Earlier today, we announced that several local chefs and restaurants were nominated for a James Beard Foundation award -- and that coveted roster includes Jeff Osaka, chef-owner of twelve, who recently just celebrated the Ballpark restaurant's fifth anniversary. And now, Ryan Leinonen, chef-owner of Trillium, which is just a few doorstops down from twelve, wants to acknowledge the chef's nomination with a little extra glitter, namely a cocktail in Osaka's name.
"I have so much respect for Jeff," says Leinonen "He was the pioneer in bringing fine-dining to the Ballpark neighborhood -- he built an amazing culinary temple -- and that was a catalyst for me opening Trillium in the same neighborhood, and on the same block," he adds.
And now that Osaka has been justifiably recognized on a national scale -- the biggest national culinary scale in the country -- Leinonen says he "wants to do something creative and fun to honor a great guy and a great chef."
To that end, he and Trillium bartender Lois Heyse created the negroni Osaka, a cocktail, notes Leinonen, that represents Osaka's favorite liquid asset. "We wanted to take a negroni -- Jeff's favorite drink -- and put a Trillium spin on it, but we didn't want to go too crazy, because then it's not a negroni, plus we wanted to keep the price down."
The negroni Osaka, which is available starting Friday of this week, is $9, and Trillium will keep it on the drink menu until May 5, when the last of the James Beard Foundation winners will be announced in New York City.
"I hope everyone from Colorado wins, but Jeff, in particular, is a chef that everyone in this town strives to be like," acknowledges Leinonen. "He's so humble about his success, and he brings everyone together. His food is fantastic without being pompous, he has no ego, and he handles everything -- including his stress -- with incredible grace, and I really admire that," he adds.
The negroni Osaka is available in Trillium's bar and lounge, and Heyse was kind enough to share the recipe on the following page. And Leinonen hopes that Trillium's tribute will create a Domino effect. "I'm encouraging other local restaurants to show their support of the nominated chefs by coming up with congratulatory drinks of their own," says Leinonen.
Flip the page for the recipe.
1.5 ounces Leopold's American gin .75 ounces Campari, .75 cocchi vermouth di Torino, .25 Leopold's Rocky Mountain blackberry liqueur
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake. Garnish with orange zest and serve on the rocks.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.