Q: “Why did the mushroom buy everybody drinks at the bar?”
A: “Because he’s a fungi to be with.”
Last winter, we stopped in at Francoise Koster’s La Poubelle, the historic French bistro in Franklin Village and a redoubt of creative cocktail culture. There, self-taught mixologist and manager Amanda Chapman snuck an unmarked bottle out to us and proudly displayed the contents. The umber-colored liquid was filled with rye whiskey and charred little mushrooms, some of which I recognized (from having worked for Japanese grower Hokto Kinoko) as brown beech, or hon shimeji. It wasn’t ready to taste but before too long, Chapman debuted a cocktail on their menu called the Son of a Gun, named after the restaurant and made with the mushroom-infused rye she perfected in her drinks kitchen.
“I was at the restaurant Son of a Gun with [La Poubelle chef] Johnny Zone. “ Chapman recalls. We had a crudo dish with tiny brown beech on it. Johnny was drinking bourbon neat and he went to take a drink of it when he looked down and saw one of the tiny mushrooms in his whiskey. He asked me if I put it there and I said no, and we had a laugh about it…. Then suddenly it hit me and I said to him, ‘hey I bet mushrooms would be really good in whiskey… both really earthy and so on.’ So the next day we went to work and I put some of the mushrooms we had on stock for the gnocchi in a mason jar with some bourbon and left it for a day. When I checked it out, it seemed that the mushrooms were infused more than the whiskey was, so we decided to char them and try again… That’s how it was created.”
Meanwhile, not more than a mile away at Matt Biancaniello and Christopher Hewes’ Library Bar at the Roosevelt (itself a bastion of bar omakase), they aver that La Poubelle knocked off their mushroom-infused cocktail, the umami Manhattan, which they’ve been making since at least last fall.
Turns out the two drinks are pretty distant cousins, riffing off the unique savory flavor of mushrooms but nothing alike. Here’s how Chapman makes her Son of a Gun:
2 oz. charred chanterelle and hon shimeji-infused rye
1 oz. artichoke liqueur
2 bar spoons simple syrup
3 dashes Miracle Mile Forbidden Bitters
We don’t have the exact recipe for the umami Manhattan but reviews characterize it as made with either candy cap or shiitake-infused bourbon, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and coffee-infused Cynar.
Turns out no one has the monopoly on mushroom-steeped cocktails. In San Francisco, Ozumo’s Josh Haney makes the Jishin (“earthquake”) with boiled candy cap essence and garnishes it with salted almonds. Gwen Sutherland Kaiser published a recipe for “The Magic Mushroom Cocktail,” in her blog The Intoxicated Zodiac, “where horoscopes meet alcohol,” way back in April 2009. http://intoxicatedzodiac.com/blog/2009/04/08/magic-mushroom-cocktail-for-aquarius/. While Kaiser used portabella mushroom infused vodka for her recipe, we wouldn’t, as she suggests, try it with psilocybin.