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Michael Chiarello’s Coqueta Spills Molecular Cocktails on San Francisco
Carolyn Alburger | Photo: Courtesy Coqueta | April 10, 2013
Edible snowballs, frozen sangria, spumas, spherification and more—a new breed of beverage touches down.
Michael Chiarello’s hotly anticipated entrance into San Francisco with new Spanish restaurant Coqueta is fast approaching. Last night, the Chiarello-described “sexy spot” was revealed to industry types who gathered at the Pier 5 address for a preview party. With the late afternoon sun streaming in through floor-to-ceiling windows, we got a chance to sample Chiarello’s new and lengthy Spanish menu (See it here). But while much ink has been spilled about the food, not much has been said of the cutting-edge cocktails Chiarello and Co. are (literally) cooking up. San Francisco sat down with general manager Michael Iglesias and bar manager Joe Cleveland to learn what will be shaking behind the bar when Coqueta officially opens this Saturday, April 13th.
SF: You guys worked together at Jose Adres’ Oyamel in Washington, D.C. for two and a half years. How will that experience play in to Coqeuta?
Michael Iglesias: Our style is definitely a little different than what San Francisco is used to. Joe and I developed 120 cocktails for Jose over two years with three or four changing on a daily rotation. We really learned to treat a bar like a kitchen, serving 500 people on a Friday and Saturday night.
SF: San Francisco hasn’t always been friendly to the bells and whistles of molecular cocktails. Why do you think it will be different this time?
MI: You don’t just do molecular cocktails to do it. You do it to make a drink taste better.
Joe Cleveland: I came into this San Francisco project feeling like an outsider. This city has such an established bar culture. I know it’s important that this menu honors San Francisco with seasonality and clean flavors.
SF: You’ve passed on the full menu (shown below). Will it change again before you open?
MI: What you have here is a final, third edit from tastings with Michael. We can’t say it’s a go until we start production, but this is 98% there.
SF: What inspired the menu most?
MI: The structure was inspired by Spanish tapas bars. There’s a bar in Barcelona called Quimet Quimet where there are two people making cocktails, pouring wine and making food. It’s a beautiful thing. At Coqueta, the open kitchen will be right next to the bar, so you’ll see the chef slicing jamon right next to the bartender shaking a drink. We’re calling it a gastrobar. Coqueta will be very much about the view: seeing the Bay while you’re seeing the show in the kitchen.
SF: What's the most "molecular" thing you're doing, if we can call it that.
MI: We are definitely playing with air, spuma, spherification, fruit cells, even freeze-dried powders. There’s a silky sangria, frozen to order with liquid nitrogen. And there’s an edible cocktail, the Pyreness Snowball, made with a light and fluffy frozen gin meringue and a base of citrusy, appley frozen Basque hard cider. It’s a cocktail that comes out on a plate.
SF: There's a Porrones section of the menu—what happens there?
MI: A Porrone is a Spanish party pitcher (see TwitPic from @ChefChiarello here). It’s a glass decantur with a spout on one side. You can pour a stream of a wine-based cocktail right into your mouth, pass it around from person to person. It’s refreshing. We’ll be using quarter-liter baby porrones for wine. We’re having them made locally in Berkeley.
SF: And what's up with the Spanish gintonics? They seem like a bit of an obsession for you guys.
MI: It’s the drink of the moment in Spain. Whatever gin you choose at a Spanish gintonic bar is served in a beautiful glass with the right fruit and the right aromatics. The glass is round like a wine glass to enhance the nose of the cocktail, and they use a tonic that’s less bubbly, or they’ll bloom gin with grapefruit. We’ll be serving our gin and tonics in big pinot noir glasses with large ice cubes (pictured, above). The Spanish are very artistic and it reflects in their gintonics. We want to honor that too.
SF: Tell me about the bar layout. Michael mentioned something about a podium or a stage?
MI: Building on the visual nature of Coqueta, the gintonic bar will be right in front of the Bay view. In the Pavillion area are 26 seats, a communal table, standing room for 20 guests, 14 counter seats and pedestals for guests to stand at. We want this to be the meeting place of the restaurant. In the open kitchen you can see the live fire, where we’ll grill whole fish, rice, paella and more. The kitchen extends into the former bar area and there’s a cold prep station for tapas. Then the gastrobar starts.
SF: What is your favorite drink or thing about what you're doing here?
MI: We’re really proud of the sangria program. It’s such an iconic Spanish drink and we wanted to make the best sangria possible at Coqueta. We’re making 100 gallon batches of sangria in wine barrels. They’re flash-pasteurized and kegged for us using a local malbec, oranges, lemon, berry shrub, herbal tea. We have several recipes.
SF: Are you going into cocktail pairings?
MI: Joe did cocktail pairings alongside 32 course menus at Jose’s minibar. We did it at Oyamel spirits dinners too. It’s definitely something for special occasion events, and we’ll grow that as the restaurant goes. For now, we’ll recommend a cocktail to get your palate going at the beginning of the meal. We’ll also offer one ounce cocktail pairings with the passed pintxos. Every twenty to thirty minutes, they’ll cycle through the dining room, coming out of the kitchen on trays with a sign and the price. People will point and take what they like. We will definitely always offer jamon Serrano with manzanillo sherry. This is a taste pairing that will blow people’s minds and open them up to sherry.
SF: What’s the prep time on cocktails?
MI: Five to seven minutes. The liquid nitrogen sangria takes 90 seconds to make. The foams are aerated by hand.
