way (for you) is sometimes really difficult. I always think of reassurance behind the bar in two ways: first, knowing your stuff. Know the products you offer, why, the differences between them, where they are from, etc. Related to that is knowing your classics, and making them the right way. I have seen the truly abominable Old Fashioned and Last Word, and it makes me lose confidence in the bartender. The second part of reassurance, to me, is the second drink. I’ve found that often if a person is unsure of the quality of the bartender they sometimes throw a softball, but if the bartender knocks it out of the park, they might feel emboldened to ask for that go-to, or a lesser called classic. Now, if the bartender nails that too? You just gave that guest a great experience, and now they need no further reassurance, they believe in the skill set.
tequila Manhattan but really its own delectable drink! And finally: Grandpa Cal’s Old Tyme Cure-All: Evan Williams whiskey, Cameron’s own house-made B&B, lemon, cinnamon honey, and Earl Grey. You know what? This really is Cameron’s grandpa’s cure-all for when you’re under the weather but, seriously, you can pretend you are and just savor this drink any time. After we sat down to drink our way through the cocktail menu, we chatted with Cameron Dodge-White. Hailing from Michigan, Dodge-White is booze- forward as well as a forward human being: a direct, straight talker who looks you in the eye and has strong opinions about drinking, cocktail culture and life imbibed.
Q: What do you think is the hottest trend in spirits and cocktails right now? What’s the go-to liquor for you? A: I think Vermouth is going to really start to expand on cocktail lists shortly; it’s a natural reaction to so many years of the “Vodka Martini, bone dry”. It is a vast and interesting category of spirits that at one time were mandatory drinking (and certainly some would say never stopped being, with the Negroni and Manhattan being as popular as ever). Slowly, the bar community has been helping to educate and excite patrons about the possibilities Vermouth can bring to cocktail making. Personally, I basically run on bourbon. There is something about how quintessentially American it is, how flexible and varied; from historic mass produced labels to limited, small batch, over-proofed releases, a bourbon at the end of the day makes me breathe a little deeper. As for behind the bar, I find myself coming to gin over and over. So many unique styles and then brand expressions within those styles make for a massive palette to work with. I’ve been obsessing over Sloe Gin while doing R&D for a solid year.
Have we seen a change in the sort of “kitchen sink” approach to mixology, when you’d see a whole garden on the bar? I’m not sure I’ve seen a huge turn away from the “Garden”. I think that for many places it is part of their identity, they want to be a “Mixology” (with a capital M, mind you) bar, and thus think that having a daunting list of specialty drinks and ingredients available is simply part of the game; certainly if it is a program that is in a cuisine-forward restaurant.
/ Cigar & Spirits
The largest change I have seen is that as a community in LA, people have really embraced the creation of their own syrups, tinctures, infusions, sauces and slurry. Instead of hoping that, say, each individual strawberry tastes the same, provides the same sugar content, balances a drink the correct way, bartenders have created great purees which they can use to control consistency from drink to drink, and also prevents them from having to put a big jar of whole fruit on the bar. It also helps with speed. You want each drink to be perfect, every time, so any chance you get to meld speed and accuracy, you take it. As cocktail culture has emerged across the US, the public has gotten savvier, more educated and more willing to try new things. That leads to more calls for specialty / proprietary drinks, which will almost always be the most time consuming things to make. It is true that many bar-only establishments have started to whittle down their mise en place, and I mainly think it is a combination of that previous point, and plain good business. Everyone running a program is worried about waste, and fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs spoil quickly. If we focus the cocktail list to have the fewest number of those things as possible, we get a much greater control of inventory and waste. Tell us about your approach to cocktails. What do you make to reassure people, and what do you make to challenge them? I’m a bartender. I don’t consider myself a “mixologist” at all. I like to drink, and I like pretty much everything. The things my style bucks against tend to be the over-produced and the precious. Complication does not equate quality. I like straight forward, booze-forward drinks. If I order a tequila-based cocktail, I want to taste that tequila! Part of my job as a bartender is to let that base spirit speak for itself, let it provide the structure, the frame of the house