Homemade ingredients set many handcrafted cocktails apart from one-dimensional duds in Miami.
The recent popularity of homemade bitters, preserves and syrups at Miami bars is due in part to wildly creative and inspired bartenders. Paul Sevigny of The Florida Room at Delano is one such bartender who is obsessed with being in complete control of his drinks.
“I rely on my own taste buds and talents to manipulate the flavors. This helps me balance the cocktails,” Sevigny said.
Ah, the search for balance. This all-too-familiar pastime in cocktail culture is only achieved by regulating the sweet and sour elements in every drink. The more balanced the cocktail, the more layers or ingredients you can add.
If you’re at all interested in sublime nightlife, you’ve surely stopped into The Florida Room, one of the first legit cocktail lounges in town. Revisit this iconic gem to test Sevigny’s theory with “A Day in Capri.” This refreshing cocktail features homemade apricot preserves that he painstakingly slow-roasts at home, along with his homemade lavender bitters, and homemade thyme-infused honey syrup -- among other fabulous treats.
Lively discussions about well-balanced cocktails invariably involve bitters, the flavoring agent that helps most mixologists justify their involved cocktails. Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi of Bar Lab are from the DIY camp, citing a need to add an unexpected flare to their recipes.
“We make our own bitters at home to get something different than the manufactured brands. It’s not that our bitters are better, we’re just not looking for the typical flavors that are always available,” said Orta.
You won’t find their chai tea bitters, curry bitters, smoked bacon bitters, or their cardamom and celery bitters on store shelves.
Ryan Goodspeed, the mixologist behind the bar at the renowned Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, says it’s more inspiring to work at home on his own culinary-centric ingredients.
He’s big on homemade syrups like the cinnamon vanilla syrup that he pairs with a floral rum and a rare seasonal, tropical fruit called Annona that has a playful apple, citrus flavor. The result is a wonderfully aromatic and balanced drink that induces the happiness you get from a piece of old school apple pie.
Goodspeed says the homemade ingredients are not meant to dominate the cocktail, but to help the bartender make it more dynamic and delicious.
There’s no going back now.
Paul Sevigny of The Florida Room uses homemade apricot preserves to make his "A Day in Capri" cocktail. Photo: George Martinez