When it comes to drinking cocktails, Michael Allmandinger says "the bitter, the better." While his cocktails have a strong herbal element by using infused syrups and bitters as well as liqueurs like Génépi, as he does in his trademark, competition-winning Parlor Star cocktail, calling his creations bitter wouldn't do justice to the balance he achieves in drinks. But the real showstopper of Allmandinger's drink is the thick, heady foam adorned with bitters designs, which he showed us just how he executes.
Michael Allmandinger hasn't been in the bartending game as long as some, but he's already getting buzz for his creative drink menu at The Parlor, which he took over after Joshua James left to go to Clever Koi. Competing against his mentor at the Devour Bartending Competition and ultimately winning came as a surprise to him.
"I was shocked," he says. "I definitely have a passion for it but I'm new and there was so much talent that day."
Since then, he's been creating another new cocktail menu for The Parlor, which will include six new recipes and should be ready in a couple of weeks. One of the cocktails he has planned includes carrot juice, saffron bitters, and cardamom. He has also mixed up some cocktails inspired by Chicago's Aviary for a Woodford whiskey dinner, which included tobacco bitters, a duck fat rinse, and rosemary infusions.
Armed with an arsenal of handmade and boutique bitters, which he says he crafts to mimic beer flavors, Allmandinger can experiment with flavor in his cocktail, making flavors he can't buy. He says that owner Aric Mei encourages both him and the rest of the bar staff to invent unique drinks, even if the first round doesn't always pan out right, and that's what he loves about working there.
While at the bar, Allmandinger served up a few Parlor Stars and a woman came up to ask what the drink was, commenting that they were absolutely beautiful. With a little egg white, your favorite drink recipe, some vigorous shaking, and bitters, you can create your own designs to wow friends.
He starts off by combining thyme-infused Arizona Distilling Co.'s Desert Dry Gin with grapefruit juice, Génépi wormwood liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Hop grapefruit bitters.
Next, he adds egg white. While he says there are some chemical substitutes on the market for those shy of egg white in their drinks, the results aren't the same.
Vigorous shaking is the key to fully incorporating the egg white to get a velvety texture with a generous amount of foam. First, dry shake the ingredients (without ice) to aerate the egg white, then add ice and shake more to both chill and dilute the cocktail.
Allmandinger double strains his cocktail to further achieve a smoother consistency.
After letting the cocktail sit for a few moments to allow the foam to fully develop, Allmandinger shows us two different ways to get bitters designs on cocktails.
One way, which is simpler and involves less specialized equipment, begins by placing a few drops of bitters on the foam.
Next, you grab a cocktail straw, coffee stirrer, or even a toothpick, and swirl the bitters around on the foam lightly until you get the design you're looking for. This technique is similar to the way baristas execute some more intricate latte art.
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For more precise, elaborate designs, Allmandinger breaks out a stencil that he carved into the lid of a container with an exacto knife. While his emblem matches The Parlor's brick design, Gallo Blanco has a rooster design, Clever Koi had a koi fish, and Travis Nass at the Last Drop Bar had a mustache.
Once you have your stencil placed on top of your coupe, you can use an olive oil mister, which kitchen supply stores sell for about $10, filled with your favorite bitters to lightly spray your design on top of the cocktail's foam. Allmandinger uses the rusty red Angostura bitters in his mister.
If executed properly, the design will stay in tact while your guests sip the cocktail, even to the end.