Walking in to Michael Mina, it was hard not to feel a little intimidated, even during happy hour when the dining room is closed and the bar takes center stage. Patrons dressed to the nines fill the seats and standing room, sipping cocktails while chatting business and fashion. Thankfully, the bar staff does a stellar job making everyone feel comfortable and the short list of five cocktails are priced to do the same ($10-$12).
With new chef Ron Siegel at helm, slowly incorporating his renown use of Japanese ingredients and techniques, bar manager Carlo Splendorini has been in lockstep. In lesser hands this would be a disaster, but Splendorini's restrained and elegant cocktails succeeds. While some of the ingredients may be Asian, the well-crafted drinks don't taste gimmicky or feel like something was shoehorned in.
Arriving in a burnished copper mug, The Orient ($11, Akvinta Vodka, Domaine De Canton Ginger Liqueur, sencha green tea syrup, yuzu, lemon, kaffir lime, Meyer lemon foam) is a model of unique ingredients combined really well, and deliciously so. Looking a little like Christmas holly in a cup, the texture wonderfully velvety, just sweet enough and looking damn cool in that copper mule cup. We scored the recipe from Splendorini, but if it looks too intense, don't worry, it'll be on the menu through the holidays.
1 ½ oz. Akvinta Vodka
½ oz. Domaine De Canton Ginger Liqueur
½ oz. Sencha green tea syrup
½ oz. Yuzu juice
¼ oz. Lemon juice
2 Kaffir lime leaves
Meyer lemon foam*
Combine all ingredients in a shaker tin. Muddle kaffir lime leaves to extract aromatic oils, then add ice and shake for 10 seconds.
Double Strain into a Copper Mug or Rocks Glass over 4 ice cubes, and gently layer ¼ inch of Meyer lemon foam. Garnish with lemon leaf and pink peppercorn flakes.
*Meyer Lemon Foam
Makes enough for 20 drinks
10 Meyer Lemons
1 Quart sugar
1 Quart water
5 Gelatin sheets
Wash the Meyer lemon with very hot water and rub the skin with a hot towel. Carefully peel the zest of the lemons and combine zest with the sugar and water in a saucepan.
Simmer the zest, water, and sugar for 20 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and the color of the syrup is golden and fragrant. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, soak the gelatin sheets in 15 oz. of very cold water until soft. Whisk in the softened gelatin into the hot syrup, making sure the gelatin completely dissolves. Let cool for at least 2 hours. Strain syrup and place into a whipped cream charger. Charge as directed by manufacturer.
Michael Mina, 252 California (at Battery), 397-9222