Bartender Chat: PABU's Nick Jones on the Making of a Seasonal Cocktail Menu

by Liz Rapoport on Jan 14, 2013 in Culture for Pabu
Bartender Chat: PABU's Nick Jones on the Making of a Seasonal Cocktail Menu

Cocktail bars have been popping up in Baltimore at an incredible rate, and we are certainly not opposed. Our fascination with the creation of seasonal drink menus led us to sit down with Nick Jones, lead bartender at new Harbor East restaurant PABU, who has been behind the stick at the Japanese restaurant since its May 2012 opening. We chatted about the creative process behind building a cocktail list and about the specifics behind some of his successes.

Inspiration is the name of the cocktail creation game, whether it comes from a winter flavor, a memory, a scent or a spirit. Most winter drinks are based around heavier spirits like bourbon, whiskey, brandy and rum, which are then somehow paired with a flavor element of the season. At PABU, most of Nick’s inspiration comes from Japanese flavors including sake, lemongrass, ginger and yuzu. Our favorite example of this is the Katsura, which perfectly blends the spicy bite of ginger with a sweeter maple-ginger-infused rum, served over ice ($10).

According to Nick, the goal for each individual cocktail is to produce a drink that is well-balanced and approachable, that uses ingredients purposefully (instead of just for show) and fits in well to the overarching menu. It's the epitome of a trial-and-error process as flavors are infused (both successfully and unsuccessfully) and proportions are tested. One of the most successful examples of a well-balanced and approachable drink from the menu is the Mr. Miyagi, made with thyme-infused bourbon, Carpano Antica vermouth, lemon and local honey ($10). The thyme mellows out the Manhattan-inspired drink giving it a wider appeal with a slightly sweet aftertaste.

There is something for everyone on this well-crafted menu; if you haven't yet ventured into the Four Seasons' izakaya for a drink, we highly suggest giving it a try. After you sample PABU's first seasonal cocktail offering, look for an entirely new list for spring around May.


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