For much of the past decade, New York and London have occupied the mixological spotlight, with their cutting-edge bars and their technique-oriented craft bartenders. But while these cities have deservedly drawn much attention, bartenders along the West Coast have been revolutionizing the craft of the cocktail in their own way, and now some of the best bartenders working between Los Angeles and Vancouver are featured in a new book, Left Coast Libations.
Written by Seattle-based cocktail aficionado Ted Munat with his Bay Area colleague Michael Lazar, Left Coast Libations gives more than 50 West Coast bartenders some much-needed recognition. Among those featured in the book is Seattle bartender Murray Stenson, a longtime fixture at Zig Zag Café and the recipient of the "American Bartender of the Year" award during last week's Tales of the Cocktail. Here's a drink Stenson contributed to the book that also features a product that won "Best New Product" at Tales this year: Stephan's Sour.
Stephan's Sour is notable for its classic simplicity: the heart of the drink is a basic gin sour, but the flavors are capped by the addition of The Bitter Truth celery bitters, a style of bitters that have a history stretching back more than a century but that have only become widely available in the U.S. within the past year (made in Germany by Stephan Berg and Alex Hauck, the bitters have been popular among European bartenders for a couple of years now). The celery plays off the vegetal notes in the gin, giving the drink added complexity, while the crispness of their flavor also amplifies the brightness of the lemon juice, making this a surprisingly engaging and seasonal cocktail.
It's not particularly fancy, but then, neither is Murray Stenson nor much of the style of West Coast bartending -- which makes this an appropriate Left Coast drink to start a relaxed summer weekend.
About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.
- 1 1/2 ounces gin (Stenson recommends Beefeater)
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, mixed until sugar dissolves)
- 2 dashes The Bitter Truth celery bitters
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well for 10 seconds; strain into chilled cocktail glass.