December 18, 2014 – There’s snow aplenty in one of California’s premier ski areas – Lake Tahoe – making it the perfect time to test the talents of Seth Kaikainahaole at the River Ranch Lodge. Situated on the Truckee River between Tahoe City and Truckee, and close to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski areas, the bar is a favorite of locals and tourists alike.
Seth has been bartending for a dozen years and knows how to create cocktails that complement his outgoing personality. He watches trends, and over the years has honed his talent to know what flavors go together, often taking standard recipes then embellishing and personalizing them. He echoes other mixologists we’ve talked to emphasizing that proportions are critical in standard formulas. He sees bourbon, especially new, small production labels as an important trend but his favorite spirit for experimenting is gin, which he finds really adaptable and approachable. In fact, he’ll make you a believer with a gin cocktail for breakfast! Here’s his recipe for “Morning Insanity” (our name for it!):
½ oz. simple syrup
½ oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 oz gin
Shake with ice and strain into a Champagne flute and top with sparkling wine.
At home Seth Kaikainahaole likes to relax with a Martinez, a cocktail from the 1880s that is seeing a resurgence in popularity. Seth has his own take on this classic, which is usually gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino liqueur and bitters. He uses Plymouth gin, which has a different flavor profile from London Dry or Old Tom but you could use either of these:
2 oz. Plymouth gin
1 oz. Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
½ teaspoon Cointreau
Stir with ice until well chilled – 15 to 30 seconds – then strain into a chilled glass and add a twist of orange.
We asked what tips he would give readers wanting to build a bar, limited in space for the number of bottles as well as expense, plus ideas for throwing a successful cocktail party. Seth recommends learning to make two or three drinks well. Must haves for the bar would be a bottle each of sweet vermouth, gin, vodka, bourbon and a bottle of bitters. Depending on your drink menu, you will also need to have on hand juices and mixers such as soda, 7UP and dry ginger.
Seth likes the idea of serving retro cocktails in retro glassware. He suggests shopping thrift stores for highball glasses, coupes and any kind of cocktail glassware from the ‘50s, ‘60s and 70s. They don’t have to match but they set the mood for very fun drinks, and glassware is more glamorous than plastic.
Every bar needs a few essential tools for successful drink making. Again, to stay on budget, he suggests looking on eBay or shopping the thrift stores. There are a lot of bar tools offered online and it is a one-time investment that lasts a lifetime. If you need bar tools and can’t wait for shipping, check your local wine and spirits retailer as many carry accessories. We checked total Wines & More and if there’s a store near you, they have many reasonably priced items. Drinks with fruit juice need a shaker; something stirred needs a beaker. Other essentials are a bar spoon, strainer and a jigger for measuring.
Watch for Seth’s recipes for drinks to warm us up in the depths of winter coming soon (the recipes, not winter!)