Playing With Fire: 6 Cocktails To Serve at Your ‘Cue

Julian Cox, Marcos Tello, Zak Fishman & more top bartenders share drink recipes that pair well with grilled foods.

You can have a burger and a beer anytime—why not step it up at your next backyard barbecue by serving up some craft cocktails? After all, with cocktails, you can complement the smokiness of grilled food and celebrate the season’s freshest fruit at the same time. I asked bartenders at local barbecue joints and bar and grill-type restaurants for their favorite cocktails to pair with grilled meats. Below, find their recipes.

➽ Earlier this year when Bludso’s Bar-&-Que on La Brea first opened, co-owner Jason Bernstein paired the cocktails at his restaurant paired with the menu’s various meat items. His standout favorite was his partner Zak Fishman’s Iron Mine. “Basically this is just a riff on a daiquiri using two kinds of rum. The double strength sugar syrup allows for a slightly caramelized flavor that goes well with grilled or smoked meat. I’m a huge fan of this drink,” said Jason.

Iron Mine by Zak Fishman, Bludso’s Bar-&-Que La Brea

1 oz anejo rum
1 oz Smith & Cross Rum
1 oz lime juice
0.5 oz double strength sugar syrup (2:1 sugar to water)  

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake. Pour into a glass.

➽ Marcos Tello, cocktail consultant for Pedalers Fork, likes something light and refreshing with his backyard ‘cue. “We are putting [Brent Falco’s] cocktail on our list at Pedaler’s Fork for the summer,” said Marcos. “It’s pretty easy to make and watermelon goes perfectly with BBQ.”

Shifter Swizzle by Brent Falco, Pedaler’s Fork

3 watermelon square cubes (inch a piece)
5-6 mint leaves
1 white sugar cube
1/2 oz simple syrup (1:1 sugar and water, stir til dissolved)
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
Pinch of sea salt
2 oz Dorothy Parker Gin
Club soda

Place all ingredients except the soda in a Collins or pint glass. Muddle, add crushed ice and swizzle. Top up with soda. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Julian Cox, mixologist extraordinaire, shared recipes for two of his favorites at Petty Cash in Mid-City. “They’re both great drinks to be paired with grilled food because they’re refreshing, perfect for summer and who doesn’t love to barbecue with some delicious drinks, especially a margarita.” I’m sayin’!

Petty Cash Margarita by Julian Cox, Petty Cash

2 oz 100% agave tequila
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz lime juice
1 oz citrus-spiked agave nectar (agave infused with lemon and lime zests)

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and pour in a glass.

Oaxacan Old Fashioned by Julian Cox, Petty Cash

1 ½ oz reposado tequila
1/2 oz Mezcal
1/4-1/2 oz Agave nectar
Angostura Bitters

Combine ingredients in a rocks glass with ice and stir. Garnish with a flamed orange twist.

➽ Dave Stolte, cocktail aficionado and author of Home Bar Basics, used to be part owner of a barbecue catering company, so he knows his smoke. “Strawberry-infused tequila La Paloma is my drink. It’s our favorite summer drink at home (until 100-degree weather hits, then it’s an “Absinthe Frappé”). We wait until strawberries are at their peak and this infused tequila is done by the end of July.”

Strawberry-Infused La Paloma by Dave Stolte, Home Bar Basics

2 oz Tequila por mi Amante* (strawberry-infused tequila)
1/2 oz lime juice
1 pinch salt
3 oz grapefruit soda (recommended: Jarritos Toronja)

Combine first three ingredients in shaker about a third-full with ice. Shake briefly to blend and chill. Then strain into a Collins glass filled about two-thirds of the way up with cracked ice. Top with grapefruit soda. Stir lightly to blend and garnish with a lime wheel. Optionally, serve with a straw.

➽ For this grill-inspired drink Jax Bar and Grill bartender Ken Baranda combined the flavors of smoked peaches and bourbon—which may be my favorite summer flavors. This recipe takes some doing but like a good ‘cue, it’s worth it.

Summer and Smoke by Ken Baranda, Jax Bar and Grill
1/4 smoked peach*
4 sage leaves
3/4 oz honey syrup**
3/4 oz lemon
1 teaspoon St. Elizabeth all spice dram
2 oz Elijah Craig Bourbon

Muddle smoked peach first then add sage leaves and lightly press into peach. Add lemon, honey, dram, bourbon. Shake and strain over crushed ice in a double Old Fashion glass. Garnish with peaches and sage sprig.  

*smoked peaches:core and cut peaches into quarters place in a Ziplock bag. Use a Smoking Gun ($99 by Polyscience available at Williams-Sonoma) with hickory chips smoke the bag and seal for 5 minutes.  

**honey syrup: dilute honey with hot water 80/20 mixture honey to water. More cocktail recipes on