Cocktails 101 | Life of Poblano
“It all started when I was hanging out with another bartender and we were drinking Ancho Reyes,” said Pallet Bistro’s own Duke of Beverage (no joke, it’s on his business card) Bijan Ghiai of the iconic smoky poblano chile-infused agave liqueur and his drink Life of Poblano made with it. We immediately leaned in to listen, because when Bijan starts talking spirits inspiration, we all perk up at the bar. His willing and ready acolytes, we’re eagerly anticipating whatever delicious alchemy he’s been inclined to integrate into the evening’s offerings. On this particular visit? He’s preaching a sermon on ingredients standards to our COLLECTIVE choir of cocktail enthusiasts, warming to the subject of how he goes about creating a new drink for his ever-evolving cocktail menu. Back to Bijan: “it seemed like the natural cue was to take this smoky chile liqueur”–called ‘the Sriracha of cocktail ingredients’ by the booze nerds at Tales of the Cocktail—“and reference it back to the green poblano chile that it’s made from.” Oh Bijan, you had us at chile liqueur. He continued, “I incorporate mezcal as a natural partner. And how can you pass up the opportunity to name it after Kanye West’s last album?” Thus came to be the “Life of Poblano,” a beverage perfectly balanced with sassy ancho heat, the snarky bite of mezcal, and a bit of nutty sweetness from orgeat, a French almond syrup.
But fair warning: don’t go to Pallet tonight expecting to get your greedy paws on a Life of Poblano of your own. Or even the Goji berry daiquiri he shook up for us on the spur of the moment last weekend. Because y’alls asses are shit outta luck on finding those particular potions on the menu right now. Our man Bijan’s standards are high, friends, and with neither fresh poblanos nor Goji berries (they’re so tasty!) being in season right this damn minute, you’ll be looking down the barrel of a different–though, guaranteed-to-be equally delicious–smoking gun from this master of bartender roulette. “I love that we have so much agriculture in our back yard as Utahns,” says Bijan. “Our options are through the roof with locally-sourced, high quality ingredients,” many of which come from Frog Bench Farms. Working with Pallet’s Chef/co-owner Buzz Willey to develop great drinks that stand solo as well as they pair with food, Ghiai is truly one of our city’s shining stars of the bar.
We’re not alone in the local (and national) love for all things shaken and stirred by The Great Ghiai. Bijan has won “Best of” in competitions ranging from Salt Lake Magazine’s annual “Farm to Glass” contest to Best Utah Bartender in the state, as decreed during last year’s U.S. Bartender’s Guild competition. Bijan graciously shared his original recipes for a couple of our recent favorites so we could re-create them at home. Just don’t tell him we cheated by using out-of-season ingredients (we want to stay on his good side for our next visit to the bar). Gather your people, crank up the “Real Friends” track, and get ready to turn up the heat. Some exclusive Bijan Ghiai originals right here, y’all. Because for you, we’ve got perks…
Life of Poblano (An inspired contrivance, guaranteed to please. Three parts Bijan, one part Yeezy): To a shaker add a 1 inch long by about ½ inch wide strip (or more, to taste depending on the heat of the pepper) of fresh poblano chili pepper, plus 2 dashes Angostura bitters and 2 drops orange blossom water. Muddle briefly to release the pepper flavor but not long enough to make it a pile of mush. Add 1 oz. Wahaka Mezcal Joven Espadin, 1 oz. Ancho Reyes liqueur, 1 oz. fresh lime juice and 1 oz. Small Hands Orgeat (that’s a kind of French almond syrup). Shake with ice until that tin is super-frosty. Strain into a hollowed-out poblano pepper or a coupe glass.
The Green Piece (Another bit of Ghiai genius here, this time featuring gin, a titch of apricot and fresh herb flavors. This was our editor’s favorite.): To a cocktail shaker add 5-6 slices (about ¼” each) of fresh celery, 2 basil leaves and 2-3 dashes lime bitters. Muddle until that fresh basil fragrance floats right up into your face. Add 1 ½ oz Tanqueray No.10 Gin, 1 oz. fresh lime juice, ½ oz simple syrup, ½ oz apricot eau de vie, and a generous scoop of ice. Shake it like a Polaroid picture, strain into a vintage wine glass for that fresh funky vibe. Garnish with a lime wheel.