The perfect daiquiri? It's even more perfect in Vegas.
Find out what we mean as Bon Appétit Magazine Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport chats with ARIA Las Vegas Property Mixologist Craig Schoettler about the mixology program at Sage.
Schoettler discusses the unrivaled bar and nightlife scene in Las Vegas, demonstrates how to make that oh-so-delish daiquiri, and mixes up both a Pink Cashmere, and a julep using a smoked Bourbon barrel stave.
Sage is more than a place for cocktails – this high-end restaurant also has fantastic food. Sage features New American cuisine; clean flavors coupled with farm-to-table ingredients and a strong emphasis on simplicity.
Check out the video and come try one for yourself. No place mixes it up like Las Vegas!
Adam: I’m Adam Rapoport from Bon Appétit. I’m here with Craig Schoettler at Aria in Las Vegas for Vegas Uncork'd. Craig, thanks for joining me.
Craig: Sir, pleasure, thanks for having me.
Adam: All right, you’re the new property mixologist here at the Aria resort, and you’re gonna school me in the art of making a perfect cocktail. What are we making?
Craig: So we’re gonna start with the most basic of drinks. It’s a daiquiri. Not big, frozen, bright colors, but a classic daiquiri. Three ingredients: rum, lime juice, and sugar. I’m making you three versions of a daiquiri.
I’m gonna make you a daiquiri that’s too acidic, I’m gonna make you a daiquiri that’s too sweet, then I’m gonna make you a daiquiri that’s balanced to show that the templates of building a cocktail with sour is a certain way, and then after you understand that build, you can then sub things in and out and make any cocktail in the world that has lemon or lime juice in it or what we call a basic sour.
Adam: All right, cocktails 1, 2, and 3, let’s shake ‘em up.
Craig: Alright, here we go.
Adam: Assuming we’re shaking and not stirring; oh, I get to shake? Like they do in the movies! Grrrr, it’s like a wrestling a tuna! How do I keep, how do I know? When it gets really cold, right?
Then do you go like that or something, how do you do that? I’ll be here all day! That, that’s why he’s the professional. Alright, three of the same cocktail, but with different levels of acidity, of sugar. I’m not, guys, I’m not looking, I’m not looking, although I hope I get this right. Tough job, someone’s gotta do it.
Craig: So the too-acidic, you’ll find it hurts in the back of the palette, soft of that Jolly Rancher effect. One should be too sweet, which will be very candy-like, and then you’ll have one that should be perfectly in the middle and balanced.
Adam: Well, the challenge is, after you drink all three together, I would say that this one is too acidic.
I think, basing on the sugar levels definitely go up, that one is definitely too sweet.
I’ve got a job, thank you very much. Alright, so we mastered the basic balance of sweet, sour, booze. Where do you take it from here? This is like the essential, sort of the basic formula, can you build off this?
Craig: So the basic formula for any sour, the school of thought that I work off of, is 2 ounces of spirit, three-quarter ounce acid, three-quarter ounce sugar.
Adam: Alright, so here at Sage, you make a drink called the Pink Cashmere.
Craig: We do, so the same basis, the same fundamental principles on how to balance, we just sub out some ingredients, add some fun stuff to it to make it a little more proprietary, and you know, when in Vegas.
Adam: Alright, why the heck not, alright.
Craig: Alright, so you’ve got two ounces Grey Goose Cherry Noir, so two ounces of spirit, just like our daiquiri. Lime juice again, so if we do-
Adam: So that’s just pure lime juice?
Craig: Pure lime juice.
Fresh is imperative, so make sure fresh-squeezed, we juice daily here on property. So we got Simple Syrup, we’re gonna put a half-ounce, so you’d be like, ‘Craig, that’s not what you said-‘
Adam: That’s not three quarters!
Adam: So where is that other quarter coming from!
Craig: You’ll see…
Adam: So, shake that up, can I shake that?
Craig: Yup, yes, you can.
Adam: Whoa… wait, what the...
Craig: So you’re wondering where that other sugar came from.
Adam: I was wondering, so that’s three-quarters of a.
Craig: So here’s your remaining balance.
Adam: So, do you just pour it over?
Craig: You just pour it over. So we got mixed berry cotton candy, and we do this table-side…
Adam: So we do this table-side, I was gonna say, it would be darn shame if we didn’t. Alright, here we go… right on top?
Craig: Right on top.
Adam: That’s insane. Whoa…
Craig: Don’t blink, don’t blink… There it goes!
