Barman Matthew Biancaniello has a unique problem. Because of his special brand of bartending—which involves effusive cocktail education, esoteric ingredients, and imaginative flavor combinations—the projects he’s consulted on end up not following through with his menus. Cases in point: Pot Lobby Bar, Rivera 31, and H2 Kitchen & Bar.
In many cases, the establishment steers away from Biancaniello’s intricate menu because they want to accommodate their high volume of guests. But, on the other side of the equation, some of the bar chef’s most avid followers only want to see him behind the bar. They want to hear him describe how he made the cocktails, which mountain he plucked the ingredients from, why he picked certain spirits. And this is part of why he says his latest consulting gig at Avenue 31 on Sunset Boulevard will be his last one ever for L.A.
The good news is that Biancaniello will open his own spot soon where he’ll finally settle in as a permanent fixture, as opposed to the pop-up star he’s known as. “Once I have my own place, my plan is to have my own omakase bar where I will always be behind the bar so people can come and talk to me and I can do what I do,” he says. “But all my drinks will come out of the kitchen and go to all the tables and I’d still be around.” No word yet when that’s going to happen but he does say, “soon.”
A good thing as he, too, is feeling the burden of consulting and of impermanence. “I’m so sick of bottles clinking in my trunk. I feel like I’m camping,” he jokes. “What I’ve been able to do without a home has been amazing. Imagine if I had a home? I could build things.”
But for his final gig at Avenue 31 you’ll see a restrained Biancaniello menu of eight cocktails. “I’m not doing the stuff that I normally do. I’m simplifying but still having the flavor and complexity.” And of course, for Biancaniello “restrained” means touches like clear tomato gazpacho in a Blood Mary Mimosa, shiitake mushroom-infused rum, and meat rub in a tequila cocktail.
He says he has big plans to create a late night menu of alcoholic oyster shooters as well as an extensive gin and tonic menu and an offering of his modern classics like the Last Tango in Modena. But he’s still working on getting the bar and bar team up to speed.
However, since he’s out of town for most of month, he’ll have to revisit the program when he returns in October and there will most likely be revisions and additions. For now here’s a peek at some of the cocktails from his current Avenue 31 menu with notes by Biancaniello himself.
Bubbly Mary: “This is a take on the Bloody Mary savory drink. I originally learned how to make tomato water from Walter Manzke when we did test kitchen together. So I learned that process from him and added different flavors. I put a little bit of garlic, basil, and tomatoes.”
Pimm’s Cup: “Pimm’s Cup is basically four different alcohols — Ford’s gin, Punt e Mes sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering and Grand Marnier — and then I infuse it with strawberry figs. But that’s a one-time thing because it’s in season for a week. So we’re going to make that with apple, rhubarb and pears and then you muddle cucumber, mint, and ginger so it has some of the flavor profiles but also the complexity.”
Dirty Martini: “The martini is made with oregano and garlic infused vodka. Maybe I should switch it to gin but this neighborhood…olive juice, manzanilla sherry and then it has roasted tomatoes and I’m working on a jalapeno olive oil on top. I’m trying to create this Italian pepperoni pizza that’s savory.”