so to speak, and then find flavors that help balance and enhance it’s natural qualities. I preach balance to my staff constantly: is the cocktail, in one sip, a complete experience? Can you let it roll across your tongue and taste both its individual components and the complete story you’re trying to tell with that drink? Once a bartender starts to develop their palate via tasting, drinking, smelling, of everything, not just spirits, but wine, beer, Amaro, fruits, herbs, everything, they start to understand flavor profiles and how each interact, and now you’re not reaching to find balance, you have a voice in your head that says, “Nope, you need Chartreuse” or whatever that missing link is. Reassurance is a really interesting word to use in that question. It’s apt because we all have our go-to drink that makes us happy, and yet finding a bartender that makes your specific go-to, the perfect
THE LINCOLN 2536 LINCOLN BOULEVARD, VENICE CA 90291 MONDAY-SATURDAY 7PM- 2AM SUNDAY 2PM-10PM 2536 LINCOLN BLVD, VENICE, CA 90291 PHONE: (310) 822-1715
If I want to challenge a guest it goes one of two ways: I ask them what spirit they would like to drink, citrus or no citrus, and what glass they want to drink it from. Then I challenge myself to make something I think they will love, whether it’s a riff on a classic or something I’ve never ever attempted before. The second way is when someone just says “bartender’s choice,” I inevitably end up defaulting to a proper Daiquiri or my version of Corpse Reviver No. 2. Are they difficult to drink? Hell no! Are they oft served improperly? In my opinion, watching someone experience an honest and proper Daiquiri for the first time is hilarious. Blenders tried hard to ruin that drink, but most of the bartenders I know have a special place for it . How is the Lincoln different than other places you’ve worked? I think, however quaint, it’s the soul of the place. We worked tirelessly for a long time to put thought and care into every single detail, every single square inch of The Lincoln and I think that rubbed off. I absolutely have to mention the staff, who are such a great team and genuinely care. They care about the drinks, they care about the vibe, they care about the feedback, about everything. I told [the owners] before we opened that The Lincoln would never be the place with suspenders and bowties, no lab coats or emulsified seaweed foam, with zero pretension or posturing; just people who like each other, like to drink and want to share that with the awesome and diverse community in Venice. LA is so much more than Hollywood or Beverly Hills. There’s more than enough sprawl for a thousand different concepts, but ultimately I think that what neighborhood and community you are in should be taken into account. There is a great automotive history in southern California, and certainly in Venice, and that extends to the people, the idea of working with one’s hands, a mechanic, a painter, a musician, a bartender. I’m from the Midwest and my family is all auto workers. I wanted to create a list and a vibe that captured how gregarious and welcoming those shop crews always were at a weekend barbecue. No one cared what you were drinking, just that you were among friends. Where’s the best place to sit in here? Everyone will tell you the corner tables in the patio, and they are great, but secretly I love the high-top right by the parts room. It offers a full view of the inside space and bar, it’s great for people watching, and you get your own little corner to set up shop in. Why will The Lincoln be my new home away from home? Again, first and foremost, the staff. They want to be there and they want you there too. No eye rolls, no snootiness, just good people and good drinks. The more pragmatic answer might be that we have been very conscious of keeping the price point competitive
(who else is sick of waiting 15 minutes for a $15 cocktail?) and creating a very comfortable and unique space with multiple different seating and communal options for getting cozy with a date or mixing it up with new bar friends. Sadly, we came to the end of our tasting. It was more like a “drinking” because, did we mention we shared SEVEN cocktails?! Let us say that while you can get a recipe for a cocktail, it’s not just the ingredients – which do matter, of course – but it’s the indefinable “hand” that pours and mixes a drink that makes it just so right. That’s why you can order the same cocktail at every bar you go to, made with the same spirits, the same proportions, and as Cameron rightly says, not every one will taste the same. If it’s a fabulous cocktail, you’ll know which bartenders have got “the hand” and Cameron’s got it. A bar can be designed by a star architect or top interior designer (and this one is, in the person of designer and gear head Matthew White, ) but what matters, if a customer is to make a return trip, is what goes on behind the bar. Double props to The Lincoln for its creative design and top bar so put it on your bucket list right now!
Published on Sep 19, 2016