Welcome to Share Plates, a new series on the journal featuring the creative minds of chefs and bartenders utilizing The Shelter Collection and sharing their recipes. Here at The-Commons we understand how plating/garnishing is a handcrafted way of presenting a product to a customer through an artful expression of craft. It shows how the design of something is important, not only how a dish can function on a plate or in a glass, but also how it can make it more appealing. As the people who are designing the vessels, it’s important for us to see how the person cooking the food or making the drinks are presenting their designs. Chefs and bartenders are not only experts at constructing delicious food and drink but they are also designers in the sense that they have to make something aesthetically appealing to the customer as well. You eat (and drink) with your eyes.
Today’s featured bartender is Ryan Casey of the Dewberry, Charleston SC.
Glassware is a very important part of Ryan Casey’s job. As the Beverage Director for one of Charleston’s newest hotel properties, The Dewberry (shout out to our friends Workstead for the ridiculously beautiful design build out!), Casey understands that a good, stiff drink is only made better when accompanied with the perfect vessel. Specific cocktails are made in specific glassware, height of a stem, width of the opening, all of these things factor into the drink making process, some classic drinks have even had glasses named after them. For Casey, who is known for his beautifully crafted drinks, aesthetics occasionally trumps function.
Casey chose our Large Color Block Black Glass, to showcase his recipe for the “Black and Yellow”, garnished two different ways (because look at both, how could you choose just one?!). Here are a couple things we asked Ryan:
How long have you been a chef/bartender?: 17 years. I got a job at a Mexican restaurant in a shopping mall right before my 21st birthday.
Do you remember when plating/garnish became important to your work?: Yes, when I worked at McCrady’s restaurant 3 or 4 years ago. The food at McCrady’s was gorgeous. I felt an obligation to make something that was worthy of sharing the same table. Watching the kitchen plate food was really inspiring. Everything on the plate had its place and purpose and I applied that model to cocktails. They had to taste great, use thoughtful ingredients, and bring layers of flavor. This is when I started expanding my garnishes to include micro herbs and lots of flowers, grown on the roof garden. This is also when tweezers started to make regular appearances behind my bar. I’ve never looked back, nerdy as hell but a great tool.
How and/or why do you choose specific serving ware for your dishes/drinks?: I think glassware is very important and I like to have the cocktails on a menu have a dialog with the glass they are served in. The current menu in The Living Room (The lobby bar in The Dewberry) uses 8 different glasses for our specialty cocktails alone. It gives them some personality and changes the way the guest enjoys the drink. Stirred drinks with layers of delicate flavors are served in tall thin stems. Big rich whiskey drinks tend to come in double old fashioned type glasses. A cocktail served up in a 10 inch stem is enjoyed by slowly taking small sips. Rocks glasses encourage faster handling and require less focus. To me glassware is as important to the finished product as the ingredients.
Do you have any pieces in your own collection that have any sentimental value, or that you treasure more than any other items and why?: Oh yeah, at home I have my martini glass and my rocks glass. I collect old cocktail glasses but use the same two every time I make drink. Both are smaller than you normally see in restaurants, simple, and both feel great in your hand. Like a cooks favorite wooden spoon, there’s a comfort in the familiarity.
What’s the worst vessel you’ve ever been served food/drink in?: That giant 3lbs. mudslide glass from a chain restaurant that is always excited about starting the weekend. Makes as much sense as a concrete ice cream cone.
Below is the recipe for the drink featured. Enjoy!
The Black and Yellow (and yes, we asked Casey, and it is a Wiz Khalifa reference):
1.5 oz Armagnac Blanche
.75 oz Strega
.5 oz Lemon Juice
.25 oz Suze
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir for thirty second then rest for 30 seconds. Use a Hawthorne strainer to pour into serving glass filled half way with pellet ice. After all the liquid is in the glass, top with more pellet ice and garnish (The more minimalistic garnished version of the drink is made the same way, just skip the pellet ice steps and use one large ice cube).