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Sean travels to Houston and Washington, D.C. and inspires local bartenders to make fresh, fruity cocktails using their local, seasonal ingredients.

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Daily food & travel inspiration in your inbox

Transcript

- I'm Shawn Thomas, and this is Local Flight. A show where I travel around to some of the best bars in the country, and meet amazing mixologists, and challenge them to create innovative cocktails using unique local ingredients. I'm in Houston, an international city with a young population that demands great cocktails. At the award-winning Triniti Restaurant, the Ladies of Libation are designing some incredible drinks. I'm gonna head there and meet Leslie Ross, half of this dynamic duo, to see what they're up to. Talk to me about your bar program here at Triniti. - Laurie and I, we are Ladies of Libation, and this is our home base. We follow classic rules but then we also take our own artistic license sometimes, and we'll take a variation on a classic. - Well I'd love to try an example of what you're talking about. - Absolutely. Well I'm going to make you the kippling cup, which is our version of a Pimm's cup. - Great. - It's gonna be 1.5 ounces of Bombay Sapphire. One ounce of the Pimm's Chutney, and this was made with the Pimm's No. 1, and then we added all the traditional elements of a Pimm's cup, condensed down to into one ingredient. The last thing that we're gonna add into the shaker is going to be the Darjeeling and Earl Gray dull and dry vermouth. We did a cold infusion overnight in the fridge. So we did 24 hours with the tea bags just steeping. - Impressive. - And the last element is our house-made ginger beer, that we typically do, and we swapped out the water for IPA, so it's gonna add a rich, malty character to the cocktail itself. But wait, there's more. So to tie in all the elements in the glass, we actually made candied hop cones. We're going to perfume the glass. What many people don't know is the traditional garnish, before there was cucumber, was actually borage flower. This flower tastes like cucumber. - Wow, I almost don't want to drink it. - No, but you should. - Wow. - And there you go. - Thank you so much. - You're very welcome. - That's impressive. Cheers. - Thanks. - Here's to your craftsmanship. Wow. The aromatics are so distinct. With a traditional Pimm's, you get all those muddled ingredients, all that fruit in there, it looks like a big fruit salad in your drink. You get all the complexity of those flavors, and you've managed to do that by making that cordial you talked about. This drink is phenomenal. - Awesome. - Really, really well done. - Thank you. - Yeah. - Thank you very much. - Mm. So, I learned that there's actually another dynamic duo of sorts here in Houston, from Houston, who are on the cutting edge of culinary as well. And what they do, they make hot sauce. So I'm gonna head there, find you an ingredient to use-- - [Leslie] Make it good. - I will make it good, but also challenging. - Gotcha, all right, bring me something awesome. - All right, I'll see ya soon. When Houston natives, Jeremiah Tallerine and James Nelson, started Bravado Spice, their go-to spot for the best local ingredients was Canino Produce. In the beginning, they made each bottle of hot sauce by hand, with ingredients they purchased here. I'm meeting up with them for a trip down memory lane. - Yeah, when we first got started out, this is pretty much where we were at every weekend, picking up all the goods. - [Shawn] Well, what are we looking for today, specifically? - Pineapples-- - We're gonna buy pineapple, habanero, yellow bell pepper, and garlic. - Garlic. - Habaneros have a bright, citrusy flavor, that works really good with tropical flavors, and the yellow bell pepper helps protect the color. It helps balance out the sweetness of everything. And luckily, we always find some pretty good ones here. - [James] All right next let's get some pineapple. - Pineapples. - Pineapple. - What's a way to find a good one here? - The easiest way is if you sit a pineapple straight up like this, and you grab the center leaf, if you can pull it straight out like that, it's fresh. - It's ready to go. - [Jeremiah] Looks like this one is gonna be a good one. - [Shawn] That's great! - Gotta have the one last ingredient. Our favorite, it's almost in every one of our sauces. - Yeah, there's a lot in here. We just need like two heads or so. - Two, yeah? - Let's do that. - [Shawn] Let's pay for these guys. - Okay. - Thank you. - Thank you, ma'am. - You're welcome. - These days, Bravado Spice hot sauces are made in a commercial kitchen, but when James and Jeremiah first started, they made everything at home, and that's exactly where