Tag Archives: cocktail

No Further West

Way back when I moved to Los Angeles, I was lucky enough to meet a few great people right off the bat.  One of those, Gordy Grundy, was, and is, an artist of great repute, but also an urbane, lanky, freckled and utterly preppy Newport Beach socialite who often balanced his artistic endeavors with bright, sunny marketing activity.  When Anne Crawford introduced me to him, he owned the coolest club—in Orange County—called Mocambo, whose motto was “walk in, dance out,” and he was winding down Pincentives, a company he founded that made pins for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. His demeanor—more straight Noel Coward than twisted, tortured artist, belied his work, although certainly a little disturbance, a little darkness, bubbled below the surface.

I attended his wedding, and he mine.  My wife Victoria and I made some good friends through him—among them Union Station’s Traxx proprietor Tara Thomas—and when he and his wife Karin divorced (amicably), they actually hosted a party…together.  We’ve managed to stay close to both of them through the years.

Gordy’s an artist of incredible range and versatility.  More so than other artists I’ve known, his art evolved significantly through the course of our friendship.  There are his horny little devils.  There are the gold paintings.  And there were “Gordy Recommends”—what he calls the Barnsdall Cocktail Series—drinks recipe paintings, which superimpose drink recipes over monumental, stalwart images of sailing and flight.  Each has a “kicker” at the end, like “Mix well.  Rape and Pillage.”  These are actual drinks you can make.

Image Image

Gordy hadn’t shown in a while, so when Mat Gleason’s Coagula Curatorial hosted a sprawling retrospective, “Burn,” featuring 200 of Gordy’s works, in Chinatown recently, we weren’t going to miss it.  Tara put together a Gordy-themed prix fixe dinner at Traxx for the evening.  Along with the Gordy-themed menu featuring Bloody Mary Cherries, Artist’s Brawl Soup, Beauty First Fennel Risotto and Kissin’ Fool Rosemary Bread Pudding, she commissioned her chief mixologist (this makes me wonder how many mixologists she HAS) Kurtis Wells to design a cocktail to accompany the exhibition.  Wells’ creation, “No Further West”—honoring Union Station’s westward terminus and the only painting that hangs in the restaurant—a tart, fruity, grown-up summer drink that is as good to look at as it is to drink.

Here’s what goes in it and how to make it:

1-1/2 oz. Blue Ice Organic Wheat Vodka

1/2 oz. Torres Orange Liqueur

1/2 oz. Senior Curacao

Four Mint Sprigs

Two Cucumber Wheels

Half an Orange Wheel

Splash of Fresh Orange Juice

Splash of Soda

Splash of Sprite

Top with Varichon & Cerc Champagne

In a highball glass, muddle the mint sprigs and the cucumber and orange wheels. Add ice. Add alcohol, soda, orange juice and Sprite. 
Stir ingredients and top with champagne. 
Garnish with cucumber and orange wheel.

And here’s what it looks like:


Tara paired some nice wines by the glass along with this menu and we sampled a few of THOSE before realizing we were late. She came out with five bottles of wine in a reusable shopping bag.  I asked, “Maybe we should take one of those in case we get separated,” so she threw us one.  We slung it into a bag and rushed over to the gallery, where out front, another old friend, Bryan Carter, was slinging cocktails of his own.  After aeons with me working on Absolut and numerous brands since, Bryan’s now working with Bombay Sapphire.  He had a very accurate display of all the actual botanicals used in the distillation of the gin, and well entertained the 300 or so guests.

Gordy’s art covered every conceivable wall space inside Coagula Curatorial.  I counted but didn’t think it added up to 200 pieces.   Then, in a box under the gallery guest book, Gordy had a box labeled, “4 pieces and a prize, guaranteed: $40.”  So we had to have one of those.  We also bought a watercolor, which, Gordy confided to us, has a period photo of a boat sealed inside the back.  “That’s actually WORTH something,” he confided.

Fact is, ALL of his art is worth something.  It seemed as if pieces were flying off the walls (and out of the box under the sign in sheet) to giddy, eager buyers but Gordy revealed he really WAS planning on parting with his entire personal collection, and planned a “fire sale” of the remaining works the next day.  We don’t know if this took place but the following Sunday, Gordy made some ominous Facebook posts, promising to give his art away at a local ARTillery debate and really burn what was left over.


Later, he thankfully went back on that promise.

Burn, Gordy, Burn.  But please don’t tell me you gave “Liberator” away.



Mushroom Beef


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.