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The Torpedo © Emily Hsu
We use oils in just about every aspect of our lives: cooking, cleaning, car maintenance. Now bartenders are using oils—sparingly—in cocktails, for their intense aromas and flavors.
At Los Angeles’s new Koreatown speakeasy Lock & Key, sesame oil garnishes bartender Christophe Namer’s cocktail The Torpedo. The drink is so good it earned Namer the job of head bartender. “It was the first cocktail he made for me; that was when I knew he was the guy,” says Lock & Key’s owner Cyrus Batchan. The Torpedo is made with pear-flavored Grey Goose La Poire, maple syrup, pear nectar, fresh lemon juice, ginger juice, cracked black pepper and an egg white. Namer shakes the ingredients together hard enough to create a frothy top and strains the cocktail into a large coupette. He garnishes it with three small drops of ultra-fragrant toasted sesame seed oil. “The first thing to do is bring the drink up to your nose,” Batchan says.
The dots of sesame oil aren’t large enough to lend the drink an oily texture or impart extra weight. Instead, they give off a toasty, sesame-packed aroma that sets a savory stage for the lightly sweet drink. Batchan and Namer went through multiple droppers and spritzers before they found the perfect tool—a hair color applicator—for delivering the minute dots. Here, more drinks enhanced by flavored oils.
Rich Table, San Francisco
Inspired by the pastrami sandwich at the Carnegie Deli in New York City, bar manager Jason “Buffalo” LoGrasso created the Carnegie Martini. The only thing missing is the meat: St. George Dry Rye gin and caraway-flavored Combier Kummel play the bread, while a garnish of mustard oil and a small cornichon pickle complete the experience. It’s stirred over ice with lightly sweet Lillet Blanc to balance the savory elements, then strained into a coupe.
Red Door, Chicago
Bartender Jay Schroeder cuts intense cedar oil (used primarily in fragrances and wood polishes) with grain alcohol for easy integration—otherwise it would float on top of a drink. He uses the mixture in the Stay Classy, a blend of Bulleit rye whiskey, cinnamon-scented Cinzano Rosso vermouth, agave nectar and Luxardo Amaro Abano. The woodsy cocktail is served up in a rocks glass.
Levant, Portland, OR
The French-Arab restaurant serves Israeli olive oil-infused Plymouth gin in the rich and earthy Phaedon cocktail. Bartenders mix the gin with dry vermouth and coriander bitters. Stirred and strained into a small cocktail glass, it is garnished with a swath of lemon peel.
Trick Dog, San Francisco
The new Mission bar Trick Dog’s cocktail list recalls a Pantone color wheel. The Alligator Alley appears on an olive green card. It’s a take on a dirty martini with olive-oil infused Broker’s gin, Imbue bittersweet vermouth, Tempus Fugit Kina (a bitter, cinchona bark-infused aperitif wine), green Chartreuse and Seville orange tincture. Stirred and strained into a small cocktail glass, it’s garnished with an olive.