Interview with Phil Ward of Mayahuel

Photography by: Rahav Segev

Photography by: Rahav Segev

Mayahuel is completely dedicated to Tequila and Mezcal. While I never had the bad memories associated with it like most, I just never developed a taste for it. It was a spirit that did nothing for me. Mayahuel single-handedly changed my entire perception of Tequila. So today we chat with Phil Ward, Co-Owner and Beverage Director, of Mayahuel.

How did you become so interested in cocktails?
I stumbled into a busier barback position at Flatiron Lounge 6 weeks after they opened. Got curious, got obsessed, haven’t looked back.

What is your approach when it comes to formulating cocktails and what inspires you?
Its all about balance and templates. Every good cocktail is a blueprint for other good cocktails. What inspires me is a pretty cheesy question no offense. I like inventive and delicious things.

You mentioned that asking about your inspiration was a cheesy question. I find it fascinating though to find out what inspires bartenders to create drinks that reflect them as an individual. So to that affect how would you describe your style as a bartender? How do your drinks reflect you as an individual?
Your assuming drinks reflect an individual. Sorry to be a pain in the a– but I don’t know that is always true. Though if I had to say how my drinks reflected me as an individual (if they do) I’d say that they are simple yet complex.

One of my favorite drinks on Mayahuel’s older menu is the “On the Bum”. What was the inspiration behind that drink?
It was based off the Mai Tai.

No wonder I enjoy it as much as I do, seeing how the Mai Tai is one of my all time favorite drinks. Now how did you come up with the name “On the Bum”?
It was a tribute to Beach Bum Berry

Jamaican rum has a characteristically funky flavor and mezcal tends to have a smoky quality. What led you to combining these two strong flavored spirits in the same drink?
Well I always say when you put two tyrants in a room they will either kill each other or figure out a way to make peace and work together. I also maintain that any two things can go together if you find the right bridge to bring them together.

You mentioned that if you find the right bridge you can bring what could be opposing forces together. In the On the Bum what was the bridge and how did you go about finding it? Was there a particular direction or flavor profile you were seeking?
The orgeat was probably the main bridge in the drink. I just knew that orgeat played nice with both separately which is generally the best clue as to what can bridge the gap between two things.

I noticed that one of the ingredients of the On the Bum is Medley #2. It reminds me of how Don the Beachcomber created things like Dons Spices #2 and Dons Mix. Was this intentional? Did you want to leave something to drinker’s imagination?
Yes and yes

So what is the secret mix that makes up Medley #2?
Its a blend of Cane Sugar and Regan’s Orange Bitters

Simple yet effective.

Do you have any projects or drinks you are currently working on?
Yes I am helping with all the Fatty Crab/Cue Venues including the one we just opened in Hong Kong. I also will be helping open Ebanos Crossing in Los Angelos in two weeks.

Sounds like you are quite busy with all these projects. How was it different creating drinks for the Hong Kong market? Did you find it a challenge? If so How?
Every place is different. Hong Kong is a “younger” market as in cocktails haven’t quite created a market for themselves there to a large degree. There are some places but its not quite taken off completely yet. (won’t be long in my opinion) Biggest thing in such markets is to make drinks accessible for newbies.

Thanks again Phil for taking the time out of your packed schedule to chat with us.

On the Bum
1 oz Del Maguey Vida infused with Pineapple
1 oz Smith and Cross
3/4 oz Fresh lime juice
3/4 oz Orgeat
1/2 oz Medley # 2
Shake all ingredients with ice and pour into a low ball glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Mayahuel
304 East 6th St
NY, NY, 10003
(212) 253-5888

Lucid Absinthe Review and the Absinthe Suissesse

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Absinthe continues to be a mystifying spirit, partly because of its scandalous history and the controversy surrounding its supposedly hallucinogenic properties.

Allegedly it was created as a medicinal elixir in the early 1790’s by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire. It gained popularity after it was given to French troops to combat malaria. When they returned they brought it back to cafes, bars, and other establishments and its popularity exploded.

Driven by the prohibition and temperance movement, absinthe was demonized and associated with violent crime, ultimately leading to its ban in 1912 by the US Dept. of Agriculture. After 95 years, the ban was ultimately lifted, and the genuine absinthe was once again reauthorized for sale in the United States. Lucid became the first genuine absinthe made with real Grande Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium).

Lucid was developed in France by absinthe historian and distiller T.A. Breaux. It is distilled in the historic Combier Distellery in Saumur, in France’s Loire Valley.

For the taste test I sampled it as it is traditionally prepared.

The aroma is powerful and enticing, with aromas of anise, indeterminate spices, a hint of mint and other herbs filling the air around the glass.

The taste is more subdued than the aroma would lead you to believe. The flavors of anise and fennel are the first to engulf your mouth. This is followed by notes of various herbs which are impossible to discern as they blend together in one herby and earthy flavor.

Lucid is available in 750 mL for $59.99 and 375 mL for $34.99.

I now offer some additional ways to enjoy absinthe besides the traditional method.

First up is the Asbinthe Frappe which is an easy method used to turn the classic drip method into a refreshing iced drink.
Absinthe Frappe
1.5 ozs Absinthe (Lucid)
.5 oz simple syrup
1.5 ozs club soda
1cup crushed ice
Build first 2 ingredients over crushed ice and top with club soda. Give a quick stir to incorporate.
Notes:
This drink slowly changes over time as the ice melts adding more dilution to the drink. It starts off strong and cold before mellowing into a sweet and bubbly drink, perfect for those warm nights.

