty cocktails are clear -- white whiskey, rum, pisco, gin.
Since the culinary focus of the close-quartered 36-seat space will be the raw bar, the drink program, headed by Operating Partner/Beverage Director Jerry Garbus, makes complementing the oysters and shellfish a priority. “With the subtle flavors of the oysters in mind, the cocktails really need to exercise restraint,” said Garbus. “We’re trying to balance really clean flavors and not to overpower Chef David’s food.”
Sure enough the new eight-cocktail menu showcases bright flavors like grapefruit and light ones like chamomile and dill. Out of the food-friendly, classic-inspired drinks, the most potent here may be the Boulevardier, a Negroni but with white whiskey instead of gin. Otherwise it’s all about subtlety and bringing out flavors with infusions instead of, say, bold barrel-aged booze.
The restaurant is not slated to open til April 30 but Garbus was nice enough to give us an exclusive look at the cocktail menu along with his tasting notes.
By the way, a peek into the space, which was still coming together as of this past Monday, shows only four seats at the matte-black-topped cocktail bar, which is adjacent to the raw bar. Since the restaurant will be walk-ins only, I'm guessing diners will set up camp on those coveted bar seats, dissuading those simply looking to grab a quick drink. Ah well, at least M.B. Post is just half a block away.
Aperitif Cocktail: Gin, Cocchi Americano, sherry, lemon. “We’re using Cocchi Americano which is lean, bright, extremely floral. Fino Sherry which has a soft pungency to it and a little bit of nuttiness.” Garbus recommends having this with the goods from the raw bar like East Coast and West Coast oysters, Dungeness Crab, Peruvian scallops and Maine lobster.
Champagne Cocktail: White rum, passion fruit, lavender, Cava Brut Nature. “The cava (zero dosage) is very clean on the palate and completely bone dry. Using a drier style allows elements that err towards a sweeter edge some balance.”
“Regalo de Dios”: a silver tequila sour with rhubarb, strawberry, chili. The initial Sour cocktail here called for a red wine gastrique but in this new version they opted for strawberry “as the gastrique leaned more toward a tart character when we needed some subtle sweetness to round the drink and create balance with the rhubarb being tart in itself.”
“Rag Doll”: a gin fizz with blueberry, rosemary, violet, egg white. “I really love the gin fizz. The element of rosemary, the egg whites giving it a textural nuance as well sort of that creaminess. I love the blueberry there which is a very subtle character. There’s even a little bit of lavender, blue note character that really ties it all together. I would drink it every afternoon.”
“Original Gangster”: a Boulevardier with white whiskey, Aperol, grapefruit. “Very similar cocktail to a Negroni, but using the white whiskey as the base spirit, Aperol (instead of Campari) to give it some roundness and sweet vermouth. Grapefruit is an element through the bitters and zest. Elegant, complex and powerful.”
Lemon Drop: Chamomile-infused vodka, lemon, honey, smoke. “It’s a very approachable cocktail. We were able to create a dry perceptibility inside of a cocktail that a lot of guests who love Lemon Drops, love the sweetness of it. And there’s enough that it’s pleasing to the palate but it’s still dry to really lend to food and there’s a real depth and complexity that will satisfy a lot of the guests who are big-time cocktail enthusiasts.”
Gibson: Dill-infused gin, dry vermouth, house pickled onions. “There’s a little of that herbaceousness. Dill is a very commonly used ingredient with seafood. Whether it’s used with fish or our shrimp cocktail. The chef loves to pickle things and we have a very awesome in-house pickled onion that’s going to go in the cocktail as well. It’s basically just gin.”
“Branding Iron”: a Beer Flip with pisco, egg, coriander, vanilla, Ommegang Witte. “It’s going to be creamy, a little bit savory, it’s going to be full on the palate. It’s going to create a full flavor cocktail that’s still bright and lends well to savory seafood dishes that are full flavored. What I really do love about this cocktail is that the hops from the beer ground the overall profile of the cocktail and provides structure. It's such a fun cocktail, quite complex and just tastes delicious.”
Fishing With Dynamite, 1148 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach. eatfwd.com