Eat Your Drink with Modern Mixologist Matthew Biancaniello

Photo by Gina Ferazzi

“Liquid chef” is a term that many hospitality gurus have batted around when speaking of the award-winning Matthew Biancaniello, who just might have coined the phrase “culinary cocktails.” The wizard behind the glass in a dapper red fedora started his career at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel in a dark little side bar with 35 seats. That previously overlooked pit stop would become, under Biancaniello’s “farm to glass” concept, one of the hottest spots in the country: Library Bar.

Thanks to his Greek and Italian grandparents, the budding bartender grew up with fresh vegetables from the garden and weekly trips with his father to Wilson Farm in Lexington, Massachusetts, to stock up on more veggies and fruits. “So it seemed like a natural thing for me to go out and find as many local ingredients as I could,” he says.

That weekly farmers’ market passion quickly translated to the Wednesday market in Santa Monica—a haven for top chefs—after the bar chef moved to California. “In my opinion, it’s the greatest market in the world,” he states, and Biancaniello’s road to self-taught talent was paved with the exotic goods he would discover each week from the farmers’ bounty. Currently, he hits about five different markets a week to source ingredients for his famous heirloom tomato mojitos, along with growing his own Cuban oregano and passion fruit at The Cook’s Garden by HGEL in Venice. He has also formed a bee colony to produce honey for his libations.

If you’re looking for a simple gin and tonic, Biancaniello’s new book, Eat Your Drink: Culinary Cocktails, is not your book. If your taste buds aim to soar with layered, complex degustation-style drinks and ingredients that spark imagination, then you should covet this book like a bible for gastronomy in a glass. Biancaniello can also pair his cocktails with every type of cuisine and ingredient, from cacao nibs to uni, while working with an array of organizations around the globe, from Sunkist to Sofitel, the Almond Board of California, and Airbnb.

As the book spans from amuse-bouche to dessert, and all the courses in between, this just might be the closest thing you can find to a cutting-edge meal in a glass that’s not part of a juicing trend. The contents are packed with creative culinary cocktails owning distinct names, looks, smells, and tastes that might just transport you to another place. What Biancaniello likes to hear most from his customers is not that “this is the best drink you’ve ever had, but that you’ve never had anything like it before.” We think this recipe for stuffed cherry tomatoes with caramel sauce and tequila fits that bill perfectly.


Stuffed Cherry Tomato
Makes 6

There are hundreds of kinds of cherry tomatoes, wonderful for muddling and pickling, but equally great for their firm and delicate texture. Just the stems alone are a work of art. They also make for an opening sensation. They are the perfect bite-sized treat, with lots of flavor and juice. The epitome of summer, cherry tomatoes, especially Sun Golds, are the easiest to grow and most prolific tomatoes.

Ingredients:

6 cherry tomatoes, stems intact
5 ounces caramel sauce
Himalayan pink salt slab (optional)
6 ounces apricot-infused tequila

Equipment needed:

Culinary syringe

Instructions:

Dip the base of each cherry tomato in the caramel sauce. Place them on a Himalayan salt slab, if desired, and let sit for a few minutes. Using a culinary syringe, inject each cherry tomato with 1 ounce of the tequila.

Pop them in your mouth.


Caramel Sauce
Makes 4 quarts

Ingredients:

4½ pounds sugar
2 ounces fresh lemon juice
2 quarts heavy cream, at room temperature
5 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Instructions:

Combine the sugar, lemon juice, and 2 cups water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and boil until the mixture reaches 320 F and caramelizes to a dark golden brown.

Remove from the heat to a cool surface and add the cream. Be careful of splattering. Whisk to combine.

Add the butter and whisk to combine.

Strain and let cool to room temperature. The caramel can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Technique adapted from Chef Jason Park. The lemon juice is included to prevent lumping.


Apricot-Infused Tequila
Makes 1 bottle (750 milliliters)

Ingredients:

8–10 apricots, preferably Blenheims, halved and pitted
1 bottle (750 milliliters) 123 Organic Blanco (Uno) Tequila

Instructions:

Place the apricots in a quart-sized jar and pour in the tequila. Cover and set aside in a cool, dark place to infuse for 2 weeks. Strain the tequila back into the bottle. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

From Eat Your Drink: Culinary Cocktails by Matthew Biancaniello. Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Biancaniello. Reprinted by permission of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.