This drink has similar components to both the Ramos Gin Fizz and the Absinthe Frappè
Absinthe Suissesse
1.5 ozs Absinthe (Lucid)
.5 oz Orgeat Syrup
1 egg white or 1 oz of Pasteurized Egg Whites
1 dash or about 4-6 drops Orange Flower Water
2 ozs Half and Half
.5 cup crushed ice
Shake and strain with crushed ice and pour unstrained into a highball glass.
Notes:
The egg white and cream give the drink a frothy milkshake like texture. The orgeat adds a sweet nutty flavor helping to round out the flavor of absinthe.

This upcoming drink is a wonderful introduction into the world of tiki drinks.
Test Pilot
1.5 ozs Jamaican Rum (Appleton Estate V/X)
.75 oz Light Puerto Rican Rum (Cruzan)
3 tsps of Cointreau
1/8 tsp of Absinthe
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 oz Falernum
1 dash Angostura Bitters
1 cup crushed ice
Blend all ingredients together for 5 seconds then pour unstrained into a low ball glass. Top with more crushed ice. Garnish with a cherry.
Notes:
I decided to use Cruzan rum instead of the light Puerto Rican Rum called for. Like most good tiki drinks, this drink is more than the sum of it’s parts. Nevertheless the bitters and the absinthe are noticeable in the background lending subtle spicy and herbal notes. It is an expertly balanced drink with the sweetness in wonderful harmony with bite of the citrus and ginger.

The last cocktail is a creation by Stew Ellington.
Felix Swizzle
1 oz Dark Rum Rhum Barbancourt
1 oz Jamaican Rum (Appleton Estate)
.5 oz Falernum
.25 oz Absinthe (Lucid)
1 tsp Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Lime Juice
.25 Simple Syrup
Build in an ice filled tiki mug or high ball glass and swizzle. Garnish with a paper umbrella and a straw
Notes:
The original recipe does not call for the additional .25 oz of simple syrup but I felt that the drink needed because it was a little to tart for my taste. The absinthe adds a herbal depth with the maraschino adding a touch of it’s characteristic funk.

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Disclosure: This was a sample bottle that was shipped to me.

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Ron Abuelo Añejo 7 Year Review and the Pago Pago Cocktail

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Ron Abuelo traces its history back to the first sugar mill in the Republic of Panama and began producing rum in 1936. The rums are distilled from molasses before being aged in white oak casks.
Ron Abuelo 7 year is a light straw/copper color.
On the nose it opens up with a dry woody note before giving way to notes of vanilla and caramel.
It has sweet notes of vanilla, toffee, butterscotch, and caramel before finishing with a mildly dry nutty character. There is almost no trace of burn and it goes down extremely smooth.
The rum is incredibly affordable with a suggested retail of $23/750ml. This rum is equally at home drunk neat or in a variety of cocktails. Its affordable price point and delicious taste leaves plenty of room for experimentation without breaking the bank.

Pago Pago Cocktail
adapted from Beachbum Berry Remixed
1.5 oz Gold Rum (Ron Abuelo 7 Años)
3-4 chunks Fresh Pineapple
.5 oz Lime Juice
.5 ounce Green Chartreuse
.25 oz White Crème de Cacao (Marie Brizzard)
Muddle the pineapple in a cocktail shaker with the lime juice and liqueurs. Add the rum and ice and shake well for about 10 seconds. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
Notes:
The first time this recipe appeared in print was back in 1940. This is a drink that has such classic exotic drink ingredients as rum, pineapple and lime juice but it ups the ante with the herbal complexity of green chartreuse. It is refreshingly complex without being overwhelming. It’s perfect for a Friday evening sitting outside watching the sunset.
While I have not yet done so I think an interesting twist would be to infuse the rum with fresh cut pineapple thus creating a rich and aged pineapple rum without the need for muddling. In the future I’m going to have to give it a try and see how it comes out.

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Apricot Rum Fizz
2 ozs Rum (Ron Abuelo 7 Year)
1 oz Apricot Liqueur (Rothman and Winter)
.5 oz Lime Juice
3 oz Ginger Beer (Fever Tree)
Combine the first 3 ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into an ice filled low ball glass. Top with ginger beer.
Notes:
This is a light and easy sipping cocktail. The vanilla, caramel, and toffee notes meld nicely with the sweet fruitiness of the apricot liqueur. The ginger beer helps to keep everything in balance with its spicy bite.

Lastly I offer up my variation on the Captain’s Blood cocktail. I have decided to rename my variation Dr. Blood. The reason is because in 1935 the film Captain Blood was released in which Errol Flynn plays a Dr. Peter Blood who eventually becomes Captain Blood. This movie was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the name of this cocktail, hence its new name, the Dr. Blood.
Dr. Blood
1.5 oz Rum (Ron Abuleo 7 Year)
.5 oz Falernum
.25 oz Orgeat
.75 oz lime juice
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients and shake with ice. Strain over a large chunk of ice in a low ball glass
Notes:
Falernum is a sweet syrup used most often in tiki drinks. It contains flavors of almond, ginger, clove, lime, and depending on the recipe vanilla and/or allspice. Orgeat is a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar, and rose and orange flower water. In future posts I will describe how to make your own. The drink is wonderfully tropical with sweet spice throughout the drink.

Disclosure: This was a sample bottle that was sent to me.