Bartender Chris Hewes first stepped into the glare of foodie camera phone flashes when he took over the cocktail program at the Hollywood Roosevelt’s Library Bar previously made famous by beloved mixologist Matthew Biancaniello. Now, he once again finds himself in the position of filling some rather large shoes—this time at Michael Voltaggio’s Ink, where star bartender Gabriella Mlynarczyk (who has since left for Cadet as well as some cocktail consulting gigs at Freddy Smalls and Birch) made a name for herself doing innovative things with boozy pixie dust, beer foam, and rapid barrel-aged spirits.
After some time at Library Bar and a couple of cocktail consulting gigs for Rare by Drai’s and Rustic Canyon, Hewes landed at Ink late last year, giving him access not only to a playground of cutting-edge kitchen equipment, but also to Voltaggio as both muse and teacher.
“I wanted to come here and complement everything that Michael’s done, everything that he’s about,” Hewes says.
Hewes’ goal was to create a food-friendly cocktail menu, where “every cocktail could be paired with a number of the different dishes on the menu.” And hearing him describe his cocktails, one can tell that he’s put considerable thought into this. If you’re looking for suggestions, Hewes is always happy to help as the interaction with diners is one of the main reasons he prefers working restaurant bars over cocktail bars.
“I enjoy telling people what they’re about to eat, something that’s dehydrated and rehydrated with its own juices and all this cool kind of stuff, and being like, ‘Hey, also you should have a cocktail as well, and this is what we did to make that cocktail,’” he says.
And what else has Hewes learned from the chef? The importance of the “Ooh” factor:
“[Voltaggio] taught me how to make cocktails look really pretty, like understanding garnishes. Before, I used to love making eight different cocktails that looked exactly the same, but he taught me how to make it so when the guest sees it, they really want it,” says Hewes.
Considering how Instagrammable his new cocktails are, it appears that lesson was a cinch.
Here are some of Hewes’ Ink cocktail and food pairing suggestions:
Cocktail: Genever, pineapple, rosemary, lime, Peychaud’s bitters cocktail
Pairs with: Pea, hummus, yogurt, black olive crouton and wild Alaskan halibut
“I think the pea dish we have is fantastic with that because of how refreshing it is and how they go back and forth with one another. Something about the rosemary and pineapple go really well with the sweet pea. Another thing that would go with that is the halibut dish. Super nice, refreshing, reminds you of spring.”
Cocktail: The Manhattan
Pairs with: Steak tartare, potato polenta and foie gras, and chocolate dessert
“For the Manhattan, I would have the steak tartare with the potatoes—the new potato polenta with the foie gras. The thinking is it’s going to be a really rich cocktail, but it’s actually a lot more refreshing in that sense. Definitely the chocolate dessert and the apple goes fantastic with it, echoing the chocolate notes in the cocktail. Plus, you have those digestive elements going on.”
Pairs with: Mountain yam dessert
“That’s one of my favorite little combinations right there because the toasted coconut goes with that, and it’s a classic, simple daiquiri. It’s not too citrusy, you get the coconut punch. I think it’s a very well-balanced daiquiri.”
Cocktail: Vodka, sencha tea, mint, Carpano Bianco, Salers aperitif, lime, cucumber
Pairs with: Salads and branzino.
“You get this cool but astringent mouth-feel because of the green tea. It would go well with any of the appetizer salads or the branzino fantastic with just how refreshing that is. Something about the grapes mimicking a classic French dish, which was the purpose of it. Something about a rich dish and having a refreshing cocktail.”
Cocktail: Amaro, cold brew coffee, amaretto, walnut liqueur, nut brown ale
Pairs with: All the desserts
“The Amaro cocktail is the perfect after-dinner drink. It complements every one of the desserts here. It goes well with the peanut butter, it goes well with the mountain yam, the chocolate dessert, especially, and the apple.”
Ink, 8360 Melrose Avenue #107, Los Angeles, 323-651-5866