we're going to make it today. So, before we get started on actually making the sauce, tell me a little bit about how this all began. - A little under two years ago, me and him were hanging out, making ribs, grilling down by the pool, and we decided we were gonna go get some hot sauce from the store. And we're looking around in one of the bigger chain stores from the house, and we're trying to find things, and everything was kinda the same thing, over, and over, and over again. It was just high vinegar, high salt, who knows where it even came from. So we kinda decided, we were like, let's make our own hot sauce. - So we did what we always do and pretended we knew everything about it. - The next thing we know, we're in a hundred stores. - Where did you guys come up with the name Bravado Spice? - I threw out the name bravado, 'cause it's Latin for brave and dumb, which is what we both are, for kinda just starting a company in a industry that we had no idea how it worked. - And do you guys still source locally as much as you can? - Yeah, everything comes from two companies. They're here in Houston. - Awesome. And this is sort of like your guys' signature? - Back when we just formed our company the first idea we had was the pineapple-habanero combination. You're gonna help us make it. Two full cups of the chopped pineapple. Put in one of those yellow bell pepper slivers. All three of those habaneros. - [Shawn] Oh god, all right. - Four of those garlic cloves. - Four cloves. - [Jeremiah] Throw in two heavy pinches of that salt right there. - [Shawn] Okay. - Here's some vinegar for ya. Go ahead and fill this guy 3/4 of the way up. - [Shawn] And what kinda vinegar is that? - Plain distilled vinegar. - Okay. - So now we're gonna do a little blend action here. And then slowly turn this guy all the way up. And down. - Voila. - Voila! - That's it? - That's it. - Go on and give it a taste. - All right. That's some good hot sauce. - Yeah. - Awesome. - Really good hot sauce. The habaneros aren't overpowering. - No, we try and keep it balanced between sweet, spicy, a little savory, and just overall balanced. - That dude right there. - And that's this right here? - Yeah, that's it. - Pineapple and habanero hot sauce. - Straightforward. - It's exactly what it says. That's what it is. - I would love to take a bottle of this, and bring it to a bar, and see what a bartender can do with this. Because I think they're gonna have a lot of fun with this. - I believe you, 100%. - Deal. - Yeah? - Make it happen. - And then thanks for showing me this stuff. It was great. - Yeah, absolutely. - And I wish you guys all the best in the future in you guys' company. So, boom! Jeremiah and James are really doing it right. Their hot sauce is so fresh and unique. It's easy to see why Bravado Spice is making its mark on Texas. - This actually is a little more savory then I think maybe I expected. So in that case, I'm going to use it as sort of a shrub component I think. - Okay, yeah. - I think that would be a good way to utilize this, 'cause you're still gonna get the heat, and then that bright vinegar and salt is gonna help all these other flavors. I think we should go tiki with this. Tropical and spicy work really well, and I think that the Grey Goose Citron would work really well in this. We're gonna lighten it up a bit, and instead of doing a traditional rum cocktail, I feel that all these other elements are bold enough to allow for a lighter spirit. Let's get started. - Gonna start with your botanicals there? - Yeah, let's take some of the sage. It's really fresh. - [Shawn] Smells it. - And I'm gonna actually use a couple of bar spoons of this. Two bar spoons. That's probably a good place to start. Next we're gonna add 1/4 of an ounce lime juice. Now we're gonna do the Donn's Spice Mix, a syrup basically, that's made of allspice, cinnamon, and grapefruit. And ours is homemade, and ours is pretty thick. So I think maybe 1/2 an ounce is good. Bittermens Amère Sauvage. - [Shawn] Amère Sauvage, it's like a citrus cordial, or? - You can use it in the place of Triple sec. It does have some spice components to it, but it also has a nice balance of bitterness along with the sweet. I think to play up the pineapple and the habanero, this is our grilled pineapple juice. It's made by macerating pineapple in brown sugar. Let's do two ounces of the Grey Goose. Some crushed ice so we can swizzle. And this is going to mix everything, as well as put a lovely frost on the outside. Okay. - So cool. - Then we add this ice. - [Shawn] It's just running right up that ice. - [Leslie] Looks refreshing. - [Shawn] It does look refreshing. - And I'm actually gonna take a lime. I think we're gonna put the bitters here. - [Shawn] Okay. Now, that's an edible orchid right? - [Leslie] Absolutely