Sassafras Saloon, that gorgeous “Savannah Townhouse” in Hollywood, is finally getting the cocktails befitting of its Disney-esque Southern charm. Thanks to bartender Karen Grill (Bestia, Playa), who has commandeered its cocktail program, the bar can now count on the drinks and not just the decor to help transport guests to a porch in New Orleans…to a chef’s porch in New Orleans.
She’s taken things further than watermelon swizzles and cucumber smashes by adding a culinary twist. “I wanted to take all the culinary things that I learned from all the chefs I worked with like Ori [Menashe of Bestia], the guys at Sotto and everybody at Playa and apply that here,” said Grill.
They may not have Bestia-level barware or an immersion circulator but you’ll find elevated New Orleans staples like the Pimm’s Cup and Hurricane, a more streamlined barrel-aged cocktail program, and quite possibly the best housemade root beer ever. And don’t worry, Saturday night imbibers, despite her craft cocktail know-how, Grill swears she’s keeping things quick and simple. No molecular mixology or 10-minute cocktails. Rather, her goal is to serve up beautiful, well-done drinks but at a volume bar pace.
Case in point: the brand-new jam jar cocktails. They’re simply made with Grill’s in-house seasonal jams, shaken with quality spirits and boom! served in jam jars for your instant drinking pleasure.
And these jams aren’t your average off-the-shelf one-fruit preserves. “They’re a little more complex than just a strawberry jam,” said Grill. Think a blackberry thyme and lemon jam and a tomato balsamic one. The latter is mixed with Ancho Reyes and Altos Reposado for a spicy Bloody Mary. Since these babies will be updated seasonally, you can look forward to a spiced fig jam and a pumpkin spice one this holiday season.
Currently the new cocktail menu has 14 drinks but Grill plans to expand it soon to include New Orleans classics like a French 75, absinthe frappe, and Daiquiri to name a few. Til then here’s a look at a few of her other new cocktails and how they tie into the bar’s theme, according to Grill.
Hurricane: “This was inspired by every night in New Orleans that I ended up at the Absinthe House drinking really nasty Hurricanes at 5 o’clock in the morning. So it’s just another New Orleans classic done my way. It’s a blend of three rums including Stolen Coffee and Cigarettes to give it a little smoke, a little caramel. My fall spice grenadine, pineapple, orange, and lemon juices and passionfruit. It’s typically this sugary, frozen blended mess but it’s a really beautiful Tiki cocktail if you do it right.”
Pimm’s Cup: “Another Southern classic. I had asked for a Pimm’s Cup a few times in New Orleans but I never had one that I was completely satisfied with. But the closest one I got was at Carousel Bar with cucumber and strawberry so I just took the idea from there and went with it.”
Yellow King: “This is a variation on an Old Fashioned, another thing that I experienced in New Orleans that I wanted to replicate the flavor of. I have chicory from Cafe du Monde that I made into the sugar element of the Old Fashioned. And then for the bitters it’s Angostura and Miracle Mile toasted pecan bitters.”
Bijou: “It’s a neo-classic New Orleans cocktail barrel aged about two months. It worked out really beautifully because the sweet element of this cocktail is the chartreuse and the vermouth and the bitters. These are the things that balance all that out together, they’re all bitter, they’re all viscous. So this one didn’t need any changing to its regular spec recipe. Whereas my Boulevardier and Vieux Carre needed a little tweaking.”