Drink of the Week: Reds Bin 211’s Tipsy Jalapeño

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

Yes, there is a certain art in making a cocktail … but what about cocktail-themed art? In a Funk Zone collaboration between Reds Bin 211, Ian Cutler’s distillery across the street, and a selection of local artists, the exhibition “Spirits: The Art of Distillation” is exactly what makes the Funk Zone so funky: It’s a mix of people who all care about their craft. Now this column isn’t an art review, so I’ll let you go check the works by Dan Levin, Lindsey Ross and even Reds owner Dana Walters yourself. But as long as the exhibit is up (through Sept. 7), Reds is offering cocktails designed to show off Cutler’s vodka (with proceeds going to The Arts Fund). We decided to try the Tipsy Jalapeño, which uses Cutler’s vodka, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, grapefruit bitters and a ginger-jalapeño simple syrup. Spicy, right? Not really — the grapefruit takes the heat away but leaves the earthy pepper taste. And Cutler’s vodka is smooth to start, so the whole thing wraps up like a nice present of citrus and spice.

And while you’re there at Reds, look up at the bar’s high walls … those two large projection screens are showing video art, close-ups of the distillation process and its final outcome — vodka on the rocks. The videos are by Drink of the Week photographer Nik Blaskovich, so come check it out!


1 1/2 ounces Cutler’s vodka
1 splash grapefruit juice
1 splash lemon juice
2 dashes Fee’s Grapefruit Bitters
1 squeeze ginger-jalapeño simple syrup (see instructions)
1 rosemary sprig, for garnish

Combine vodka, juices, bitters and syrup over ice, shake and strain into lowball glass filled with ice. Garnish with rosemary sprig.

To make the ginger-jalapeño syrup: simmer 3-4 slices ginger and 5-6 slices jalapeño (both shaped like rounds) in cup of water for a minute or more. Strain out solids, then dissolve 1 cup sugar into water. Let cool and refrigerate.

Reds Bin 211
211 Helena Ave. 966-5906 or redsbarandtapas.wordpress.com

DRINK OF THE WEEK: The Benchmark’s Benchmark

Photo by Nik Blaskovich
Photo by Nik Blaskovich

Benchmark Eatery opened oh-so-softly last month at State and Anapamu streets, filling in the space left by Maggie’s and by extension State & A. The remodel is so, so airy but keeps the double-sided bar. The patio once again offers excellent views of State Street.

But the cocktail menu is what we’re here for, and it does not disappoint. Bartender Randy Brown and GM John Giammanco designed the menu around favorites, but with their own spin. Their Negroni, called the The Standard, features Campari, but chooses RE:FIND gin for their liquor and Byrrh Quinquina as its vermouth. The result: smoooothness . Likewise, The Hound is like a Greyhound but opts of out grapefruit juice and uses a liqueur instead: Pamplemousse, which is grapefruit in French, along with Cutler’s gin, lime juice and a fleur de sel (French sea salt) rim.

But our favorite is the Benchmark, their version of a Manhattan, featuring Benchmark bourbon (a coincidence!), Amaro Nonino as the vermouth and Benedictine as the bitters. There’s also added complexity from both Bitter Truth Creole Bitters, which smells like cinnamon, and Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters. This is our Drink of the Week from a very new, very popular spot. See you there!

1 3/4 ounces bourbon (preferably McAfee’s Benchmark No. 8)
1 ounce Amaro Nonino (an Italian herbal liqueur)
1/2 ounce Benedictine (an herbal liqueur)
Dash Fee Bros. Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
Dash Bitter Truth Creole Bitters

Add all ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, stir and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with Luxardo maraschino cherry.

Benchmark Eatery
1201 State St.
(805)845-2600 or www.benchmarkeatery.com