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Bar IQ

Kathy Casey, America’s Original Bar Chef

November 8, 2011 By: Robert Plotkin


There was a time in this country when the only savory ingredients stocked behind most bars were celery, olives, Bloody Mary mix and a small jar of cocktail onions. Then with the resurgence of the cocktail came a wave of trendy specialty Martinis, cloying drinks best characterized as Kathy Caseydesserts in a glass. We’d possibly still be stuck in that trend were it not for the groundbreaking efforts of culinary superstar Kathy Casey, America’s first bar chef extraordinaire.

The star of the hit series “Kathy Casey’s Liquid Kitchen” on the Small Screen Network (www.smallscreennetwork.com) was one of the youngest female executive chefs in the country. In the mid-1980s, she rose to national prominence running top restaurants in Seattle and New York.
Casey has a love for cooking that she believes translates to the finished dish.

“I am passionate about food,” she says. “Have you ever gone to dinner and you’re disappointed in the meal? I swear to God, it’s because the person cooking is not loving what they’re doing. You can taste love in food; you can taste the passion.”

In 1993, Casey ventured behind the bar intrigued by the possibility of crafting savory cocktails. “I started creating specialty drinks and saw it as a huge opportunity. I wanted to bring the freshness and ideas of the kitchen into the bar, so I began working with exotic juices, herbs and garden-fresh ingredients and promoting creative signature cocktails in our restaurants.”

So successful were her efforts that in 2002 she established a professional agency — Kathy Casey Food Studios - Liquid Kitchen, based in Seattle — devoted to helping national companies create fresh, innovative drink programs. In 2006, for example, the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts engaged Casey to design a bar program that would create a memorable and unique cocktail experience at its many international lounges, bars and restaurants. The program she instituted would rival the most notable kitchens in fresh full flavors, creativity, consistency, passion and innovation.

“The cocktails my associates and I developed for the Fairmont and the accompanying training program have in some cases accounted for more than 25% of all liquor sales at selected Fairmont hotels,” Casey says. “As an example, in 2009 more than 30,000 of these cocktails sold at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia. Our mantra of quality beverages and luxurious hospitality paid serious dividends.”
Her experience setting up high-volume kitchens has served Casey well behind the bar. At a recent consultation in Abu Dhabi, her first move was removing everything from behind the bar — every toothpick, bottle, check presenter and pour mat. She then scrutinized the space and began to place items based on their usage and operational function.

“At the end of the process — when everything was in its optimal placement — I photographed every square foot of the bar; every backbar, refrigerator and storage cabinet,” she says. “We then create a schematic on the computer and laminated the printout. Now, whenever I return to that hotel, every product should be in its proper place. It’s exactly how a well-designed kitchen operates.”

Casey also places an emphasis on conducting shift “line checks” for the bar: a hands-on physical inspection of all fresh ingredients.

“I see a lot of bars these days failing to place emphasis on procedures for holding, tasting, prepping and rotating ingredients,” she notes. “It entails the same best practices that apply in the kitchen. Often there is way too much product brought to the bar, such as stocking a big bag of basil or mint. I say stock what you need from the kitchen so that it gets good rotation. And this will help with waste. I see people not doing a shift ‘line check’ for the bar. Just because you’re charging $10-15 per cocktail doesn’t mean that you can be wasteful.”

On the topic of drink creation, Casey believes bartenders need to realize that they’re not creating a menu or a drink for themselves. Everyone has different tastes. As a result, she thinks bartenders need to “chill” on the attitude. Some people want light vodka drinks, some like brown spirits, but not everyone likes an over-the-top, totally esoteric, super bitter drink. It’s important for bartenders to remember that they’re there to serve the guests and make them happy.

Casey has authored nine cookbooks — including “Sips and Apps: Classic and Contemporary Recipes for Cocktails and Appetizers” — oversees three companies, consults with clients and hosts her own show on the Small Screen Network. She’s a renowned chef, gifted blogger and acclaimed mixologist. Kinda makes you wonder what she does in her spare time.


Sake SangriaSake Sangria
Recipe from Kathy Casey's "Sips and Apps," Chronicle Books
Makes about 4 cups, enough for 6 to 8 servings

1 (750 ml) bottle sake
6 tablespoons honey
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, halved lengthwise, then cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces (use the entire stalk)
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 small tangerine or orange, thinly sliced
1 large plum or apricot, pitted and cut into thin wedges (optional, if not in season)

In a large pitcher, combine all the ingredients and stir with a spoon, crushing some of the fruit. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or up to 2 days, to let the flavors marry before serving. Serve over ice, and including some of the fruit in each serving.

