Even in this unusually dry and warm winter, a tiki drink may not have the immediate appeal that may feel combing the beaches in a tropical part of the world. But I'd argue that the citrus, spices, and aged rums common to many Polynesian-inspired tiki drinks are seasonally more appropriately in a California winter than summer.
At Cotogna, lead bartender Kenny Dill makes damn good argument with his Orchard Cane ($12, blend of rums, apple cider, saffron liqueur, cinnamon tincture). Although not tiki outright, the blend of a dark and white rums and cinnamon tincture flavors share enough common DNA that you almost feel like there should be a paper umbrella in the drink.
"I am a big fan of Smith and Cross rum as well as Liquore Strega so I wanted to feature these ingredients in a 'tiki' style fall/winter cocktail," says Dill. "The flavor profiles for both spirits are very assertive and tend to over power drinks so the trick was finding the right combination of flavors to make everything balance out well."
The name references the apples (the "orchard" in the name) and the rum (the "cane") that together yield a tall and amazingly refreshing cocktail, with enough spice and saffron to make it an interesting compliment to the apple cider and rums. Sipping one while sitting at the gleaming polished copper bar with the embers in the hearth sizzling is a markedly cozy experience.
The kitchen at Cotogna influences Dill, in both bounty and technique, to make his many syrups, tinctures, and infusions made sous-vide. While it's not that uncommon these days, the resulting intricate syrups are so good they work on their own. The alcohol-free and awesome housemade root beer ($5) finally convinces skeptics (like me) what all the sassafras is about.
Dill also serves up a rendition of one of my favorite cocktails, the Vieux Carré (rye whiskey, cognac brandy, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud bitters, Angostura bitters) perfect as an after-dinner drink. It was a collaborative effort with bartender Jay Pouliot, where the pair took the basic recipe and swapped out parts to create something different.
Instead of rye whiskey, the bar used rye-based gin, and where the recipe called for cognac, pisco brandy was used. Swapping in white vermouth for the sweet, green chartreuse for the Benedictine, and orange bitters for the traditional Angostura and Peychauds, Dill put together the Vieux Carré Blanc ($12, St. George Dry Rye Gin, pisco, Dolin Blanc, green chartreuse). Lighter and herbal in flavors compared to the original, it's a welcome contrast to the traditional drink.
¾ oz. Smith and Cross Rum
¾ oz. Plantation 3 Stars Silver Rum
¾ oz. Liquore Strega
¾ oz. Lemon juice
3 dashes Cinnamon tincture
1 barspoon Rich simple syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water)
2 oz. Apple cider
Combine all ingredients except apple cider in a shaker with ice. Shake to combine ingredients and pour into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Top with apple cider and garnish with cinnamon stick.
Cotogna, 490 Pacific (at Montgomery), 775-8508