We all need to start somewhere in our road to learning about cocktails, and like many, my road started with the Lemon Drop -- the very first cocktail I learned to both make and enjoy.
It was in the era where every drink came shaken and served up with the surname "tini," that I started to learn about spirits and drinks. Some bartenders consider that epoch a dark time in bartending, and others deem that time with the kind of embarrassment usually reserved for Facebook photos of themselves as teenagers, confidently gangly and awkward. Most distance themselves from those drinks in favor of forgotten classics gleaned from dusty tomes, but Tim Zohn's menu at A.Q. says we can have both with a list forged entirely of "Martinis."
After being asked by a friend if anyone had ever done a high end Lemon Drop, Zohn replied, "Yeah, it's called the Corpse Reviver #2." The classic drink is brisk and tangy, dosed with a measure of black liquorice flavors of absinthe, but in his Lemon Drop-tini ($12, gin, Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, lemon, star anise sugared rim) that flavor is moved to the rim. It tastes like the best version of a Lemon Drop I've ever had, and yet it isn't a Lemon Drop at all.
Other drinks reference more of the spirit of the drink than the flavors, like the wonderfully savory Cucumber-tini ($13, gin, Chareau Aloe Liqueur, lemon) that uses a unique locally made liqueur with a garden's worth of botanicals.
"We wanted to have fun with spring, poke fun at ourselves and 'mixology' but do it in a creative and thoughtful way that wouldn't alienate our guests," says Zohn. "If a guest walks in and sees the menu, and they are used to their favorite restaurant offering a Martini menu, then no harm no foul... Hopefully it is the best version of a Washington Apple (the Washing-tin-ian) they have ever had."
1 oz. Beefeater gin
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Lillet Blanc
1 oz. Lemon juice
*Star anise sugared rim
Moisten the rim of a coupe or martini glass and place upside down into a container of the star anise sugar. Turn right side up and set aside.
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake hard for seven seconds and strain into a prepared glass.
*In a spice grinder, combine eight whole star anise to one cup of sugar. Grind until super fine, or super fly, your choice.
AQ, 1085 Mission (at 7th St.), 341-9000