I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but annual food event L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade, which will be held at UCLA this Saturday, is one of my top L.A. food festivals. And a big reason why is that it always has a stellar bartender lineup. Sure, they’ve got a huge wine selection AND actual craft beer; none of those huge macro beer buyouts. But it’s that inclusion of quality bartenders and craft cocktails that puts the event up and over.
“We invite the [bartenders] we respect the most for their creativity and talent and that have the spirit of our event—the same criteria we have for our participating chefs and vintners,” says L.A. Loves Alex’s Lemonade co-host and A.O.C/Lucques wine director Caroline Styne. “We all win.”
To help plan your drinking itinerary for the event, here’s a peek at what the bartenders will be serving up this Saturday.
Neal Bodenheimer of Cure NOLA: Bartender Bodenheimer, who Chef David Lentz first connected with at another culinary event, is bringing a little bit of New Orleans with him. “We will be doing a slight variation/punch version of a cocktail on the current Cure late summer/early fall menu with Carpano Bianco Vermouth, blueberry reduction, lemon and unaged brandy. As well, we will be doing a warm weather stirred cocktail with Teeling Irish whiskey and Carpano Bianco.”
Eric Alperin and Max Seaman of The Varnish: They’ll be serving up two variations of a blended Piña Colada—one with Brugal Anejo Rum and the other with Black Grouse scotch. Yup, a Piña Colada with scotch! “We tried it with scotch and discovered that scotch and pineapple are a great combination,” said Alperin. And this will be a momentous occasion as The Varnish doesn’t normally use blenders for its classic cocktail program, but decided to have fun at the event and “go off the reservation.”
Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest of Liquid Assets: The charismatic duo who did the opening cocktail program for bars like 1886 Bar and Los Angeles Athletic Club’s Invention will make La Calavera, a cocktail with El Silencio Mezcal, Cynar, fresh ginger, lime, and grapefruit soda.
Mari Tuttle of The Hungry Cat: Her Blue Ribbons cocktail for the event was inspired by one of the desserts currently coming out of the kitchen at Hungry Cat, a stone fruit and blueberry crisp. “The blueberries offer up sweetness and tartness in one,” said Tuttle. “So for this cocktail, I baked the blueberries with sugar and a pinch of salt and let them blister open to release their juices.” Here’s her recipe for you to do it up at home.
by Mari Tuttle of Hungry Cat
2 oz Fortaleza Blanco
1 oz blistered blueberries*
3/4 oz lemon juice
1 eye dropper full chocolate mole bitters
Shake and strain over fresh ice. Add an additional eye dropper full of bitters on top.
1/2 dry pint blueberries, washed and destemmed
2 pinches coarse salt
7 oz sugar + 1 teaspoon
8 oz water
Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a parchment lined baking sheet pour blueberries in a single layer. Sprinkle teaspoon sugar and kosher salt over blueberries. Bake for 5 minutes or until blueberries blister and about to burst.
While blueberries are baking, put water and remaining sugar on to boil in a small pot. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer for 2 minutes. Add blueberries and any juice that may have escaped. Stir for two minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain mixture into a clean glass jar. Refrigerate. Will keep for about two weeks.