Adam: Whoa! Okay, kind of the coolest thing I’ve seen, like, all year.
Alright, Cocktail number two, also featured here at Sage.
Craig: Yes, sir! So this cocktail is, sort of, uh, the presentation is a little on the progressive side as well.
It doesn’t follow that, uh, sour style. This is more on your Manhattan, Old Fashioned-style.
Where the booze is, the spirit is balanced with bitters and sugar. So we’ve got some, some rum; got a little Amaro.
Adam: So that’s two ounces rum, one ounce Amaro?
Craig: So we’ve got a half-ounce.
Adam: So a half-ounce of Amaro…
Craig: And then some Sherry.
Which is very popular these days. Let’s put some bitter in too, just for the sake of it.
Adam: Why not…
Craig: A couple dashes of Orange Bitters.
Adam: What does bitters do to a cocktail? I know a lot of bartenders also love bitters, why? What would you equate that to in the world of food?
Adam: Salt… Just sort of gives it that snap?
Craig: It seasons… right, it seasons, it brings its flavor profiles a little larger, it mellows some things out. It’s one of those things, that with it, everything tastes more well-rounded; without it, things, sort of, don’t play nice in the sandbox.
Adam: They’re a little lacking.
Adam: So we’ve stirred it ‘til cold…
Craig: Stir it ‘til cold, we also have to dilute it, so…
Adam: So, the ice, you want the ice to melt a little bit, but not too much?
Craig: Yes, absolutely.
Adam: Alright, so now we just pour it in a glass, right?
Craig: Sort of.
So, we’ve got a bourbon barrel stave.
Adam: Sure; because everyone’s got one of those at home.
Craig: Yeah, if you do… *shrugs*So, you take; Bourbon’s aged in new American Oak barrels, big 53-gallon barrels. Each of those barrels is made up of staves, so the stave is those individual planks.
Adam: Stave… So, okay, so those big, the individual planks that they then band together.
Craig: Correct. So we take that plank, and we cut them into little, nice coasters.
Adam: But, alright cool, but correct me if I’m wrong, but they then take those barrels and ship them overseas, and use them to make Scotch, correct?
Craig: Correct, or they go to Rum or Tequila, because by law, Bourbon, you can only use them once, to be called Bourbon. So then, they ship them to us, we take them, we cut those staves down. We drill out the diameter of our glass, which is gonna be this guy. We take a torch. Watch your eyebrows, watch your eyebrows! Now we’re gonna burn the barrel stave, because the idea is that we wanted to capture the aroma of a smoking bourbon barrel. One thing that we’re very fond of here, is we don’t want to do things for the sake of doing it, there has to be a reason why.
Adam: If you’re gonna break out the blowtorch, there better be a good reason!
Craig: Right! So, if there’s an easier way to achieve this, we would have done that, but I haven’t figured it out yet. So this is the only way I know how to do it.
Adam: So, the question is, do you do this table-side as well?
Craig: We will do this bar-side, we will bring it out to the table like this.
Adam: Oh wow, that’s crazy.
Craig: So, now we’re gonna take our Julep, and the aroma of a bourbon barrel.
Adam: It smells like a bourbon s’mores, kinda…
Craig: A little camp-fireish… So, now we’re gonna pour this cocktail, but if you noticed, the cocktail is actually a rum cocktail. So we have the aroma of a Bourbon barrel smoking, but still, we’ve got the sweetness of the rum, so they sort of play nice together, as opposed to being bourbon on top of bourbon, we wanted to break it up, and sort of, trick you into thinking you’re actually drinking bourbon, when actually you’re drinking the rum.
Adam: And you serve it up, no rock?
Craig: Correct; we serve it down. So technically, this is called “down” because it’s in a low-ball glass with no ice. “Up”, we’ve got a stem glass with no ice, so think of a Sazerac. A Sazerac is served down.
Adam: Oooh, that’s nice. Smooth, that’s really smooth, like dangerously smooth.
Craig: It’s a pretty high-proof alcohol.
Adam: Well, yeah, you’re kind of expecting that when you get a Manhattan or something, sometimes it’s kind of like “Ooh!”, or just a bourbon on the Rocks, like you get that burn, this doesn’t have that burn at all.
Craig: So, what we should do, is our job is to make sure that you don’t get that burn.
Adam: May I suggest, ladies and gentlemen, is that you get yourselves to Sage at Aria, to taste some of Craig Schoettler’s amazing cocktails. Craig, thank you so much!
I’m Adam Rapoport, thanks for watching!