En Phlique at Williams & Graham
In March, most of the staff at Williams & Graham took a group trip to Southern Spain, which served as part vacation and part immersion into the wine and spirits of the region. As the group was sitting around talking one evening, conversation drifted to what was happening back home. “We were talking about what the kids were saying these days,” says bartender Chad Michael George. Fellow bartender Sam Johnson brought up the phrase "on fleek," one of the latest slang terms (meaning that something is "cool") to spread like a virus across the Internet. They joked about it during the rest of the trip, not knowing that when they got back home, it would be the name of a cocktail on Williams & Graham’s new spring drink menu.
“It was an inside joke for those of us that were in Spain,” George says, “and it kept coming up the whole time we were there — "on fleek" this, "on fleek" that — because none of us had ever heard of it except Sam. And so, when we were struggling to find names for the cocktails, I was like, ‘well, it’s a good cocktail, and that’s what that term means, so let’s just do that and see if people catch it.’”
So, what's cool about the cocktail? En Phlique (as George has chosen to spell it) blends rum from Trinidad, dry curaçao, lemon juice, red wine, bitters and egg white, shaken with ice and strained into a cocktail glass. A mist of bitters sprayed over the top then swirled into a flame pattern completes the new drink.
In his two years bartending at Williams & Graham, George had come to appreciate the series of rums from Plantation, particularly one created in Trinidad and finished in France. “I’m a fan of their whole line,” George says, “and the Trinidad rum has kind of an earthiness that you don’t get from Jamaican rums and Puerto Rican rums.” Plantation Trinidad is made from high-quality Caribbean rums purchased from a variety of distillers in the area, then aged for nine years on Trinidad, an island off the North coast of Venezuela. After maturation, it is shipped to France, where it is aged again, this time in used Cognac barrels.
George says he loves the rum’s old-world style in part because it reminds him of rhum agricole, a style of rum produced in the French West Indies from freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. Plantation Trinidad, however, is made from molasses, but it’s the barrel-aging that makes it unique. “I just liked it,” George adds, “and wanted to do a cocktail with it.”
George pairs the rum with another southern Caribbean product: dry curaçao. “Curaçao is an orange liqueur,” he explains. “It’s the key component of the sweetness, and it gives you a little bit of a citrusy note. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao is a little bit less sweet than a lot of the other orange curaçaos out there. We use it a lot here at Williams & Graham not only for that reason, but because it’s just a really well-made, balanced product.”
Chad Michael George puts the finishing touches on his cocktail, behind the bar at Williams & Graham. "It's my latte art," he says
Pierre Ferrand is a liqueur made from the peels of the lahara, a bitter, citrus fruit that evolved from Spanish Valencia oranges on the island of Curaçao. Curaçao, sometimes referred to as triple sec, finds its way into cocktails such as margaritas, cosmopolitans and the tiki-style mai tai. But this liqueur is a bit different: the lahara peels are immersed in un-aged brandy, which is blended with Cognac and spices, then aged in oak casks. “It adds another layer of complexity to the flavor,” George says.
George loves quality rum, but he also enjoys incorporating wine — red, white or even sherry — into a cocktail. While putting together the recipe for En Phlique, he reached for a bottle of malbec, adding a half ounce to the recipe. “I definitely wanted something that was bolder in flavor profile,” George says, “but not as oaky or tannic as a cabernet and maybe not with the acidity of a tempranillo.”
A few dashes of Angostura bitters and the recipe was almost complete. “It adds a little spice in there,” George says. “I think the Angostura, with the rum and the Malbec, really brings out any baking spice, or Christmas spice notes in that wine and in the rum.”
But what really holds it all together, he says, is the egg white. “It really binds all those ingredients together,” he says. “Egg white tends to turn down acidity a little bit, so maybe it makes it a little bit of a softer drink than it would have been without it. It also makes for a drink with a thicker mouthfeel, and when shaken over ice, creates a robust white foam that sits on top of a cocktail. George sprays more bitters onto that bed of foam with an atomizer, and paints a flame design with a straw. “It’s my latte art,” he says, jokingly.
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George considers En Phlique to be a variation of a classic sour cocktail, and recommends pairing it with William & Graham’s bone marrow ($15), served with toasted ciabatta bread. “The bone marrow is super rich,” George says, “and it’s topped with a bacon jam, so we’re adding even more richness on top of it. It could use a little acidity to cut through that, but you don't want to go with something too light.” The curaçao and lemon juice do just that, he says, and the richness of the rum and Malbec complement the bone marrow’s hearty flavor.
“I believe in keeping it simple,” George says about his formula for this and other cocktails. “This actually has more ingredients than most of my drinks, but it’s approachable. There aren’t a bunch of conflicting flavors or obscure ingredients in there — these are all ingredients that most people would know of.”
“Balance is the biggest thing,” George explains. And that’s pretty cool.