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Thu11142019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

I recently went to check out a new bar—let’s just say it’s in a Coachella Valley town east of Palm Springs—after a guest told me he got an old fashioned there that was “OK, actually, after the big ice cube melted a bit.”

Since most bartenders still don’t seem to realize that water is an essential ingredient in a cocktail, and just hand the thing to you the second the iceberg plops into the (hopefully) sweetened and bittered whiskey, I considered this to be a pretty minor sin. The place got a nice write-up or two in other publications, so I figured I would take a chance.

I made the jaunt east on a hot and humid post-monsoon day, and needed something refreshing. The bar itself—which I am not going to name, because the problems I am about to relate could apply to so many bars in the Coachella Valley—was nice enough inside. It seemed a little clubby but had a decent-looking back bar, with nothing too obscure, but not 20 flavored vodkas, either. The World Cocktail Championships were on the TV, so I figured there was a cocktail nerd somewhere in the building. I saw a Southside on the menu and thought … perfect!

After ordering it, I looked at the reach-in behind the bar … and saw jugs of lime and lemon juice with the Sysco brand proudly facing the guests.

OK, let me stop here for a second. Lots of bars use juice from Sysco or Perricone Farms. (I’m not sure if there is a difference, but at least the latter has “farm” in the name.) This doesn’t automatically mean the drink is going to be bad, but it does mean the drink is probably not going to be great. Proper balancing can make up for a lot—but the thing is, if you’re going to charge $14 for a Southside (it’s $10 where I work, shameless plug), I expect fresh juice.

The bartender handed me the cocktail, and I thought, “Here we go again.” First, the ice: They use those little chips that most new cocktail bars eschew. OK … that’s not the end of the world. There was one anemic sprig of mint on top, dangling listlessly off the edge. I am glad it was there, because there was no discernible mint in the actual drink. All I could taste was Sysco lemon and lime juice with gin, and wondered where the sugar was. Then I found it—at the bottom of the drink, in the last saccharine mouthful. The bartender never bothered to shake it, perhaps? Also, why was there lemon and lime? Did they get the recipe from Ensslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks from around World War I, or just see a bunch of recipes calling for one or the other and say, “The hell with it; let’s use both!”

To be fair, I have worked for places over the years with totally different versions of the Southside. The one at my current bar, some would call a “Southside Fizz,” and it is served with gin, lime, sugar, mint and soda water over crushed ice. We top it with a healthy bouquet of fresh mint, too. Think a gin mojito, and you’re basically there. When I was at my previous bar, the Southside was more like a gin daiquiri with a mint garnish. Both are acceptable and delicious, as is the use of lemon juice and soda and basically making it a minty Collins. Experiment for yourself at home; it’s an easy one to play with. Just pick one of the dozens of recipes online with a quick search. (Side rant: Why so few bar managers seem to know about the internet in 2018 is beyond me. Sure, there are bad recipes out there, but try them out, and find a good one.) Maybe the heat is making me cranky, and I don’t mean to ride a place so hard for one poorly put-together drink, but it seems like this happens in place after place, and I can’t figure out why.

My afternoon was saved, however, because not too far away was The Pink Cabana at The Sands. Located conveniently behind The Nest in Indian Wells, this recently remodeled boutique hotel hides a beautiful bar and restaurant. Pink and mirrors are everywhere, and there is a nice femininity to it, without it being overwrought. The bartenders were enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and the back bar was well stocked with favorites of mine.

I started with a fino sherry (On tap! What would Frasier Crane think?) that was a perfect bridge to a better cocktail experience. On the bartender’s suggestion, I started with Pushing Buttons, a mix of vodka (yes, I will drink a drink with vodka on occasion), pamplemousse, Amaro Montenegro and lime that is garnished with a “buzz” or “Szechuan” button. Be careful with that button! The flower in the drink tastes like pure electricity in your mouth and makes you want something tart to ease the sensation. This was a fun one!

A ordered a little pork terrine and my next drink, a Cabana Colada. Sure, this doesn’t sound like the best pairing for pâté, but the mix of gin, lime, coconut cream and soda was a treat. I love nothing better than a four-ingredient drink with balance. Keep it simple, people.

The cocktail list was a sensible eight drinks, and I wanted to try most of them, but I had to head back to Palm Springs. The food menu has a section at the top with aperitifs, which is a clever way to steer folks through the experience; I thought that was neat as well. Heck, just give me a balanced drink and a small plate or two, and I am a happy camper.

I hope the East Valley gets more of this … and less wilted mint. I’m feeling less grumpy already.

If the heat has you feeling grumpy, cool off with a Southside of your own:

• 2 ounces of gin

• 1 ounce of fresh lime juice (or lemon instead; it’s your world)

• 3/4 ounce of simple syrup, made with equal parts sugar and water

Shake with ice; pour into Collins glass or coupe. Use crushed ice or not, soda or not. Mint is great as a garnish and even better in the drink; just don’t muddle it to death unless you like really like chlorophyll.

