A Walk in the Garden: Cocktails delight at the Roosevelt Hotel

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Matthew Biancanello is an artist, an educator, an entertainer, oh and yes….he’s also a bartender.  The brains behind the unwritten cocktail menu at the Roosevelt Hotel’s den-like Library Bar, Matthew has developed a drink list that will surprise and delight even the most seasoned spirits connoisseur.  On a recent visit, I sat on a zebra print bar stool and oogled over fresh produce that lines the bar – golden raspberries, kumquats, limequats, a bouquet of flowering sage from Maggie’s Farm.  And then my drink arrived…in an egg.  Yes the Indian Summer cocktail incorporates egg whites (a Leopold Cherry Liqueur foam to be exact) to give it that frothy mouth feel, but Matthew also serves the drink in a tourquoise and sapphire speckled emu egg that he buys at he farmers market.

Indian Summer.
Indian Summer. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

The cocktails continued to impress.  A Walk in the Garden, my personal favorite, blends fennel infused gin, lime juice, agave nectar, fresh celery juice and fleur de sel.  Garnished with a thick slice of star fruit it looks like a garden party in a glass.

A Walk in the Garden.
A Walk in the Garden. (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Next I sipped on a Manhattan made with shitake infused bourbon – an earthy twist on a traditional cocktail.  I watched as he muddled golden raspberries for his Sage Heaven which he garnished with flowering sage.  Strawberries met a 30 year aged balsamic in The Last Tango in Modena – with a St. Germain foam on top it’s a drink that suits it’s name.

I listened as Matthew waxed poetic about the slow cocktail movement.  “It’s similar to Alice Waters and the Slow Food Movement,” he said.  “I want people to think about what they are drinking.”  And think I did as he handed me an amuse bouche – half of a passion fruit filled with Hangar 1 Mandarin Vodka and agave.  Spoon in hand I wondered…am I eating a cocktail?  All questions faded on my first bite.  It was delicious.

You can find Matthew and his delicious concoctions at The Library Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel.  Below is a recipe for A Walk in the Garden.

A Walk in the Garden

1 bottle of Plymouth Gin
3 fennel bulbs
lime juice
agave nectar
fresh celery juice
fleur de sel
star fruit

Infuse three bulbs of fresh fennel into one bottle of Plymouth Gin for two weeks. In a shaker, mix 2 oz of fennel infused gin with 3/4 oz lime juice, 3/4 oz agave and 1 oz of fresh celery juice. Shake and double strain into a cocktail glass. add a pinch of salt and garnish with StarFruit.