Trying to fill big bartending shoes is never easy. For drinkers, there is an equally conflicting desire to order some of the drinks you loved on the menu from the previous bar manager, but also to have the new kid demonstrate their skills with new drinks. It is a tension that isn't easy to navigate for customers or bartender, but after one sip of the Color of Money ($10, Dolin Genepy Liqueur, lemon, sage, cava, absinthe) at Honor Bar, we were able to breathe a sigh a relief. Alex Smith (currently at Novela) had passed the bar manager position to a worthy successor: Eric Grenier.
The name of the drink is a wink to the Martin Scorsese movie, but the only hustle going on is how herbal the drink is without tasting medicinal. Grenier says that the drink is a play on a French 75 (gin, lemon, sugar, sparkling wine), but after a couple of sips, I had a hard time not comparing it to another classic drink, the Death in the Afternoon (absinthe, sparkling wine).
Death in the Afternoon was drink that saw its popularity and revival come with the legal availability of absinthe in 2007. With the exception of Kate Bolton's lovely version at Maven, it is a cocktail that I always wanted to love more, but simply never found balanced enough to drink for more than novelty. Here Grenier demonstrates that all the drink needed to make it an excellent herbal showcase and refreshing at the same time was to combine it with the French 75 -- in other words, less absinthe, a little citrus, and a dash of sugar.
Well, that and another ingredient only recently made more readily available: genepy. A wormwood-focused liquor like absinthe, genepy has a much lower proof and less of an anise emphasis. In some ways, it remarkably similar to an alpine version of green chartreuse, but here, it's perfectly suited to contribute an herbaceous kick without too much sweetness or alcoholic punch. "I get a hint of sage when nosing a glass of genepy and on the palate as well," says Grenier. "In order to coax that particular flavor out of the liqueur I decided to make a simple syrup Infused with sage."
Grenier's new menu has kept about a half-dozen of Smith's greatest Honor Bar hits like the Black Sabbath ($10, islay scotch, averna, absinthe, orange bitters), The Von Teese ($10, vodka, elderflower, mathilde poire, absinthe, peychaud's, lemon), and one of our favorites, the Queen Anne's Revenge ($10, hibiscus-infused gin, lemon grapefruit marmalade, egg white, ginger beer). The rest of the menu is filled out with a combination of Grenier's own creations and classic drinks. Don't miss out on the spice-driven Winter Warmer ($10, rye, nocino, xocolatl mole bitters, creole bitters, green chartreuse) that comes off like a Sazerac wearing a spiced sweater.
Along with adding new cocktails, Grenier has expanded the wine list and by-the-glass selection to offer more choices to go with the food like the delicious trio of housemade sausages ($16 served with whole grain mustard aioli, cilantro mustard, soft baked pretzel). While much of the food menu hasn't been updated since Honor Bar opened up, it sounds like an update will slowly begin within the next few months.
Pop in to Honor Bar and watch the new kid hustle.
Color of Money
1 oz. Dolin Genepy Liqueur
½ oz. Lemon juice
½ oz. Sage-infused simple syrup*
2 dashes Absinthe
2 oz. Cava or another dry sparkling wine
Place absinthe in chilled coupe and set aside.
Combine Dolin Genepy, lemon juice, and sage infused simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into the prepared coupe. Top with sparkling wine.
*Sage-infused simple syrup:
Bring one quart water to boil and remove from heat. Add one cup torn fresh sage and steep for ten minutes. Strain out sage leaves and add one quart white granulated sugar, and stir until dissolved. Let cool completely before using.
Honor Bar, Grill & Cocktails, 1411 Powell (at Hollis), Emeryville, (510) 653-8667