Something huge has landed in the Phoenix cocktail scene.
In fact, it may be the biggest cocktail around. Part of it sat in the Beefeater Gin distillery in London for close to two months simply due to shipping complications.
“I don’t think anyone else in America has these bathtubs,” says Ross Simon, Proprietor of Downtown Phoenix’s Bitter and Twisted Cocktail Parlour.
He’s speaking about the miniature bathtubs — made from Chinese porcelain, sitting beside us — that will hold the bar's new bathtub gin cocktail. He had a little trouble sourcing them, but a friend in London, where Ross used to live and work, was there to help. “The trick is finding the right size of miniature bathtub,” says Simon. “I think this one was used for chilling champagne.”
But unlike most bathtubs, this one is designed for three to four users to experience.
In addition to over six ounces of Hendrick’s (a juniper-y gin with elegant doses of rose and cucumber), there’s fresh lemon juice, and a sort of oleo saccharum — an essential ingredient for punch-making — here, made from the oil of expressed grapefruit peels steeped in hot earl grey tea (instead of sugar), which is then stored and cooled. There’s also some Grand Poppy liqueur, an aperitif made from Californian poppy flowers and a dozen other herbs.
To round out the Bathtub Punch there’s Sibona, "a workhorse of an amaro" in Simon’s book.
The final piece to the punch that, literally, sends the drink over the top, is what Simon calls "cucumber air." It's a cucumber solution with a touch of xanthin gum (the stuff that keeps your Frappuccino from separating), pumped with air until it resembles big glimmering bathtub bubbles — the kind of neat trick once reserved for molecular gastronomy, but which now resides behind most modern cocktail bars. It looks good, but works on multiple sensory levels as it releases cucumber aroma into the air with each slowly popping bubble.
The theme would not be complete without minuscule toy ducks that sit at the edge of the bowl. “I’m always a fan of tasting with your eyes first,” says Simon. “But go ahead, see if the proof is in the punch."
Essentially, it is a punch through and through, down to the communal serving size. It follows a general revival in punch-making among bartenders, catalyzed by cocktail historian David Wondrich’s 2010 book, “Punch: The Delights (And Dangers) of The Flowing Bowl.” But, unlike many family-style cocktails, Simon’s is no-ladles-necessary — you and your friends get to drink straight from the tub, each with your own straw.