It's now a few weeks back that all of this went down, but better late than never! Consider it really early press for next year's annual Masters of Mixology extravaganza at MO Bar at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. The hotel's PR maven Caryn invited a gang of us to a dinner in the private dining room, pairing interesting and adventurous cuisine (not your usual burgers 'n finger foods) with even more innovative cocktails. We've seen wine-pairing menus by the dozen all across town, but cocktail-pairing is a whole new beast, and it's a rare opportunity to see such showmanship.
At the hotel's sister restaurant, Amber, dinner is a song-and-dance routine, with smoke unveiled from glass housing or a soup bath prepared before your very eyes... but Eben Freeman, one of the Masters of Mixology, took this act to the next level. One minute he was doing coordinated cocktail shaking like he was filming a workout video, the next he was using complicated contraptions to carbonate his cocktails DIY-style, and then he was making us drip deviant red absinthe into our glasses with that teetering see-saw mechanism. Even though most of us present were weak-sauce female journalists who weigh in the featherweight division, we derived quite a bit of enjoyment from imbibing the various cocktails -- so much so that most of us came back during the following few evenings to see what the other mixologists had cooked up.
Over the next three nights, the other mixologists regaled us with their signature concoctions -- carrying a torch for Tiki culture was Brian Miller. Then there was the prohibition-obsessed and very gentlemanly Michael Madrusan (who makes crazy mixed brown drinks guaranteed to F you up). I didn't get to meet Marshall Altier or Shoki Sato, but the latter made a mean mango dacquiri which contained, of all things, an entire panna cotta that was just magic in a margarita glass. I don't even like drinking and I'm kind of excited for them to come back next year, because I begged Caryn to make them add the mango drink to the permanent menu and apparently that's not possible, because they don't have the right ingredients. And also, I guess, that would be cocktail plagiarism. And as journalists, we should never, ever approve of plagiarism. Even when it tastes so good.