While we’ll never turn a perfect dry martini away, when warm summer nights roll in, switching it up feels kind of essential. We turned to our very talented bartender friend, Forrest Hudes (who also happens to be a woodworker and musician, naturally) for some ideas on reinventing classics. He spent the day with us at Elysian, a beautiful restaurant and event space tucked away on Los Angeles’ east side, giving us lessons in beet syrup, rose-infused vodka, and the delights of a subtle spin on a classic Old Fashioned. Below, five of his favorites to see us all through summer.
“This drink comes from the millennia-long journey undergone in Tom Robbins’ novel of the same name to find the perfect perfume recipe. Along with lemon and jasmine, the secret ingredient turns out to be beets. The syrup takes some time and care to make, but at the end you have a rich crimson syrup and some sugar boiled beets that are great for a garnish or on top of a dessert.”
“This surprising-looking drink comes from Jo Leon Guerrero of Huckleberry Bar in Brooklyn. We worked there together and I brought this recipe with me to the West Coast where it has been a crowd pleaser many times. It may not offer you eternal youth, but like the fictional Dorian Gray, Basil will be your best friend. Try infusing your tequila with black pepper for a few days for a twist with a kick.”
“A floral twist on a Sidecar. Infusions are a great and amazingly simple way to impress people and add a lot of flavor to a drink. Dried rose petals will make a great infusion, but if you have fresh roses in the garden and no one to give them to an even more delicate flavor will be imparted. The color of this drink, especially contrasted with a fresh mint leaf garnish, is a real eye catcher. Light and refreshing, it will still leave you a little rosey if you aren’t careful.”
“It is always good to have a few Old Fashioned variations up your sleeve. In an environment of basically three ingredients, little changes can make a big impact. The marriage of the yuzu and lavender makes for something citrus-y, floral, and delicious—it also makes this one slightly lighter. Use demerara syrup, not simple or a sugar cube. It is no harder to make and will add a very noticeable depth of flavor to your drink. White sugar really doesn’t belong anywhere near an Old Fashioned. This recipe features two Los Angeles companies, Miracle Mile Bitters Co. and Greenbar Craft Distillery.”
“As much as I love fancy ingredients, infusions, syrups, bitters, etc., sometimes it is best to get back to basics. For the no-nonsense drinker, there is The Hank. Named after my father, who has one every night, this was the first cocktail recipe I ever learned. A decent reposado tequila, fresh squeezed lime and orange juice, and just the right proportions will make this drink delicious. A great option for those no sugar added types, or after a long night of mixing complicated drinks.”