Erik Adkins

This is the third in an ongoing series of bartender features on the Underhill-Lounge.

Previously, I had experimented by asking the bartender at Montgomery Place to make me a Bombay Cocktail No. 2, but this just seemed to result in a grumpy bartender.

To make it less of a shock, I thought I would contact some local bartenders and give them a choice of the dozen or so Savoy Cocktails that might be coming up in the book.

Surprisingly, some actually were game.

When I was giving Josey Packard my spiel trying to convince her to appear in Savoy topic, it turned out another of the patrons at the bar was a bartender, Mr. Erik Adkins.

Mr. Adkins is the bar manager at The Slanted Door here in San Francisco.

I told him how impressed I was with the bar program at the Slanted Door and he said he reads eGullet. Oh ho!

We exchanged contact info, and I filed him away as someone to contact for participation in the Savoy Topic.

After I finished the last bartender feature, I started mailing around looking for someone to participate next.

Of the people I mailed, Mr. Adkins responded and said he was opening a new bar in Oakland with a classic cocktail menu. Let’s meet there!

Flora is a new restaurant in a beautiful deco building a block away from the 19th Street BART station in Oakland. When Mr. Adkins and I met up early Friday evening, it had been open for exactly 6 days! The cocktail menu is composed of about a dozen pre-prohibition classics and a few original cocktails.

Erik is the bar manager at the Slanted Door in San Francisco. He is also working as a bar consultant for Flora, a cocktail bar in a vintage deco building in downtown Oakland.

Doctor Cocktail

1/3 Lemon Juice or Lime Juice. (3/4 oz Lemon Juice)
2/3 Swedish Punch. (1 1/2 oz Carlshamm’s Flagg Punsch)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.

I continue my Swedish Punsch evangelizing, toting the Carlshamm’s Flagg Punsch a friend smuggled back from Sweden from bar to bar.

This is a pretty rich cocktail, modernizing would probably be a matter of slightly drying it out with a decent white rum, say 1 oz Flagg Punsch, 1/2 oz rum.

Erik Adkins’ comments:

dr. cocktail was good. not subtle or complex but that exotic arrack flavor came through without too much of the ‘agricole rhum’ harshness that the 100 proof arrack delivers.

Dolly O’Dare Cocktail

6 Dashes Apricot Brandy. (1 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 French Vermouth. (1 oz Noilly Prat Dry)
1/2 Dry Gin. (1 oz)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze orange peel on top.

For this one, we tried two variables. Tanqueray 10 Gin, Plymouth Gin, Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot, and Haus Alpenz Marillen Apricot Eau-de-Vie.

For my money, the Tanqueray 10 and Orchard Apricot was the most enjoyable. Others preferred the drier, more martini-esque nature, of the Plymouth and the Eau-de-Vie. Interestingly, the other two, the Plymouth/liqueur and Tanqueray/Eau-de-Vie fared the worst. An interesting illustration of how relatively minor tweaks such as the brand and character of gin can have a big impact.

Erik Adkins’ Comments:

the dolly o dare! great name and a good drink. i made one for gus, an alembic regular and one of the soms at the slanted door, and he loved it. i agree with you that the tanq 10 with the apricot liquor worked the best. although the 10 with the eau-de-vie wasn’t bad either. the liquor gave the drink some needed body and the orange peel lent a lot too. the alpine complexity of the gin , with a hint of richness from the apricot, with the dry vermouth finish worked for me. a nice light aperitif style cocktail.

Q: What are the biggest challenges to presenting classic cocktails to modern audiences?

one of the big challenges with selling classic cocktails is getting people to take the first sip of something new. most people have only had gin in tepid overly large martinis and maybe a gin and tonic from a syrupy soda gun. and almost no one knows that vermouth is delicious. if they have ever had more than a few drops in a drink it has almost surely been oxidized. sadly the more drinks that i put on the list at the slanted door with gin, cognac, whiskey or rum the more people order the ‘safe drinks’. as bartenders we are being forced to be subversive to sell good drinks. i’ve been quietly pouring 4 to 1 martinis and gin drinkers love them. there’s nothing greater than watching a group of young ladies drinking clover clubs because you don’t carry midori.

Finally, Mr. Adkins was kind enough to send along one of the drinks he created for Flora:

carter beats the devil

2 oz el tesoro reposado
1 oz lime
1/2 oz organic agave nectar (rainbow bulk)
1/2 oz del maguey minero mescal
20 drops (eye dropper) of chile tincture

served up

chile tincture: fill a jar with de-stemmed intact thai chilles and cover with wray & nephew overproof for two weeks.

carter was a 1920s era magician from oakland. his biography is entitled carter beats the devil.

The magician aspect seems particularly apt.

Flora had been open only 6 days before I was in to meet up with Mr. Adkins and had only received their liquor license the day before. I was there early in the evening, and was fascinated to watch as experienced bartenders tried to transform the awkwardness of unfamiliarity into the graceful dance of professional bar service. I don’t know if they quite succeeded that night, but, I have no doubt that, within the month, patrons will be startled as magically re-animated suits of armor crash up to the bar to enjoy one of Flora’s well made Martinis and bartenders offer them bunches of flowers pulled from their sleeves.

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.

4 thoughts on “Erik Adkins

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