Chefs, for the most part, like to drink. So, on the final day of Cocktail Week, eleven of them — some from the U.S., some not — share where they like to get their booze around the world. Among the selections are spots where the mixology shines, like Le Cabrera in Madrid and the hidden Jus de Pêche in Tokyo and Alembic in San Francisco. But there are also dives and unassuming watering holes that chefs like to hit after work for a few beers, maybe some pool — Pancha's in Napa and The Randolph in NYC, for example.
Here, now, Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana, Modena), José Andrés (Think Food Group, DC), Enrique Olvera (Pujol, Mexico City), Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn, San Francisco), Andoni Luis Aduriz (Mugaritz, San Sebastian), Sean Brock (Husk and McCrady's, Charleston), Suzanne Goin (Lucques, Los Angeles), Graham Elliot (Graham Elliot, Chicago), David Kinch (Manresa, Los Gatos), Gavin Kaysen (Café Boulud, NYC), and Paul Qui (East Side King, Austin) share where they like to drink and why.
The Spotted Pig [Photo: Facebook]
"I'll nominate two places. The first is the third floor of the Spotted Pig, in New York, where we drink behind closed doors with Mario Batali and company. That usually happens after 2 AM. Something wild and unexpected always happens, but one thing you can always count on is someone cascading down the stairs and Mario fixing up shots of Averna and beer, sometimes in the same glass. Psychedelic. All mixing by Mario.
The other place is Club Silencio, in Paris. There I drink the dirty martini, which mixologist Rob McHardy adds coffee to! At Silencio, you inevitably end up conversing with someone extraordinary, which makes that martini so much better."
Le Cabrera [Photo: Facebook]
Andoni Luis Aduriz
"Diego Cabrera is an extremely talented barman, and his place Le Cabrera in Madrid is wonderful. I go every time I travel there. First off, the two-floor space is stunning. You've got a 'gastrobar' on the second floor, where you can eat in an informal space, and it won't break the bank. On the first, you've got the cocktail bar, where they the playlist is excellent and so are the drinks. I tend to order a dry martini or gin and tonic, but Diego's known for his Manhattan, which is also something else."
Empellon Cocina [Photo: Daniel Krieger]
"One of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of cooking alongside on my culinary journey is Alex Stupak. When I find myself in New York, a visit to Empellon Cocina is a must. While I generally am not one to imbibe (I am a Coca-Cola guy), I am intrigued by drinks that impart a savory element. At Empellon Cocina, the cocktail that is burned deep in my memory is the 'Por Que No,' which consists of Pueblo Viejo Blanco, pineapple, serrano, and cilantro. It's whimsical, creative, exciting, and most importantly, delicious!"
Jus de Pêche [Photo: Chez Pim]
"It should be no surprise that cocktail culture is at such a high level in Japan, where quality of ingredients and level of execution really need to be seen to be believed. You can't miss with the famous masters at Star Bar and Bar High Five, but I have two favorites I return to time and time again: Nobuyuki Minato of Bar Minato in Kagurazaka, Shinjuku is super friendly, and does perfect renditions of classics. It has a great atmosphere.
But my favorite hideaway, a place I dream of, is Jus de Pêche, hard to find halfway down a landing on some rickety stairs in a steep Roppongi alleyway. Here they specialize in aged old spirits, Rums from the 30's, pre-probition Absinthe in vintage glasses, 50's Old Fitzerald, and more. Here you can get a taste of history, and the only bar snack will be a hand-carved Joselito bellota ham on the tiny counter. An eccentric and unbelievable whiskey collection. If you find it, tell Toshi that David sent you."
The Gin Joint [Photo: Facebook]
"The more I think about it, the more I realize that my favorite place to have cocktails is The Gin Joint in Charleston. I know you may think that I'm biased because it's right across the street from McCrady's, but I am being totally honest.
I like really, really strong cocktails, and I like them to be well balanced. Just like a chef would balance a dish. The cocktails at The Gin Joint are just that. That's because Joe Raya, the owner, is a chef. He truly understands balance and how to keep drinks interesting without making them unusual. He is constantly creating new drinks and pushing the limits. They have a section of their menu, 'Word Bank,' which lets you pick two words from the word bank and then they'll make a cocktail on the fly. You'll find words like 'vegetal' and 'fizzy,' or my favorites, 'bitter' and 'strong.'"
The Alembic [Photo: Flickr/Novocainated]
"Le Ballroom du Beef Club in Paris is a great underground bar located in the First Arrondissement. The bar has the vibe of a speakeasy, but with a more laid-back environment. It's part of a steak house business, with the restaurant upstairs. Le Ballroom offers only a few cocktails, and 'Le Concombre Fumant' is a winner, vibrant with fresh cucumber, tequila, and chili.
Alembic Bar in San Francisco in the Upper Haight area offers one of the most creative and best cocktail program in the city. The space is welcoming. Daniel Hyatt is at the helm of the program and is quite a genius. 'Southern Exposure' is one of my favorites, a complex yet legible and refreshing mix of St. George Terroir gin, lime, mint, and fresh celery juice."
The Randolph [Photo: Facebook]
"One of my favorite bars is the Randolph in NYC, right off Broome Street. It's low-key, unpretentious, and there's quick service. I like to drink mezcal with sangrita that's laced with Stubbs liquid smoke. I guess it's a little ATX in the Big Apple."
Versailles [Photo: SouthBeachCars/Flickr]
"In Boston, I love to go to Barbara Lynch's bar, Drink, and order a 'Maximilian Affair,' which is made of mezcal, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, sweet vermouth, and lemon juice. When I'm in Miami, I love to go to Versailles on 8th Street and just have a [non-alcoholic] a colada or guarapo and hang out outside with my Cuban friends. The place is always alive, and that is energizing."
Kaysen shooting pool at Pancha's [Photo: Ulterior Epicure]
"Pancha's is the best dive bar in Northern California. It's where all the chefs, front of the house people, and guests from local restaurants will go after the Napa Valley closes down. The charm of the place lies in the people there. There's a guy named Jesus who has sat in the same corner for as long as I have been going there, which is about 12 years. I can't say that there is a cocktail of choice, because it's not that kind of bar. You drink beer, you shoot pool, and you mingle with the locals. During the day, one of the best taco trucks sets up in their parking lot."
[Photo: The Hungry Cat]
"I'm lucky that my husband David Lentz has one of the best bars in city at The Hungry Cat. It's a warm and familiar respite when I'm not working. Since it's holiday season, I'm a goner for 'Big Dave's Egg Nog,' which my father-in-law helps to make."
"One of my favorite places to drink in the world is Licorería Limantour, in Mexico City's Roma district. I like it for simple reasons: it's pleasant, with just the right mix of noise and calm, and the cocktails are expertly prepared. I usually just do Hendricks and Fever Tree. Lots of ice."