Reflective of the food, many of the cocktails at Cleo involve just a handful of quality ingredients. Take the new Raspbury Twist, a vodka-based cocktail with muddled fresh raspberries and rosemary, or a gin drink with crushed lemons and thyme syrup called Lemon Thyme Smash. There's also the Old Hollywood, what head bartender Caleb King calls "an old-fashioned with a Mediterranean twist," made with Bulleit bourbon, housemade fig almond syrup and walnut bitters.
When developing new cocktails, King and Tiffany Bell, a bartender at Cleo, made certain that no one drink would require more than a few fresh ingredients and almost all would tie in fresh herbs. It's a hard-won lesson that came after finding how much time it took to make a particular drink called the Cleopatra 7, which called for various ingredients, such as fresh mango purée, lemon juice and white grapefruit.
"You can create something so delicious from one or two standout things that brings everything together," says Bell, who came to Los Angeles from San Francisco three years ago. She and King, who started his career in bartending at Hyde six years ago, have been at Danny Elmaleh's Middle Eastern-inspired restaurant since it's opening in 2010.
They shared the recipe for the Raspbury Twist, named by Bell who's often charged with the task of coming up with monikers. It's a play off of their popular Vinebury cocktail, which is itself an amalgam of Vine (the street) and The Redbury (the boutique hotel in which Cleo is located). King says it's a simple drink to make, but that a few key steps should be followed.
When you muddle the raspberries, you don't need to use much force -- a few gentle taps will do. Silver tequila is recommended over other types of the agave-based liquor due to its sweetness. You'll want to add the ice right before you shake the cocktail, simply because you'd want to avoid diluting the drink. And lastly, always add the effervescent element, in this case it's Prosecco, last as the carbonation will not hold up well with all that vigorous shaking -- and you'll want to avoid getting sprayed from all that shaken carbon anyhow.
King recommends pairing the cocktail with fish or salads. "It's not a refreshing cocktail. You wouldn't want to have it with a T-bone steak. It's meant for something lighter."
From: Tiffany Bell and Caleb King
Makes: 1 drink
5 + 1 fresh raspberries
1 sprig of rosemary, about four inches long
1 1/2 ounces El Cartel Silver tequila
3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 ounce agave syrup
1 ounce Prosecco
1. Muddle five raspberries with rosemary in a cocktail shaker.
2. Pour in tequila, lime juice and agave syrup. Add ice cubes, cap the shaker and shake vigorously for about six seconds.
3. Pour cocktail through a strainer into a tall glass, then pour in Prosecco. Garnish with a fresh raspberry.
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