While we are all familiar with the so called “Classics” the renaissance of the bartender has spawned a small number of Modern Classic or drinks that every bartender from now on will need to know. From the Espresso Martini to the Bramble and the Tommy’s Margarita the list is growing and we shall highlight some of the key but quirky tasty tipples for you here.
From Angus Winchester
For more than 18 years, bartender Marcovaldo Dionysos has accumulated a resume that reads like a history of the San Francisco cocktail scene: In 1997, he created the bar menu at the iconic Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, following that up with stints at Michael Mina’s Clock Bar, Bourbon & Branch, and Harry Denton's Starlight Room, Smuggler's Cove and now residing at industry darling ABV. He is the inventor of the Chartreuse Swizzle and we asked him about it…
Tell us about when and where you invented the Chartreuse Swizzle…
Ah, the swizzle…as I recall, Chartreuse sponsored five annual cocktail competitions in San Francisco. The first was in 1999, when I was still managing the bar at Absinthe. I took second place that year with a drink I cannot recall. The next year I won the competition with a flaming hot drink with Chartreuse and Tuaca. In 2001, I took third…again…with a forgettable drink. The next year, I competed, but with no luck.
When I was contacted about the 2003 competition, I initially had no intention of entering. I had come up with some decent drinks over the last few years, but felt uninspired. The organizers encouraged me to enter anyway, and I started thinking about how to go in a different direction. I had little to no experience in tropical cocktails aside from a cursory knowledge of Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, and no real understanding of Tiki. The tropical direction was almost a whim. I was smitten with Velvet Falernum from the moment I tasted it, and it has served me well in numerous competitions. I had discovered that working with Chartreuse in cocktails, adding additional herbs and spices can emphasize certain flavors in the Chartreuse, and my approach was: 130 herbs? Add more! The Falernum worked perfectly. An ounce of pineapple juice, and enough lime to balance the sweetness, and it was finished. At the time, I had never seen a traditional wooden swizzle stick, so I rolled it with crushed ice between two shaker tins. To my surprise, I won. At the time, Chartreuse was not as popular as it is today, and Falernum was virtually unheard of. In 2003, I was heading up the bar at the Starlight Room, and Harry Denton LOVED Chartreuse, so putting the swizzle on the menu was a no-brainer. Still, anyone drinking Chartreuse at the time was drinking shots, and usually with Harry. After I left the Starlight Room (2004), I bounced around a bit for a year or so, trying to settle on what to focus on next. I ended up at Tres Agaves, and spent the next 3-4 years slinging margaritas and pouring tequilas. It wasn’t until 2008, when I got the opportunity to open the Michael Mina Clock Bar in the Westin St. Francis, that the swizzle saw daylight again. Both Chef Mina and his wine director loved it, and I attribute the eventual success of the drink to my time there. Michael Mina had 14 restaurants at the time, and the Chartreuse Swizzle found its way onto a few of their menus. The beverage director of the Mina Group eventually left to open his own restaurant in Los Angeles, and they featured the Chartreuse Swizzle on tap.
From there, it was in a few books, a menu here and there, and then it blew up.
Do you consider it a Tiki drink or is that just others projecting?
Maybe in hindsight, but not intentionally. I thought using a French herbal liqueur in a tropical drink was madness at the time.
Why a swizzle? Why use that technique?
I thought it sounded good, but didn’t even own a swizzle stick until I met Ed Hamilton at Clock Bar and he gave me one. I wanted a tropical/Caribbean vibe, and it sounded right.
I always had an affinity for it, which is why I entered the competition each year. At Vesuvio, where I worked just prior the Starlight Room, Chartreuse was what the bartenders drank.
Who typically drinks it? Civilians or bartenders and bar geeks?
I have made the swizzle for everyone. I think much of its appeal is the balance of complexity and simplicity.
Anything else you would want a bartender or the world to know about it?
I’m just happy it’s been enjoyed by so many people in so many parts of the world. The Chartreuse Swizzle has travelled way more than I have, and I’m a bit jealous.
Credit: Marcovaldo Dionysos
4,5 cl Chartreuse verte
3 cl Pineapple Juice
2,5 cl frischer Lime Juice
1,5 cl Falernum
Add all ingredients to a tall glass, and fill with crushed ice. Agitate with a swizzle stick, bar spoon, or stern glare. Top with more ice. Garnish with mint sprig and fresh grated nutmeg.