There are lots of ways to cool off with this one, although many bartenders will tell you how wrong your version is. Just don’t pick a fight over it in the summer; it gets hot behind the bar, and there’s nothing meaner than an overheated bartender.

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Truss and Twine, and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

Wexler’s Deli to Replace Reservoir at Palm Springs’ Arrive Hotel

A popular Los Angeles Jewish deli is coming to one of Palm Springs’ hippest spots in the fall.

Wexler’s Deli—which has three L.A.-area locations—will take over the space at Arrive Hotel, at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, now occupied by Reservoir. Keep your fingers crossed for an October opening.

"We jumped at the opportunity to partner with the Wexler’s team,” said Matt Steinberg, co-founder and CEO of Arrive, in a press-release quote. “Their passion for elevating and re-imagining what a deli can be is evident in the quality of their food. We also know that their voice and style will be a great fit for the locals and visitors to our property and Palm Springs as a whole.”

At first glance, I thought this pairing was … odd, to say the least. Arrive has made its mark by being modern, exciting and hip. And, well, let’s just say that Jewish delis are not known for being anything close to modern, exciting and hip.

But the more I pondered the pairing, the more it made sense. Reservoir never made any sort of serious culinary impression since Arrive opened … and have you ever tried to get a table at Sherman’s in Palm Springs at noon on a Saturday during season?

Plus, Wexler’s is not exactly old-school. In fact, it’s only been around for five years. I’ll let the press release explain things from here: “In late 2013, the owners of the historic Grand Central Market in downtown L.A. approached (chef Micah Wexler and partner Michael Kassar) regarding their plan to renovate the 100-year-old market. … Mike and Micah had a vision to take Jewish deli food back to its roots, and to create a concise menu in a 350-square-foot space, where everything is made in-house. Wexler’s sought out to be the only deli in L.A. that cures, smokes and hand-slices all their meat and fish in-house, (and) uses sustainable meat and fish, and local farmer’s market produce.”

The Palm Springs Wexler’s will serve all three meals, offering a mix of Wexler’s “classics” and new-for-Palm Springs items, like a pastrami burger and “Sasso’s pancakes with blueberries, creme fraiche, and maple syrup.”

For more information, watch arriveenterprises.com.


Here’s Something New: Restaurants Expanding Their Hours During the Summer!

In July, many well-known Coachella Valley restaurants are closed for the season. We know that … but here’s something new and encouraging: A couple of Palm Springs favorites are actually looking to fill that gap by expanding their hours.

First: Until recently, gourmet-vegan restaurant Chef Tanya’s Kitchen, at 706 S. Eugene Road—which was and remains closed on Sundays and Mondays—locked its doors at 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. On Wednesdays, however, Chef Tanya’s stayed open until 8 p.m., adding a few dinner specials.

Well, as of mid-June, Chef Tanya’s is open until 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday! Yes! For more info, visit www.facebook.com/cheftanyaskitchen.

Second: Our good friends at Dead or Alive, the fantastic wine and craft-beer bar at 150 E. Palm Canyon Drive, followed Chef Tanya’s lead by opening earlier on Friday and Saturday—at 4 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.—and by adding Sunday hours: Instead of being closed, DoA is now open Sundays from 4 to 10 p.m.!

For more info about Dead or Alive—and its jam-packed schedule of tastings, charity events and free-food offerings—visit www.facebook.com/deadoralivebar.


In Brief

Azul Palm Springs, at 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, has closed its doors. The restaurant and show venue with the epic patio swings had tweaked its name several times over the years, indicating possible concept and/or management issues. It’s a great space in a great location, so we’ll be eagerly watching for what comes next. … The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has started serving brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays. We’re dying to try the filet mignon benedict. Get details, including the menu, at www.hotwatercasino.com/dining. … A lot of new restaurants have opened in recent weeks! We’ve heard raves about The Pink Cabana at the Sands Hotel and Spa, at 44985 Province Way, in Indian Wells. “Designed by Martyn Lawrence Bullard, the Pink Cabana at Sands Hotel and Spa is a fresh, modern take on the great tennis and racquet clubs of the ’50s and ’60s in Palm Springs,” says the hotel website. The Pink Cabana is serving lunch and dinner daily; visit sandshotelandspa.com/dining-bar. … Balisage is back! Chef Daniel Villanueva and his “earth to table” dinners are being served at Beyond Balisage, Tuesday through Saturday at 68327 E. Palm Canyon Road, in Cathedral City; visit www.beyondbalisage.com. … Other recent openings: Sapporo Ramen and Grill, at 73759 Highway 111, in Palm Desert (sapporo-ramen-grill.business.site); Pizza Peel, at 69115 Ramon Road, in Cathedral City (www.pizzapeel.net); and Cups Café, serving breakfast and lunch at 77912 Country Club Drive, in Palm Desert (search for it on Facebook).

Published in Restaurant & Food News