it is. It's organic edible orchid. Probably a little more sage, and wake it up a bit. - [Shawn] Mm-hmm. So that's Angostura bitters. - [Leslie] Yeah. Add some color as well as definite aromatics. - [Shawn] Yes. There it is. - [Leslie] There we go. And we want it to sparkle a bit. - [Shawn] Fantastic. - [Leslie] And then before we drink this cocktail, blow it out and roll it in there. - All right, I will. Wow. All right, here goes nothing. Cheers. Mm. - [Leslie] That work? - Yeah, it works well. I think the citron compliments the drink so well. Really bright, balanced citrus. That's nice, please try. - We're gonna have a race. - Yes. Little bit of the habanero in the back end, a little bit of savory. What do you call a drink like this? - There is a city in Texas called Rio Bravo, it was also an old western, so how about Rio Bravado. - Absolutely, I love it. - Awesome. - You are awesome. - Thank you. - I love the way you think. - Thank you so much. - I love the time and passion that you put into your drinks. Thank you so much for your time. - Thank you for coming by today. - See you soon. Washington, D.C. is going through a food and drink revolution, with new restaurants and bars opening every day. Ahead of that curve has been Pearl Dive Oyster Palace, and its frequently-packed sister bar, Black Jack, where EJ Apaga has made an art of crafting cocktails for big crowds without sacrificing quality. Hey there. - Hey! - What's up man? - What's going on Shawn? - EJ, nice to meet you. - Welcome to the Black Jack. Yeah, yeah, welcome to Black Jack. - Thanks for having me man. This aesthetic is great. It almost looks like a bar stage. - [EJ] It's fun. It's more like a 1920s, 1930s style. - For sure. What's the bar culture like, here at Black Jack? - Well at Black Jack it's a little bit different than most of your cocktail bars. What we do is high-volume, high-efficiency, speed bartending, even with proper technique, and we're concentrating on craft as our focus. - I see, so you're like a high volume, but with the same craft consistency that you'd get at another type of bar, where they stir a drink for 10 minutes. - Exactly! - Well very cool. Well I'd love to try one of those drinks. - Absolutely. What we do here, when I first started, we decided we would mess with a Long Island Iced Tea. - Huh. - So, we decided that we were going to change out all the ingredients, and go with a bunch of French aperitifs, and Italian amaros, and see what would happen. So this is gonna be called a Black Jack Iced Tea. We're gonna start with both lemon and lime. And we fresh squeeze everything here. For the most part people enjoy watching, and knowing that it is fresh lemon and fresh lime juice. You can pour it out of a bottle, but you know... - [Shawn] Not the same effect. - Not the same effect. Little bit of simple syrup there. And then what I'm gonna do for you is an old-school technique that I learned when I was a very young bartender. It's called a four-pour. We're gonna take four bottles, and we're gonna pour them in all at once. Because this is a fast bar, and we need to do things quickly. So I have a dry vermouth, I have a sweet vermouth, I have a French aperitif and I have an Italian amaro, and it's all gonna go in the glass like this. - [Shawn] Four-pour. - [EJ] So then we're gonna pour an ounce of-- - Orange cognac. - Orange cognac on top. - Yum, yum. - Fill that with ice. Put it real good on top. Small shake. Just to get everything together. Doesn't need to cool off too much. And now we're just gonna pour that right in. Top a little soda water. - [Shawn] Look at that. - And you got our Black Jack Iced Tea. - [Shawn] It looks like iced tea. - [EJ] Yeah, and garnish it with a nice lemon wheel. Here ya go. - [Shawn] Thank you EJ. - You're very welcome. - Cheers. - Enjoy. - Mm. That's great man. Quick, complex. I get the menthol from that Italian amaro. - Yeah. - Kind of a dual bittersweetness from those two red vermouths that you used, and a little bit more dryness from that white vermouth. That's great man. That's exactly what I want from an aperitif, you know? This is very, very delicious. So this is my first time here in Washington, D.C., and I was hoping we could make a cocktail that really kind of captures what this place is all about. That not only pays homage to the history, but gives a nod to the artisanal producers, what's being produced here. What do you think? - I have a friend, of a friend, that I know has a pick-your-own-fruit farm not too far outside of the city. - That would be amazing. Any ideas what's in season now? - I think this week it started opening up with tart cherry. - Tart cherries? - Yes. - Different from sweet cherries? - Yeah, absolutely. They have this iconic look, bright red, like what you would see on a jackpot