Award-winning Beverage Curator Joan Villanueva has created a wealth of enticing cocktails and imaginative fresh drinks to pair with the new menu at The Hake in La Jolla, California. There, his newly revamped bar program is categorized by base spirits, including the agave-spotlighting Niama with Tequila Cabeza, Cynar, Dolin Rouge, Grand Marnier, Aperol and a Fernet wash and the vodka-based Emperor’s Tea with Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka, chrysanthemum tea syrup, lemon and apple juice.
What inspired the direction & feel of your new cocktail menu?
Something we do at The Hake is to look at everything we offer to our guests as part of an experience, almost like the sum of its parts is what makes the experience greater. I waited to see what Chef Aarti had as a direction for the menu before any cocktails were even planned.
You’re known for creating signature bitters & garnishes, including beautiful candied rose petals. What have you been playing around with lately?
It really is more of a way to look into reducing waste and starting a conversation. I am really into crystallizing and dehydrating. At the same time, I feel like each cocktail tells you which direction to go in with regards to its garnish. Strawberry Chips are currently in the works but candied garnishes are something I am looking to develop more.
When creating a new drink what are the main factors you consider in relation to the sensory and aesthetic experience?
Our guests, that’s who we make drinks for. Andrew Larson and Daniel Vargas (our bartenders) understand that very well. As a bar team we ask many questions to determine what we can offer based on preference and what guests have in mind for dinner.
What’s your coolest drink at the moment?
The ‘Naima’ is a tequila variation on a Negroni with the components altered in a way that work in a really funky way. But if I had to pick something from The Hake’s menu it would be between: ‘Wild World’ a gin Old-Fashioned prepared with The Botanist Gin and BDW Walnut Bitters or ‘T.A.K.’ a Sotol Por Siempre take on a pineapple-sage margarita.
Which spirits will we be sipping and seeing more of in 2017?
I like that people are into agave spirits; however, I see people really getting into gin. I think gin is coming our way with new expressions. I see people ordering gin-based drinks at the bars now and specifying which gin in particular they would like in their drinks. I also see people going back to rum and ordering that more often as well.
A personal favorite classic cocktail and why?
Wild Turkey 101 Old Fashioned, I am a big fan of Wild Turkey and an Old Fashioned tells you a lot about a bar!