Nobody may ever accuse Justin Dicken of taking the straightforward means out. The bar supervisor at Santa Monica’s Michelin-starred Rustic Canyon has developed an progressive, sustainable cocktail program in concord with chef Jeremy Fox’s regional farm-forward menu, however there’s nary a centrifuge or rotovap within the 80-seat home. Save for the occasional use of a dehydrator borrowed from the kitchen or an immersion circulator to maintain koji at optimum temperatures, Dicken depends not on devices however on fermentation and thoughtfully repurposed elements to create cocktails that seize the fleeting flavors of every season.
Take No one’s Idiot, as an example. A layered mixture of fermented strawberry-infused Aperol (“Strawperol”), strawberry milk punch, strawberry syrup, guava scrap–infused rum and koji rice orgeat, all garnished with dehydrated Strawperol powder, the drink “tastes like Strawberry Quik on acid,” in accordance with Dicken.
The bar program at Rustic Canyon is augmented by labor-intensive, low-tech methods knowledgeable by Dicken’s personal culinary background. Earlier than shifting to New York in 2005 for faculty, he labored his means as much as sous chef at 5 Spice Cafe, a restaurant in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont. The expense of metropolis life finally led him to modify to a front-of-house place, the place he stepped right into a bartending position; over the following eight years, Dicken continued to work varied front-of-house roles at eating places in New York and Massachusetts, however his love of bartending remained intact.
When Dicken joined Rustic Canyon in 2015, he needed to study fashionable bartending the “arduous means, with none devices, as a result of there isn’t room for them,” he explains. “It was numerous trial and error; it seems a espresso filter isn’t an efficient sub for a centrifuge.”
“Strawperol,” or fermented strawberry Aperol, stars within the No one’s Idiot cocktail.
The inspiration for No one’s Idiot got here from Rustic Canyon’s former pastry chef, Erika Chan. “Within the fall of 2022, she made this unbelievable dessert with guava, quince, macadamia nuts and goat cheese,” says Dicken, who had the foresight to repurpose the leftover guava skins and seeds in a white rum infusion. This turned the bottom for No one’s Idiot, which was conceived as a method to have a good time the primary strawberries of spring and exemplifies Dicken’s driving philosophy of “considerate utilization,” a time period that displays his strategy to sustainability. “‘Zero-waste’ is deceptive,” he says, “since you’re nonetheless throwing stuff away.”
For his construct, Dicken dietary supplements the guava scrap–infused rum base with a half-ounce of Strawperol. “I’m an enormous fan of Aperol, as a result of it goes with every little thing; it’s like ketchup for bartenders,” he says. “I created this model by chance after I forgot a couple of fast infusion and let it sit for per week. Once I opened the jar it fizzed over, and I spotted the fruit had created a secondary fermentation.”
Justin Dicken depends not on devices however on fermentation and thoughtfully repurposed elements to create cocktails that seize the fleeting flavors of every season.
The mixture of the Strawperol and guava rum is bolstered by a strawberry syrup, made with equal components fruit and sugar which have been left to ferment for a number of days earlier than being puréed. The addition builds upon the layers of fruit within the liqueur, including depth to the bitter and acidic parts. (Dicken notes that it’s vital to make use of unwashed natural fruit in order that the pure yeasts stay on the pores and skin.) In step with his considerate utilization strategy, the leftovers from this course of are then used because the sweetener in a clarified strawberry milk punch, which ties the drink collectively whereas imparting silky texture. Additionally including physique to the drink is the buttery “orgeat” made by making a macadamia-flavored amazake: a mix of koji rice, macadamia nuts, water and sugar.
Dicken then provides just a few dashes of shio koji, a fast-fermenting liquid type of koji, the grain-based paste used to make miso and different condiments, for a layer of umami and a “lengthy, barely savory end,” he says. The of entirety is a dusting of Strawperol taste made by dehydrating the leftover fruit from the infusion, then grinding it right into a superb powder, which is sprinkled atop a lemon slice on the floor of the drink for a balancing layer of bitterness.
“No one’s Idiot actually represents what we do right here, as a result of it’s barely insane, with surprising elements, a few of which happened by chance,” says Dicken. “It’s robust to duplicate, so the very best factor you are able to do is come get pleasure from it right here.”