America is a binary nation. At least that is what many writers would have you believe; contrast of rich and poor, urban and country, democrat and republican, north and south and now it would seem the same applies to East and West Coast cocktails.
Francois Philippot, Giffard’s Export Sales Manager, has just returned from a trip to the ‘Land of the Free’ and he has been talking to us about the contrasts between Boston and Seattle’s cocktail drinkers. When we met him he was on ebullient form, not just from his tour of the US, but from last month’s Copenhagen Spirits and Cocktail Show. According to Francois, the UK and German hegemony of the European cocktail scene is being challenged by Sweden and in particular Denmark but that is the subject for another post.
Having attended a course at Harvard a few years ago, Francois is no stranger to Boston and enjoyed this year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the Eastern Standard Kitchen. According to CBS Boston it ‘is the bar that is largely credited with elevating the cocktail scene in Boston to a new level’ and to a large extent that is true. It is a big bar with something for everyone on the menu and
a great cocktail list. Francois smiled as he described Eastern Standard as “a fun place and a must for any visitor of Boston, not just because of the food and cocktails but because the very ambiance of the bar typifies the East Coast cocktail scene. No matter how much East Coast bars hark back to prohibition speakeasies, there is a polished, refined element to them. Not just their cocktails but the people who frequent the bars too. This is formal America letting its hair down and partying”.
“It is a different story on the West Coast where everything is a little easier, more informal and relaxed from the outset”, he continued. Seattle boasts the Zig Zag Cafe, described by GQ magazine as the best cocktail bar in America. Its manager and head bartender is Erik Hakkinen, a mixology legend and old friend of Francois. The address is 1501 Western Avenue, Seattle, but trying to find the bar using your iPhone can be a problem because it is close to Pike Place Market, ‘just down the stairs from Kasala Furniture’ or ‘just up the stairs from the Seattle Aquarium’. It may be a small challenge to find but people do and it is well worth it. Zig Zag is everything a bar should be, warm, informal and genuinely cosy.
Another old favourite is the Rob Roy at 2332 2nd Avenue, Seattle. Rob Roy has almost old-world feel to it, mixing deep leather sofas, golds and blacks not too mention some very special cocktails. The list contains a mix of classics and Rob Roy originals such as the Death of a Ladies Man and the Gunpowder Punch; yes it does contain gunpowder. The bar naturally opens up into the room breaking down barriers and creating a very different experience. Francois claims that it is “the perfect bar – the living room you always wanted. If Rob Roy himself ever visited, he would never go back to Scotland”.
Finally, we asked Francois what he is drinking at the moment and his cocktail of choice is
30ml VSOP cognac
15ml Giffard Mûroise du Val de Loire
10ml Giffard gingerbread syrup
30ml fresh grapefruit juice
Garnish – grapefruit peel
Fill the shaker with ice. Pour in all the ingredients. Shake vigorously until well chilled. Strain into a martini glass. Twist grapefruit peel and place it into the glass. Voila!