SF: With all this aerating and berry shrubs, is there any room for regular old beer and wine?
MI: We’ll have a 180-bottle list split between Spanish and what we’re calling “Here,” including wines from Napa, Sonoma and Lodi. We really want to show the depth of Spanish wine with the rest of the list so there will be aged Albarinos and other lesser known varietals—really special wines. Beer-wise it’s an Estrella bar with light, refreshing, crisp lagers. We’ll feature some local breweries too. Russian River and Sierra Nevada are making us a Brux sour ale that ties really well to the earthier flavors on the menu. Carl Sutton has a great cider for us. And we have a local brewer making us a Valencian rice ale.
And now, without further ado, an exclusive reveal of the full Coqueta cocktail list:
BLOOM LONDON DRY GIN, FEVER TREE MEDITERRANEAN TONIC, GRAPEFRUIT, JUNIPER, AND LOCAL PINE
JUNIPERO GIN, HOUSE MADE ANISE TONIC, APPLE - CELERY JUICE, CHILI ARBOL FENNEL SALT RIM, LEMON ICE, CELERY LEAF
HAYMAN’S OLD TOM GIN, HOUSE ACORN & APRICOT TONIC, SPANISH BITTERS, STRAWBERRIES, LIME
IMBERICO HAM, CORIANDER - MOLASSES SPICED GIN, HOUSE ACORN & APRICOT TONIC, BLOOD ORANGE, CAVA, SPANISH BITTERS
ST. GEORGE DRY RYE GIN, HOUSE MADE ANISE TONIC, DEL MAGUEY MEZCAL VIDA, PEDRO XIMENEZ, LIME, PASSION FRUIT
SQUARE ONE BOTANICAL VODKA, BONAL GENTIANE-QUINA, LUXARDO TRIPLUM, LEMON, SODA
RED WINE, SPANISH BRANDY, SHERRY, ORANGE, LEMON, CINNAMON, GINGER, BERRIES, LOCAL APPLES
MINT, JUNIPER, LEMON, CUCUMBER, GREEN GRAPES, STARFRUIT, BLUEBERRIES
RIOJA TINTO, HOUSE MADE BITTER ORANGE SODA
AGUA DE VALENCIA
CANAL CANELES CAVA, VODKA, GIN, ORANGE JUICE
MANZILLIA SHERRY, HOUSE MADE BITTER LEMON SODA, ORANGE BITTERS
ESTRELLA DAM, HOUSE MADE ROSEMARY LEMON SODA, ORANGE BITTERS
COLA MEXICANA, RED SANGRIA, CINNAMON…A BASQUE FAVORITE
SUTTON CELLERS AUSTURIAN STYLE CIDER, DOGPATCH SF
COCTELES VANGUARDIA – MODERN COCKTAILS
-SPANISH GOLDEN ALE
RANSOM OLD TOM GIN, FEVER TREE MEDITERRANEAN TONIC, AMONTILLADO SHERRY, CHOCOLATE BITTERS, GOLD, LEMON ESPUMA
THE SUN NEVER SETS
PARTIDA ANEJO, LICOR 43, LIME, FRESH PRESSED PINEAPPLE JUICE, MEZCAL – PINEAPPLE ESPUMA BRULEE
MODERN FROZEN RED SANGRIA, RASPBERRY FIZZY, APPLE GELEE, BLUEBERRIES
FROZEN SIDRA - GIN MERINGUE, PINE, ANISE, YOGURT, MICRO FLOWERS,HONEY LACE
COCTELES INSPIRIRADOS – SF INSPIRED COCKTAILS
-THE POWELL LINE
ISLA CANARIAS AREHUCAS RON, ORANGE LIQUEUR, FRESH PRESSED APPLE JUICE, LEMON JUICE
HANGER ONE VODKA, YUZU PUREE, ALMOND, FIG, FARM EGG, PEYCHAUD’S BITTERS
ESPOLON TEQUILA BLANCO, CURACAO, FINO SHERRY, FRESNO PEPPER, LIME
-ENGINE CO. #5
-DANCING PINES BOURBON, TOBACCO INFUSED CREAM SHERRY, LEMON, ZURRACAPOTE
- DEATH TO THE SUMMER OF LOVE
“HIPPIE JUICE”- HOUSE MADE HEMP MILK, DANDIELIONS, ABSINTHE, SPANISH BRANDY, FINISHED WITH CANAL CANELES CAVA
JW BLACK, CARPANO ANTICA VERMOUTH, BARREL AGE BITTERS, CASA PIENA BARREL STAVE SMOKE
COCTELES DE JEREZ – SHERRY COCKTAILS
OLOROSO SHERRY, CAMPARI, LIME, HONEY
CREAM SHERRY, NOCINO DELLA CRISTINA WALNUT LIQUEUR, SHERRY VINAGER, MANCHEGO, GOLDEN RAISINS
DRY AMONTILLADO, 209 GIN, YELLOW, CHARTERUSE,
MANZANILLA, PUNT E MES, CHUNCHO BITTERS
-J & T
JUNIPER, LIME, FEVER TREE MEDITERRANEAN TONIC
HOUSE MADE ROASTED SPARKLING LEMONADE, ROSEMARY, SEASONAL FRUIT
ALMOND, HONEY, FIG, LEMON, HOUSE MADE ANISE TONIC
CATALONIAN MILK MADE FROM RICE, TIGER NUTS, VANILLA, CINNAMON
ACORN-APRICOT OR ANISE