sign when you're out in Las Vegas. - Sure, the bright-red cherries like a bunch together. - Yeah, it's crazy. - That's funny, 'cause one of the only things I know about, sort of the history here... Well, I know a couple of things, but it's like George Washington and cherries, like that imagery immediately comes up. - George Washington chopped down a cherry tree. So, yeah, exactly. - So why don't we get outta here and go on a little adventure? - Let's go, let's go! - [Shawn] Just north of D.C. is Butler's Orchard, a family-run farm that spills across 300 beautiful hilly acres. Here we're catching a lift with third-generation-farmer, Ben Butler. Butler's Orchard grows everything from raspberries, to sunflowers, to potatoes, but right now it's the season for tart cherries. Even though tart cherries are less common in supermarkets, they're used in more recipes, are the base of more syrups and lacquers, and are packed with way more vitamins than their sweet cousins. - [Ben] So these are our tart cherries. - Geez, they're just exploding off the trees, man. - Yeah. It's wild too, these were planted in 1983, so they've got a few years on them, but they're still, I mean, as you can see, beautiful. - Yeah. - Yeah. - [EJ] They look like candy, man. - Yeah, so is there sort of like a method to figuring out when they're ready? - Yeah, so as you look and see, you know, you want that plump dark red color, and that's really the sign. If they come off of the stem fairly easily, you know they're about ready, and you can kinda feel that plump, watery feel. That's how you know that they're really sweet, as sweet as they're going to get at least, for these tart cherries. - Right. I gotta try one of these. I mean they just look so... Mm. - Not bad? Mm-mm. - Good. - Better than that. It's like a combination of tart and sweet. - The real deal. - All natural, yeah. - This is the real deal, yeah. - There's a lot of juice in there. That's crazy. - Yeah. - [EJ] What kind of a varietal of cherry is this to make them tart? - So this variety here is called Montmorency. This was planted 33 years ago, and we're still planting the same varieties this year. So Montmorency is... - Yields a sour tart. - Yeah, it's a good variety, a lotta different uses, and it's got great yields. - [Shawn] I bet they're high in vitamin C and other antioxidants. - [Ben] Yeah, just through the roof. So there's not just a sweetness factor, but there's a great health benefit to eating these things. - [Shawn] This is a family farm. - It is, I'm the third generation. My grandfather and grandmother started the farm in 1950. Kind of a crazy idea, the whole pick-your-own world, but we've come a long way. And now my dad and my aunt are the co-owners, and my brother and sister and I are all the next generation. And we're happy that we're still picking them. 30 years is a long time. - Yeah, it is. So EJ, we came out here for a cocktail ingredient. What do you think of these cherries so far? - Honestly, they have like the flesh of a cherry tomato, they have this great juice in them, very acidic and sour, and that plays into a city cocktail, official city cocktail. - What's the official city cocktail? - Official city cocktail's a rickey. - A rickey? - Yeah. - So this is already kinda speaking to you in the template of a rickey? - Oh yeah, absolutely. - [Shawn] Cool. Thanks for showing us this property. - Of course. - Pretty cool piece of land. - [Ben] Glad you came out. - [Shawn] It's a good day on the cherry farm. Inside Mess Hall, a culinary incubator that gives up-and-coming food entrepreneurs space to get creative, Tori Pratt is making her true syrups and garnishes the old-fashioned way, in small batches with natural ingredients. - So this is our tonic. So our tonic syrup was made from a whole bunch of different herbs and spices, inspired by British India, where the gin and tonic was born. The first step is to put the saffron into bloom. So if you guys wanna help me out with that, just come on around. - Absolutely, okay, cool. - [EJ] Making tonic Shawn. - [Shawn] Making tonic! - [Tori] Perfect. - [EJ] All right, cool. - [Shawn] The number of herbs and spices required to make authentic tonic water is impressive. Much simpler is Tori's recipe for another bar staple. - We make a grenadine right now that is really delicious, made from pomegranate juice, the way it was supposed to be made back in the day, orange flower water, some cane sugar, and citric acid. So this is yesterday's batch of tonic and grenadine, so we're gonna taste it out for you guys. - All right. - Awesome. - A little taste test. - Usually you would mix it with club soda, or something else. - [Shawn] Right, makes sense. I can smell all those, like clove and allspice, right off. - Exactly. - It's really good. And the citrus