Located in Venice, California, Willie Jane has developed a following among SoCal transplants, thanks to Top Chef judge and Iron Chef America contestant Chef Govind Armstrong's menu of Southern favorites. The emphasis at the restaurant in on fresh produce from the in-house garden in staples like grits, smoked ribs, and fried chicken. The emphasis at the bar is largely the same if a bit boozier.
Willie Jane wouldn't be as popular as it is if its cocktails weren't as excellent as its dishes. The reason for the restaurant's outstanding drink service? Armstrong's unique partnership with bartender Derrick Bass. The pair match farm-fresh, local fruits and vegetables in every dish and glass. Bass created a cocktail menu that uses high-quality spirits along with artisanal and exotic ingredients to transform the idea of garden-to-table into garden-to-glass. The best example of this ethos is one of Willie Jane's fall classics, "The Bayou," which combines smoked honey syrup, pine-infused Rittenhouse rye, an egg white, green Chartreuse, and lemon juice. [Current science indicates pasteurized raw eggs, available in supermarkets and convenience stores, are safest to consume.]
"When asked to create a fall-themed cocktail, I instantly thought of the murky bayous of the South, using egg whites to create the foam and the green Chartreuse to replicate the swamp," says Bass. "I smoked the honey in a 100 degree smoker with wood chips and bourbon, and infused the rye by placing fresh pine needles in the bottle and letting [the infusion] sit for a week – pine screams this time of year."
(Yields 1 cocktail)
• .5 oz smoked honey syrup
• 1.5 oz pine-infused Rittenhouse rye
• 1 egg white (pasteurized)
• .75 oz green Chartreuse
• .5 oz lemon juice
Dry shake first to get the froth, then add ice and shake again.