Episode 075 - Developing a Cocktail Menu

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What’s shakin, cocktail fans?

Welcome back to another episode of The Modern Bar Cart Podcast!

This time around, we had the pleasure of speaking with Hakim Hamid, who’s the beverage director of a really excellent speakeasy-style cocktail bar called “Nocturne” here in DC. We spoke about a new, globe-trotting menu he’s recently developed, really taking our time to explore that process. So whether you’re contemplating creating a menu for an event you’re hosting at your home, or if you’re just curious to peer behind the curtain and develop a better understanding about what it takes to develop a spectacular menu, this episode is for you.

Beverage Director Hakim Hamid

Beverage Director Hakim Hamid

Some of the topics we cover in this really fun conversation with Hakim include:

  • How to think about the difference between bartenders, mixologists, and beverage directors, and how Hakim’s curiosity and insatiable imagination propelled him into the role of “Beverage Director” at Nocturne.

  • The roles that bar design, vision, and leadership all play in the execution and ultimate success or failure of a cocktail menu.

  • How Hakim started this menu with a single, crucial cocktail that then led him around the world and even permeated his dreams as the menu took shape.

  • The relationship between food and drinks on a cocktail menu and how to go about pairing them with balance and delight.

  • How to think about guests as renewable resources, capitalizing on relationships, rather than volume and high profit margins.

  • Which member of the Expendables to grab a drink with in London

  • And much, much more.

Nocturne Bar is a sister establishment to another bar across the river in Alexandria, VA called Captain Gregory’s. Both bars are “speakeasy-style,” and both are hidden on the premises of donut shops in a local chain called “Sugar Shack.”

Nocturne is open Wednesday-Saturday 6pm-Midnight. To make a reservation at Nocturne, visit their reservations page. You can find Hakim on social media @teamhh_ and Nocturne @nocturnebardc.

Featured Cocktail: The Flower of Normandy

This week’s featured cocktail is “The Flower of Normandy.” To make the Flower of Normandy cocktail, you’ll need:

  • 2 oz Calvados (which is a french, barrel-aged apple brandy)

  • ¾ oz of an Elderflower Liqueur like St. Germain

  • Several Dashes of Orange bitters - I of course, use our Embitterment Orange Bitters

Combine these ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, stir for 15-20 seconds until it’s well chilled and diluted, then strain into a stemmed cocktail glass and garnish with an orange twist.

It’s delightful, bright, and perfumed. It’s like walking through an orchard bursting with fruit on a sunny day in the early fall.

This cocktail is also a great way to start exploring the wonderful world of Calvados, which is definitely one of my all-time favorite spirits. So if you’re having a hard time finding a liquor store that sells it in your neck of the woods, rest assured that it’s a search worth undertaking. I promise.

The clear, back-lit menu at Nocturne

The clear, back-lit menu at Nocturne

Lightning Round

Favorite Cocktail

Belvedere vodka martini, straight up, lemon twist, in-and-out rinse with dry vermouth.

If You Were a Cocktail Tool or Ingredient, What Would You Be?

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A jigger - primarily because the jigger gets handled and utilized. Sometimes it’s the aftertought, but ideally, it’s the rubric by which all of us can be measured in terms of executing something perfectly time and time again.

Cocktail with Anyone, Past or Present

Jason Statham (circa The Expendables) at the bar of his choice in London.

Influential Cocktail Books

The Flavor Bible

Advice for New Home Bartenders

Try your best to make a non-alcoholic beverage that you want to consume more than once. One of the hardest things to do is to come up with a non-alcoholic beverage that’s so good that you want it again and again. It’ll push your creativity beyond booze and really prompt you to develop your understanding of balance.