Chris used to bartend at the Ritz-Carlton. Now his new bar stage is a bit more modern and the bar length is a great deal more, which are both good in my opinion. My wife and I visited Chris two weekends in a row a little while back and we had a blast.
The bar was packed and Chris was busy whipping up his magic. I watched as each patron bellied up to the bar. A person would sit down and Chris would greet them all the while peeling, muddling, shaking, straining, flaming another guest's cocktail. I could see their eyes go wide as they realized this wasn't your ordinary liquor-and-mixer type of bar. They look left, and then right down the bar to see all the fancy cocktails and you can see the bar fear hit them in the face. Some would just panic and order a wine or beer, but others would be smart about it and just ask Chris, "What do you recommend?"
I know I almost always use the "surprise me" method with Chris. Here are a few of the cocktails he served up for me and my wife.
The first was the Gin Deaux, obviously a gin based cocktail, but you'll have to ask Chris for the rest. This is a Chris McMillian original cocktail. As he tells it he found himself in Williams-Sonoma at Christmas time and there was a display of ginger and cranberries, which he thought made a good combination. He bought a can of the ginger and started experimenting. If you like cosmopolitans I would strongly recommend this cocktail.
Manhattan garnished with a Luxardo Maraschino Cherry
2.5 oz Rye
0.75 oz Sweet Vermouth
3 dashes of Angostura Bitters
1 Luxardo Gourmet Maraschino Cherry
Stir ingredients in a mixing glass with ice for 15 to 20 seconds. Then strain into a well chilled cocktail grass. Garnish with an un-rinsed Luxardo Cherry.
As you all know I'm a Manhattan lover. It is probably my go-to drink at home when I'm in a whisky mood. Dropping one of these Luxardo Cherries in is divine. These little Italian babies are jarred in Marasca syrup and are a great complement to the cocktail. You can pick up a jar of these at Kegworks. I cut back a little on the sweet vermouth as the cherry adds its own sweet flavor.
0.25 oz Herbsaint (or other Absinthe substitute)
0.25 oz Simple Syrup
2 dashes Peychaud bitters
2 oz rye whiskey
Add ice to an old fashioned glass and let it sit. In a second glass add bitters, simple syrup, and rye. Stir this mixture with ice for 10 seconds. In the first glass discard the ice and add the Absinthe substitute. Coat the entire inside of the glass. This can be done by throwing the glass up in the air while spinning it. If you do this you are likely to get some splash on yourself. You can discard any extra Absinthe substitute. Now strain the 2nd glass into the coated chilled glass. The last step is to garnish with a twist of lemon making sure to rim the glass with the twist.
Of course when Chris made the Sazerac had a story to go along with it about how he had made a mountain of Sazeracs recently for a cocktail seminar he had recently given. Chris likes to coat his glass with Herbsaints (absinthe substitute) by throwing the glass up in the air while spinning it around. As you can imagine by the end of the seminar he was quite coated in Herbsaints.
This reminds me... For those of you who might be traveling with a big group and/or have a business meeting in New Orleans you have the opportunity to have a cocktail seminar given to you by Chris McMillian himself. Contact the Renaissance Pere Marquette for information.
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
0.5 oz Simple Syrup
2 oz Gin
1 Lemon Spiral
Shake lemon juice, simple syrup and gin with ice. Strain into a chilled champagne flute and top off with chilled champagne. Use a channel knife to create lemon spiral (be sure to do so over the glass so the oils spray onto the rim). When done add the spiral to the glass hanging the top piece over the rim of the glass.
Chris made this classic for my wife and promptly had to make it 2 more times for other guests.
So the next time you're in New Orleans I highly recommend going to check out Chris at the Renaissance Pere Marquette. Just sit down and ask him to surprise you, I promise you won't be disappointed.