from that bark, mm. - Yeah. - It's great. - It's amazing that you accomplish all those citrus notes with the bark like that. - Thank you. - Yeah. - No actual citrus, but lemon grass and-- - Oh yeah, yeah. - Yeah. All right, and this is the grenadine. So you can see the gorgeous color. - [Shawn] Smell that orange flower water. It's very aromatic. - [ Tori] It is. - Doesn't smell too sweet. - No. - We'll see. - Slightly tannic, tart, acidic, and that's really, really light. - More refreshing and light than, yes, most grenadine. - Well, you're the maestro, so I feel like you're gonna have to make this decision. - Oh man, I well... The tonic is delicious, the grenadine is delicious, but I think in context of what I'm trying to make with the tart cherries, I think I wanna stay in that profile, and we'll stick with the grenadine. - Sure, thank you so much Tori. - Thank you. - Thanks for having us, take care. - [Tori] See you guys. - [Shawn] With grenadine and cherries in hand, EJ and I head back to Black Jack to see if we can come up with a summer cocktail to help folks cool down. All right EJ, we got ingredients for days here. - Yeah, yeah. - Lotta cherries, grenadine, a lot of acidity in both those ingredients. - Right, yeah. There's not a lot of sweetness in this grenadine, which is great, and those cherries are plump and firm and full of juice. So I'm thinking we gotta do a riff on the official cocktail of Washington, D.C., and that's a rickey. - What's in a rickey, traditionally? - So originally it was rye, but now it's also known to be gin, lime juice, and soda water on top. They say the rickey is like a liquid air conditioning. So we're gonna try to stay with that type, because I think it'll work out, especially on a humid day like today. - Certainly. - [EJ] I'm gonna grab a handful of cherries, and try to grab some juice outta that. - [Shawn] Pits and all? - [EJ] Pits and all. We're gonna take it, and we're just gonna mash it up, and try to get, as you can see, all this stuff is just kind of coming out. - [Shawn] Huge juice content in those guys. - Get some of this fresh, delicious cherry juice out of here. We got some juice coming outta there. Now we're gonna take it, and we're gonna strain all this stuff out into an iSi, or a force carbonator, and we're gonna put a funnel on top. - [Shawn] Is that like a soda canister? - Right, they've been around for a long time. You can just, you take these cartridges, and you fill them full of CO2, and it carbonates whatever you put inside of it. And we're gonna put a little bit more soda water to keep it nice and fizzy. And then we're gonna cap all that stuff, and we're gonna charge it with CO2. We probably only have to do the one, 'cause we have regular soda water in there, and it helps with cold water, and then shake it and agitate it, make sure that it gets... - Very bubbly. - Very bubbly and involved. So now we're gonna build a cocktail. - Okay. - We're gonna start with Grey Goose Cherry Noir. We're gonna just keep with that theme. - [Shawn] Sure. Slight vanilla in that as well. And the cherry's not overpowering, it's not like a sweet flavor, it's a very dry cherry flavor. - [EJ] Right. We're gonna go with 1/2 an ounce of lime juice. - Do you get about 1/2 ounce of lime juice from 1/2 a lime? - Yeah. - Cool. - Fill that sucker with ice. And we're gonna top it off with our quickly-infused cherry soda water. We're gonna roll that a little bit, just get it all involved. Nice pink color to start, but then we're gonna top it off with a little bit of local pomegranate grenadine as well. - [Shawn] True grenadine. - [EJ] Just for color. - [Shawn] That's pretty. - [EJ] Yeah. We're gonna do a swath of a lime, and then we're dap off a perfect set of cherries on the side. - [Shawn] Jackpot. - [EJ] Here ya go. - [Shawn] Very, very cool man. Very cool. Cheers, thank you. - [EJ] Cheers, enjoy. - Liquid air conditioning. - [EJ] Yeah. - A lotta red fruit, both from those cherries and that grenadine. Here, take a sip of that. - Absolutely. - [Shawn] Tannin from both of those as well. - [EJ] Right on. - It's good man. It's good on a hot day for sure after that farm. - That's the whole idea. - All right, perhaps the tallest order of this entire trip, we have to name this drink. - Ah, man. - And we have to name in it such a way that captures everything we've done thus far, so the history, the local producers. - Well how about, since the tart cherry is different than the rest of the other cherries, and we're going with George Washington on this one, who was a revolutionary, let's do Revolutionary Rickey. - Revolutionary Rickey. - Right. - I like that. Cool man. - All right. - EJ, it was a pleasure. I hope you had as much fun as I did on the road. And thank you for showing me D.C.. - No problem Shawn.