Thursday, August 29, 2013
This piece appears in the Fall 2013, No. 9, issue of Edible Monterey Bay...and hit the newstands today (29 August 2013).
Adventurous Libations for Whatever Ails You
– at Restaurant 1833
Story and Photos by Camilla M. Mann
In 1833, James Stokes, a British sailor, jumped ship with several cases of medicine and fraudulently presented himself as a doctor, opening a pharmacy in the single room, tile-roofed adobe in downtown Monterey.
Recently I sat in Stokes’s Apothecary, at a pale onyx bar that glows eerily under massive chandeliers and shelves that are lined with vintage bottles, books, and artifacts that evoke the 19th century. I was there to chat with Stokes’s present-day successor, Michael Lay, about his own methods of salving our ills. Luckily for us, the cocktails he crafts at Restaurant 1833 are the real deal. They’ve also attracted a big local following since the restaurant opened two years and in July, Zagat named Lay to its 2013 “30 Under 30” list of rising stars in the Bay Area restaurant world.
I’ve heard people refer to themselves as mixologists or spiritsmiths versus bartenders and asked his preference. “I’m a bartender,” he affirms. “To me, bartending is the embodiment of hospitality. It’s about making a drink that people enjoy, something that provokes curiosity and starts a conversation.”
Ted Glennon, sommelier and Beverage Director for 1833, joined us. “We celebrate the classic cocktails – going back to the basics but with an innovative spin.Michael is constantly reading and coming up with new riffs on traditional drinks,” he says.
Michael chuckles and admits, “Yeah, I’m kind of a nerd that way.” He chooses fresh ingredients for the cocktail menu whose House Remedies include Pain Killers, described as humble concoctions to numb your aches and lift your spirits; Stress Relievers; and Elixirs. “This is Stokes’s old pharmacy. So we play with that 1800s Wild West apothecary theme. Back in those days, the medicine prescribed to you contained booze. It might not do anything, but it would intoxicate you and you’d actually feel better.”
Bitters, a combination of alcohol, herbs, spices, and other flavorings, were originally created as medicinals. People might still aid digestion, after a heavy meal, with a nip of bitters, but, today, bitters are mainly used to add a layer of flavor and botanical wizardry to mixed drinks.
The cult following for craft cocktails here in our area and around the country has created an explosion of new bitters purveyors and prompted many bartenders and home mixers to concoct their own. Michael’s bar has the classics – Angostura and Peychaud’s – as well as an entire array of exotic varieties, including celery bitters and cardamom bitters. He also has a collection of housemade bitters, including orange bitters that he uses in the recipe he shared below.
A few elements elevate Michael’s cocktail creations above your regular bar offerings: freshness, creativity, and passion. “It’s about the experience,” he explains. “We have our tableside absinthe cart and we do a hot buttered rum tableside also. We want people to come here for an adventure.”
Courtesy Michael Lay, bartender, Restaurant 1833
2 ounces Weller 90 Bourbon
½ ounce Yellow Chartreuse
½ ounce Bonal Gentiane Quina
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
½ ounce fresh orange juice
2 dashes orange bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Strain and serve over ice in a cocktail glass.