Perfect Match

Here's how to master food-and-drink pairings at home:

Think of Rogue 24's Bryan Tetorakis not so much as a bartender but as a spirits chef—or, as chef/owner RJ Cooper calls him, a "cheftender." A former sous chef at the recently shuttered PS 7's, Tetorakis says making cocktails at Rogue is like playing in a garage band: Cooper or Tetorakis shares an idea for a dish, then they dream up a riff on its flavors. In addition to inventing cocktails for the tasting menus, Rogue 24 offers a $55 lineup of three drinks paired with three bites at the four-seat bar. Next year, the two men plan to open a cocktail-focused spot around the corner called SpiritsBar. Want to swap out wine for cocktails at your next party? Here are four Tetorakis tips on creating mixed drinks that play well with food.
— Jessica Voelker
1

School Yourself in Spirits  »

2

Think Like a Cook  »

3

Trust Your Palate  »

4

Respect the Process  »

School Yourself in Spirits

Learn the nuances of your home bar's bottles. When making a cocktail for sake-poached mussels with ham and potatoes, Tetorakis knew to reach for a smoky Scotch, which he says created a "campfire-on-the-beach aroma." Asian pear and yuzu added acidic contrast to the rich dish.

Think Like a Cook

When seeking a drink for a dish featuring pickled, roasted mushrooms, Tetorakis thought of celery. So he created the Preacher Pauly, with mezcal, aquavit, absinthe, egg white, cilantro, and celery. "The celery, cilantro, and absinthe give it a savory match, almost mimicking fresh herbs."

Trust Your Palate

Recipes are a good start, but if a drink seems off when sampled with food, tweak it. To contrast with sea urchin, Tetorakis made an acidic gin drink. But after tasting it, he thought the cocktail needed more richness to counter the briny uni. The solution: gin with robust house-made tonic.

Respect The Process

Cooper and Tetorakis admit that their creations don't always taste good from the get-go-they're always experimenting. Don't be put off by early failures behind the bar. Great pairings require practice plus obsessive tweaking. To quote a Rogue-ism: "Complexity is simplicity revisited."

Rogue 24's Carrot Terrarium

Baby carrots, blood orange, carrot tops, "soil" (Marcona almonds, cocoa, truffle), and yogurt mousse.

Rogue 24's Dr. J. Cocktail

Gin, house-made tonic, carrot, Cardamaro amaro, shaved carrots, and cardamom "perfume."

Why The Pairing Works:

Lavender and lemongrass notes in the house-made tonic complement the earthy dish's ethereal yogurt mousse. Cardamom "perfume" is a sensory prelude for the dish.

Subscribe to Washingtonian
Posted at 11:25 AM/ET, 04/01/2013 RSS | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Guides