A Luxe “Choose Your Own Adventure” Story
Brought to you by:
Dominik Aschauer, Cilantro Bartender
Kristi Sneddon Photographer
The calming natural light and warm wood interior of Cilantro Restaurant offers a comforting retreat after a jaunt down Calgary’s bustling 17th Avenue.
You enter the cozy space, and a smiling hostess ushers you past several quaint dining tables and up a small wooden flight of stairs. You find yourself at a long wooden bar. The aroma of the nearby wood fire oven, rosemary and warm cherry excite your senses.
Dominik smiles at you before returning his focus to his task at hand, he is building a tall, brilliant orange cocktail in a Martini glass.
You watch mesmerized as he lights a piece of cedar bark on fire and infuses the fragrant smoke into the potion. He barely has time to place a tiny, green, hand-carved garnish on the side of the glass when a poised server whisks it away to a nearby table and places it elegantly before a smiling guest.
“Now,” says Dominik. “What can I get for you?”
You were going to order a beer, but now you are having second thoughts.
Choose your own adventure…
A) Look him in the eye and say, “No Speak Americano…”
B) Take a seat at the bar and say, “Surprise me.”
You choose option A):
“No Speak Americano”, you say.
“The No Speak Americano is my tribute to the first bad-ass drink that James Bond ever ordered”, says Dominik proudly, “the Americano. The essence of an Americano is a combination of three basic ingredients: Campari, vermouth (Punt e Mes) and soda. As with all fine cocktails, quality of ingredients is important.”
“In my version, I tried to combine ingredients that would pair well with ingredients that would compliment each other, and also what I love. I love black liquorice, and I’ve always loved tea, so it has house made black tea and star anise syrup in it… and of course all the cocktailers are putting bitters in their cocktails, so I add a little rhubarb bitters and Asperol.”
A little lemon juice, a little soda water… Shaken, strained, poured… What ensues is a demonstration of liquid poetry. Many fresh and fragrant ingredients, multiple processes for extracting and infusing flavour, and finally a perfect cocktail is presented to you. It has spicy notes at the beginning, bold but refreshing herbal flavours, and a liquorice finish.
After a short lesson on “the only way to order Punt e Mes in Europe”, and a recipe for your own house made black tea and anise syrup, you realize that your No Speak Americano is almost finished. It’s already time to choose your next adventure…
You choose option B):
“Surprise Me.”, you say.
“Have you tried a Di Dieri?” Dominik asks. A Di Dieri is a champagne cocktail with hints of Campari and Cinzano. Topped with golden pieces of candied vermouth. You relent, mostly to the candied vermouth, because you have no idea what that is – and it sounds delicious.
The classic definition of a cocktail is a beverage containing three or more ingredients, one of which must be a spirit. Through passion, skill and imagination however, a mixologist can transform a rudimentary drink into a sensory emotional experience.
“A mixologist knows his recipes, he’s got that down. He’s got that palette on his tongue. You can learn that to an extent, but at the same time it’s a gift. If you have a strong palette and you can taste flavours, then you should be doing this.
If you’re a good ‘people person’ though, that’s where the bar tending aspect comes in… At the end of the day it’s the stories and the personal connection that you have with people that keep them coming back. If you can achieve that through taste alone- that’s amazing. But if you can build a great cocktail and connect with people at the same time, I feel like that’s what being a bartender is all about.”
“Which one are you, a Bartender or a Mixologist?” You ask him.
“I’ll let you decide”, Dominik says with a smile as he begins to build a “Count Negroni” cocktail.
All cocktails featured in this article were created by Dominik Aschauer, Bartender for Cilantro Restaurant in Calgary (below). They can be found on Cilantro’s new Spring Cocktail List.
Kristi Sneddon Photographer is responsible for all the stunning pictures of Dominik’s potions.
Please enjoy responsibly!
Written by: Catherine Hazin