I've got to concur with the Chronicle’s five choices for its 2011 Bar Stars. Between this column and my Perfect Spot newsletter, you’ve heard me talk about drinks made by all five bartenders chosen (like Kevin Diedrich and Alex Smith). Today, I'll share the hottest concoctions by awardee Carlo Splendorini.
Splendorini made some beautiful drinks during his tenure at Gitane, so it’s no surprise that he's continuing his tradition of excellence as lead bartender at Michael Mina’s flagship restaurant. Giving each creation Italian charm (and channeling Old Blighty thanks to his time at Nobu London), he’s ably backed by a strong bartending crew that includes Kate Bolton.
My latest visit with Splendorini took place before his Bar Stars honor – and after sampling seven of his cocktails, I was throughly impressed with the range, restraint, and beauty he showed in his selections – always lessons in refinement. He's inventive, yet manages to leave one with the lingering sensation of balance. His drinks are as impressive, but never gimmicky as the latest cocktail trend.
Using Zucca, a bittersweet Italian amaro-aperitif, as the base of his Fraggle Cup ($11) was genius. It was particularly refreshing on the rocks with fresh tangerine wedges and a mini-forest of ginger stalks standing tall in the large glass in which it was served. I recommend this drink to anyone: especially for the exposure it provides to the range possible in amaro-based drinks.
A self-serve sazerac ($10) is as fun as it sounds: deconstructed, and waiting for you to ingest any way you find desirable – either which the ingredients mixed together or taken separately. A shot of Rittenhouse 100 rye was paired with an absinthe marshmallow, lemon zest, and a truly inspired Peychaud’s bitters jelly. Balanced layers were achieved in Splendorini’s gorgeous Schiedam Blossom (photo on right, $12 – part of the Nolet Gin cocktail competition open through July 15). Nolet Gin and sake melded with a fennel-ginger cordial, silky with egg white.
I could go on, but instead, I urge you to sit down at the bar with a few orders of Mina’s impeccable food, and let Splendorini and crew work their magic on you.
-- Subscribe to Virgina's twice monthly newsletter, The Perfect Spot