Rye'InventionRye Invention
Specialty of Kathy Casey’s Liquid Kitchen
Makes 1 drink

1 1/2 oz. Rye Whiskey
3/4 oz. Aperol
1/2 to 3/4 oz. St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Garnish: Flaming orange peel

Measure ingredients into a mixing glass. Fill 3/4 full with ice. Stir – dancing the spoon. Strain into a coupe style martini glass. Heat orange disk with a lighter and squeeze disk over drink into flame.

Pineapple Pico'Rita
Specialty of Kathy Casey’s Liquid Kitchen
Makes 1 cocktail

1 oz. Cabo Wabo Tequila Blanco
1 oz. Skyy Infusions Pineapple Vodka
1/2 oz. triple sec
2 oz. Agave Sour (recipe follows)
Garnish: Kosher-salt half-rim, pineapple leaf and 2 Tbsp Pineapple Pico (recipe follows)

Combine the Cabo Wabo Tequila Blanco, Skyy Infusions Pineapple Vodka, triple sec, and agave sour in a pint glass. Fill with ice. Shake vigorously. Pour into a kosher salt-rimmed tall glass. Top with more ice if needed. Top with Pineapple Pico.

Agave Sour
1 cup Monin Agave Nectar
1 cup fresh lime juice
Combine ingredients, mix well and then place in a store-and-pour and refrigerate.

Pineapple Pico
1/4 cup pineapple jam
3/4 cup small-diced fresh pineapple
1/4 cup small-diced fresh strawberries
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp very finely minced fresh jalapeño
Combine ingredients and store refrigerated. Make fresh per day.

Clover Thyme Club
Specialty of Kathy Casey’s Liquid Kitchen
Makes 1 cocktail

1 sprig fresh thyme
2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. housemade raspberry syrup (see recipe)
3/4 oz. pasteurized egg white or 1 small organic egg white
Garnish: Small piece of fresh thyme

Bend and drop the thyme into a cocktail shaker. Measure in the gin, lemon juice, housemade raspberry syrup and the egg white. Fill the shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds to froth the egg white. Strain into a large martini glass. Garnish with a small piece of thyme.

Housemade Raspberry Syrup
Makes 2 cups

2 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Place ingredients into a Vita Mix blender cup. Secure lid and process until smooth. Place pureed raspberry mixture into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat then reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain cooked syrup through a fine mesh strainer. Let cool and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Bellini Manhattan 
Specialty of Kathy Casey’s Liquid Kitchen
Makes 1 cocktail

1 1/2 oz. Makers Mark 46
1/2 oz. Monin Peach Puree
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
1 dash Liquid Kitchen Golden Era Bitters
Splash brut Champagne
Garnish: Maraschino cherry

Measure bourbon, puree and red vermouth to a pint glass. Fill with ice. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain drink into a large martini glass. Top with a splash of champagne. Garnish with a cherry.

Kaffir Colada With Coconut Milk Foam
Specialty of Kathy Casey’s Liquid Kitchen
Makes 1 drink

3 large chunks ripe pineapple
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 oz. silver rum
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
Garnish: swirl of Coconut Foam (see recipe), kaffir lime leaf

Place pineapple and lime leaves in a mixing glass. Muddle well to fully release the juices of the pineapple. Measure in the rum, lime juice and simple syrup. Fill with ice. Cap and shake vigorously. Pour drink into a tall glass. Swirl with Coconut Foam (be sure to shake and apply with canister vertical). Garnish with a kaffir lime leaf.

Coconut Foam
One iSi canister makes enough to top about 15 – 20 drinks

1 1/2 sheets gelatin (gold standard) [if using silver, double amount]
2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
2 oz. water
6 oz. simple syrup
8 oz. unsweetened canned coconut milk

Place gelatin sheets in a bowl of ice water and “bloom” (soak till soft) for about 10 minutes. Combine the lime juice, water, and simple syrup. Strain through a fine strainer into a small saucepan. Remove gelatin from ice water and squeeze out excess water and then add to pan of liquid.

Heat over medium-high heat just until gelatin is dissolved. Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat. Do not boil. Stir in coconut milk. Let cool about 10 minutes – set a timer. Pour mixture into an iSi Whipper, screw on lid. Charge with 2 iSi Cream (N2O) chargers and IMMEDIATELY SHAKE WELL, refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.

Shake well upside down before discharging foam onto cocktail. Store refrigerated for up to 5 days.
 


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