The Broad, a new contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles, opened almost a year ago. To obtain an admission ticket today, a visitor still endures a long waiting period, both online and in front of the box office. Getting a table at Otium, the adjacent fine dining establishment, poses no challenge whatsoever. During my only visit, the server used an unfamiliar adjective to describe the cocktail menu. “Definition please,” I asked.
“Herbal, herbs…” he explained. “Oh, herbaceous!” I nodded and started re-examining the menu with newfound bewilderment.
My limited knowledge of not only botany but also novel alcoholic concoctions prevented me from making a selection after the initial peruse. Instead of ordering the regular Midori Sour, I decided to spend a few more minutes studying the menu, hoping to learn what makes cocktails herbaceous. Vermouth shaken with rye whiskey should produce a herbaceous beverage as vermouth is herb-flavored wine. Chamomile would be the herbaceous component in a blend of verjuice, chamomile, and honey. The concoction with an endless ingredient list – ginger, lemon, kumquat, Campari, mezcal, bird’s eye chili – would be double-herbaceous – both mezcal and Campari are herb-based liquors.
I finally picked sencha tea stirred with Campari, scotch, and fennel, or maybe it was Campari stirred with sencha tea. “Not pretty. Can’t taste the scotch, Campari, or the sencha tea. Exactly what am I drinking?!” would be my review of this bartender’s experiment, but no one asked. I should have ordered my all-time favorite; hint of luscious melon liqueur could always be detected, even in an ill-prepared glass of Midori Sour, and that indelible hue of green is so easy on the eyes.
Possibly many of these herbaceous cocktails are part of mixology’s standard repertoire; however, I could not help but wonder if some mixologists are trying too hard to attain innovation, while in the process turning unnaturally iconoclastic. How about bringing back the basics with simple basil highball, or a newfangled edition of mojito?