Following the kitchen’s lead, Fox Restaurant Concepts beverage manager Mat Snapp is committed to using house-made syrups and infusions at Culinary Dropout wherever possible. “Everything tastes better when you put time, effort and energy into it,” Snapp says. His original creation, Bells & Whistles, actually had its beginnings in the kitchen, at a barbecue festival’s cocktail competition. “I wanted a cocktail that mirrored all the great things about barbecue: some smokiness, some sweetness and some heat.” Simple syrup infused with charred bell pepper and jalapeño does the trick nicely.
This is also the cocktail Snapp served Las Vegas chef Eric Suniga when Suniga visited Scottsdale, Ariz., to learn about the Culinary Dropout brand and concept. “I think the only thing he said was, ‘I get it now,’” Snapp says. The cocktail, a collaboration between Snapp and his great friend Eric Carfagnini, won that barbecue fest’s cocktail competition, and is a food-loving and cheeky addition to the menu of “Vices” at both the Las Vegas and flagship Scottsdale Culinary Dropout locations. “We won a flat-screen TV, sold it, and then spent the money on Mexican beer and high-fives. It was a hell of an afternoon.”
In a mixing glass, combine ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice, ¾ ounce bell pepper-jalapeño-infused simple syrup (see recipe below), ½ ounce honey syrup (fresh honey cut 5:1 with water for ease of use), 2 fresh basil leaves and 1½ ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon. Add ice, cover and shake hard to break up the basil leaves. Double-strain over fresh ice into a 9-ounce bucket glass and garnish with a fresh basil leaf.
Bell Pepper-Jalapeño-Infused Simple Syrup
Place three large red bell peppers and one medium-size jalapeño in a mixing bowl. Toss the peppers with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Char the peppers on a grill. Place in a sealed container and allow them to sweat for 20 minutes. Peel back the charred skin and remove the seeds and stems from the peppers. In a blender, combine the prepped peppers with 16 ounces of simple syrup (50/50 sugar/water). Blend slowly at first, then rapidly. Strain through fine-mesh strainer. One batch will make nearly two-dozen cocktails and has a refrigerated shelf life of 4 days.