Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens offers an award-winning “garden to glass” bar program led by Chef de Swigs Anthony Laborin
Laborin accompanies Owner and Executive Chef Rich Mead on his weekly visits to the Santa Monica Farmers Market, for drink menu inspiration. “The farmers we work with are really interesting people,” he says. They’ve introduced me to so many different types of produce that I never would’ve thought about using in a cocktail. They have tremendous input on flavor profiles and textures. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the food from the people who grow it. Like the food at Farmhouse, our cocktail program really reflects the seasonality of our region and spotlights the freshest flavors of the moment.”
Laborin finds it important as a bartender to stay ahead of the curve and continually try to make yourself and your bar program better. He notes, bartenders should strive to learn new techniques behind the bar. He uses sous vide in his cocktail recipes to speed up the cooking process of ingredients and make things more consistent. Sous vide is the slow cooking of ingredients in a sealed plastic pouch at low temperatures to cook food evenly and retain moisture.
For instance, Laborin says, “With cocktails, you can play with fun ingredients. You can do a shrub but do it sous vide instead of having it rest on the tabletop. From my experience, I’m able to extract more delicate flavors this way and speed the process up. Instead of taking a couple days, it takes a couple hours.
To complement the restaurant’s locally sourced, seasonally inspired menu, Laborin and Mead hand pick and get inspired by the freshest fruits and veggies of the season. He utilizes a sous vide technique for seasonal cocktails and the results are incredibly delicious.
Here are some of Laborin’s tips to making cocktails sous vide style:
Safety first: know your ingredients and know your work area. Do your due diligence to make sure this machine isn’t going to harm anybody—there’s a lot of different bacteria you must be aware of, etc. Research the product you’re using before you start diving into sous vide.
Don’t Overcook: Some of the ingredients are delicate, so you want to make sure you’re not overcooking them. Some delicate items can be overcooked quickly–even at a low temperature. You can also extend the process and see how much extraction you can pull from the ingredient when it’s set at a lower temp for a longer time and with consistent heat. We do a strawberry simple syrup that we make using a different temperature than we normally would, around 170 degrees Fahrenheit. We found that if you cook it a little too long, you can pass that delicate flavor and go to a brambly, overcooked strawberry flavor. I would recommend pushing it to the limit to see how much flavor you can extract, but for the most part, it’s a pretty quick extraction when you’re doing sous vide.
Try Various Ingredients: I love the flavor of peppers, but I hate spicy drinks, so for me, cooking spicy peppers sous vide is better because you get all the beautiful pepper flavor without the heat. This was the inspiration for our Capsicum Annnum? cocktail.
Experiment: Figure out how you want to use it. A lot of sous vide is just playing around with the machine until you feel comfortable with it. You don’t have to use a vacuum bag; you can use the water displacement method. Just fill a Ziploc bag and slowly dunk that. The pressure from the water will push all the air out of the bag which makes it easier than vacuum sealing something every time. Make sure you properly heat up your water first. You want it to come to temperature before throwing your ingredient in the water bath.
This Strawberry is Drunk
Tamai Family Farms strawberry, lime, mint, rum blend
In this cocktail, Laborin extracts the delicate, bright flavors of the strawberry using sous vide, whereas a traditional way of making strawberry simple would leave you with cooked, overripe, or even scorched strawberry flavors. The drink at its core is very simple—strawberry simple syrup, lime juice, sweet vermouth, and a blend of Jamaican and Caribbean Rum. He finishes the drink with fresh cracked pepper, absinthe, and mint to add one more level of nuance and complexity.
- 1/2 fresh, ripe strawberry stemmed and cored
- 1/4 oz. sweet vermouth
- 1/2 oz. clairin sajous
- 3/4 oz. lemon juice
- 1 oz. sous vide strawberry simple syrup*
- 1 1/2 oz. probitas rum
- 4 mint leaf (for garnish)
- 4 sprays of absinthe (to top)
- fresh cracked pepper (to top)
Preparation: Add your strawberry piece to a shaking tin and lightly press with a muddler. Build the ingredients in shaking tin. Add ice, shake hard to properly dilute. Take a chilled bucket and spray with absinthe. Double strain the cocktail into the bucket. Add a large ice rock.
Hit the rock with 1-2 turns of a pepper mill (you want it to be course, not fine. Lay the mint leaf on top of the rock.
*Sous Vide Strawberry Simple
We use Albion strawberries from Tamai Farms in Oxnard, CA.
- 1 gram of stemmed cored strawberries sliced very thin
- 1 liter simple syrup (1:1) by weight
Preparation: Get your bath working to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine your strawberries and simple syrup into a zip lock bag. When your bath comes to temperature, slowly submerge your bag into the water with a corner of the zipper open. When all the air has escaped and the bag can submerge completely, finish zipping it up and let cook for 10 hours. After 10 hours, pull the bag from the bath and transfer to an airtight container straining out all the strawberries. Once it’s chilled down to room temperature, place in the fridge.
Tamai Family Farms bell pepper shrub, egg white, lime, tequila.
Inspired by his love of the pepper flavor and low tolerance for the heat, Laborin cooks a combination of bell peppers and jalapeños sous vide into a syrup for 12 hours to get all the juicy pepper flavor and no heat. After 12 hours, the juices are so pretty that he makes a shrub with sherry vinegar—a match made in heaven. Egg white is added for texture and lime for some acid to balance. Tequila is added and the swig is finished with some olive bitters to make it extra savory.
- 2 oz. blanco tequila
- 1 egg white
- 3/4 oz. lime juice
- 1 oz sous vide bell pepper shrub*
- 6-8 dashes of olive bitters
Preparation: Combine all ingredients into a shaking tin. Add ice and shake for 20 seconds. Using your Hawthorne strainer, strain the cocktail into the other end of your shaker and discard the ice. Dry shake for 20 seconds. Using a mesh strainer, strain your cocktail into a chilled glass. Let your inner barista out and make a sexy design with the olive bitters.
**Sous Vide Bell Pepper Shrub
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and seeded
- 1 green bell pepper, cored and seeded
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
- 4 jalapeños, cored and seeded
Preparation: Get your bath working to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Take all your veggies and cut them brunoise (small) or brunoise fine if you’re a nut job like me. Add your veggies to a mixing bowl and toss with 4 cups of sugar. When your bath comes to temperature, add the mixture to a zip lock bag and use the displacement method to submerge the bag into the bath. Let cook for 12 hours. Strain and transfer the liquid to an airtight container. Once the liquid has come to room temperature, add sherry vinegar to taste (probably around 1/4 cup or so. The acid will balance out the sweet and let the vegetal bell peppers shine through.
International Sous Vide Day is celebrated every year on January 26th and marks the birthday of Dr. Bruno Goussault—the pioneer of modern sous vide. The art of sous vide spans the globe.