Food & Drink

Mbar Has the Perfect Sunset Cocktail Nicki Minaj Would Approve Of

At the South Lake Union hotspot, an intriguing spice mix updates the classic sidecar.

By AJ Rathbun June 23, 2017


This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Drink history: The sidecar is a true classic; many drinks have been based off of its cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice base. Named after the motorcycle attachment, the cocktail gained popularity after World War I (especially in France), when it was made slightly sweeter than it is today. Some bartenders began sugaring the rim, first noted in a trio of 1934 books and it’s a practice still seen today.

Mbar beverage director Jon Clark (formerly at Chicago’s legendary Aviary and The Office, as well as Seattle’s Noroeste) loves to work with sidecars. When applying for the position at Mbar, he was asked to create a cocktail list that complemented chef Jason Stratton’s (formerly at Mamnoon, Spinasse, Artusi and Vespolina) distinctive Mediterranean-Middle Eastern menu. Clark started playing around with the sidecar recipe, adding Szechuan peppercorns (the dried berry of the prickly ash tree) and black lime (sun-dried limes) to the drink. These two intriguing flavors eventually became the base for a coating to rim this drink’s glass. Then he brought in the award-winning and lush Landy cognac to use for the base and classic lemon juice to create a light burst of citrus.

The twist: Beez in the Trap (named after the Nicki Minaj song, one of Stratton’s favorites) doesn’t follow the traditional sidecar orange liqueur route for its third ingredient. Instead, Clark uses Jacopo Poli Miele. An Italian liqueur made from grappa and acacia honey with an herbal bouquet of mugo pine, juniper, mint and verbena, it adds the needed kiss of sweetness and herbal hints—and it ties into the drink’s name in a wonderfully holistic manner. Inventive yet with a base in tradition, Beez in the Trap is an ideal liquid match for Mbar’s Mediterranean food and for its Seattle-style quirky swankiness (don’t miss the bubble wrap curtains and the chain-mail wall art crafted from votive tins). Sip it outside, while gazing over the city as the sun goes down. South Lake Union (atop the Tommy Bahama building), 400 Fairview Ave. N; 206.457.8287 

Photograph by Chustine Minoda. Beez in the Trap

Beez in the Trap
For the rim spices, you might have luck finding prickly ash in the Chinatown/International District, or try Find black lime on Amazon (search for “dried Persian limes”). Clark suggests grinding fresh ash and lime separately in a coffee or spice grinder, to allow better flavors, and then sifting them to ensure an even texture. He measures ingredients with a kitchen scale for greater precision.

Rum Spice Mix
33    grams prickly ash (about 2 ½ tablespoons)
8     grams black lime (about 2 teaspoons)
5     grams citric acid, finely ground powder (about 1 teaspoon)
10   grams caster (superfine) sugar (about 2 teaspoons)

Lemon wedge
Ice cubes
1 ½ ounces Landy cognac
½  ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
½  ounce Jacopo Poli Miele
½  ounce simple syrup

Mix the prickly ash, black lime, citric acid and sugar together in a small bowl. Once mixed well, pour onto a small plate.
Rub a lemon wedge along half of the outside circumference of a coupe glass. Carefully rotate the moistened half of the glass through the spice mix on the plate, working to make sure the mix only coats the outside of the glass.

Add everything but the ice to a cocktail shaker. Then fill the shaker about halfway with ice cubes. Shake well*.

Strain the drink into the glass using a fine strainer. Then, as Clark says, “Give a nod to Nicki.”

*Clark uses a difficult-to-master Japanese technique called the “hard shake”—search for it on YouTube—but a regular shake works just as well.

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