By Charly SHELTON
Summer is winding down across the Northern Hemisphere as we quickly approach fall, but that doesn’t mean temperatures are dropping much in L.A. While cities like Portland and New York can start to look for pumpkin spice soon, locally we are still in the mood for rums and tropical fruits. And Bourbon Steak at the Americana in Glendale has got those – plus more – covered with their summer cocktail menu and lounge food offerings.
When it’s so hot outside, something light and fruity is wanted to help dissipate the heat. Bourbon Steak’s lead bartender Ray Fuentes has just the right drink – Snow Resurrected. A reference to “Game of Thrones,” this is a play on a classic zombie cocktail for two people that is served in a metal bowl with chilled metal straws and plenty of crushed ice. A smattering of rums and dry Curacao with lemon, lime and pineapple juices and even a couple of pineapple leaves as garnish, is served with a flaming lime. This is the perfect summer fruity rum cocktail for the weather and, appropriately referencing GoT, it will hold us over until winter. I know they say winter is coming, but just like the show, it’s taking forever to actually get here.
For those who want some rum but not by the bowlful, the Rhumroni is a great alternative. A Negroni (gin, sweet vermouth and Campari) is light and a little bitter, but in the Rhumroni (rum and strawberry infused Campari), rum replaces the gin with the sweet balancing out the bitterness of Campari, and the wonderful strawberry flavor slips right through the middle. This is my favorite cocktail on the summer menu. It is something to sit outside with and enjoy the sun.
For those in the mood for gin, the Beety Rizzo is the drink for you. Bright pink (and I mean bright pink) and topped with a clover flower, this infusion of gin, apple brandy, beet and egg white sounds weirder than it is. It tastes just as you would imagine it should taste – pink. It is a flavor that is hard to describe yet harder still to forget. The bright color comes from the beet and rhubarb shrub and is aptly named for the leader of the Pink Ladies in “Grease.” Perfect for those “Summer Nights.”
For those ginger lovers, there is a drink that doles it out in spades. It’s Hard Out There For A Pimm’s that combines King’s ginger, cucumber juice, passion fruit syrup, Pimm’s and a ginger beer made by Fuentes’ own label. Not being a ginger aficionado, this one was not for me at all. Make no mistake – this is not a little bit of that root-y ginger flavor; it’s very prevalent and, although the cucumber juice and the sliced cucumber garnish help to balance it out a bit, a lot of ginger still comes through. I heard other diners at the bar who very much enjoyed it but for myself, I had to leave this one alone.
Finally we get to the riddle of the menu. It is called The Forbidden Magical Mushroom. You hear mushroom and you don’t immediately think of cocktails. It is candy cap mushroom infused Whistle Pig Rye, dry vermouth, amaro, Forbidden bitters and a summer truffle-infused luxardo cherry. Sounds odd, I know. And it is. Or it isn’t. Maybe it is.
This is one of the most complex drinks I have ever had. It smells faintly of maple syrup, it looks like thickened bourbon and it tastes different with each sip. The luxardo cherry is great – straight-forward with a hint of truffle richness. But the drink itself is perplexing. I drank the whole thing and couldn’t get a handle on it. It tastes like the sea one moment, then earthy the next, then the rye pops up, then back to the sea … All I can think is that I want another one because I want to figure it out. There is a scene I keep replaying in my head as I drink this from “American Hustle,” when Jennifer Lawrence’s character is talking about a nail polish that smells good but has a twinge of something rotten to it and that keeps you coming back for another smell. That is how I feel about this cocktail. It is either good or bad, but I want more of it either way.
Bourbon Steak is located in The Americana at Brand in Glendale. Their happy hour specials run every day from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and is a great place to cool off and have a quick bite. During happy hour, the lounge menu is half off, adding the final enticement to head to Bourbon Steak to try their summer cocktails before the fall menu sets in.