As lots of locals—and their out-of-town friends—have discovered, there’s a flashpoint of social action centering on the indoor/outdoor possibilities of Abbott Square Market. Even on an early Tuesday evening, we found plenty of groups meeting, noshing, and sipping out on the generous terrace behind the Museum of Art and History. Inside, we glided past the streamlined beer and wine bar (one half of the Front & Cooper concept), and headed for the long cocktail bar with its beautiful back bar of back-lit bottles.
We didn’t have long to wait for a seat at the bar, and started sizing up the hefty chalkboard list of special cocktails. Individually-crafted spirit mixes and ambitious combinations—that’s the buzz at Front & Cooper, and so we decided to get into the spirit. On a warm evening, a cold drink with lots of ice sounded especially right. For that, my friend Katya decided, there was the Holy Water ($9), a blend of Aperol, Chareau aloe vera liqueur, and fresh cucumber water. I found myself intrigued by the Pogonip ($12), made of liquid nitrogen-chilled herbs, gin and lime. I asked about presentation, and was told by one of the three resident mixologists, that the Pogonip was blended and served in a classic martini goblet. I fantasized about something in the way of nuts, or pretzels, or some sort of bar finger food, but I happily settled for just my cocktail. Because there’s a single mixing station at the far right end of the bar, and we were seated at the other, we couldn’t enjoy the sight of our cocktails being concocted. Next time, I’ll try to sit closer to the mixology action.
My pea-green Pogonip offered subtle hints of the herbs—apparently the liquid nitrogen treatment helps to preserve much of the herbal flavor during the muddling process—beneath the aggressive top note of lime-y-ness. Gin was all but undetectable, both in flavor (too much lime, I suspect) and in physiological punch. Perhaps the lack of a brand name gin in the description should have told me something. But the Holy Water was a sensational thirst-quencher (again, little in the way of apparent alcohol). A beautiful crimson hue—thanks to the Aperol bitters—the handsome cocktail offered an intriguing middle tone, thanks to the fairly light proof (25 percent) aloe liqueur, a versatile spirit that deserves its very own cocktail showcase. Visually, it was equally delightful, since two long curls of cucumber had been entwined into a double helix inside the goblet. The more I sampled the two cocktails, the more I wondered about the pricing; $9 for the Aperol/Chareau blend, and $12 for herbs, lime and gin. Chareau, incidentally, is an innovator in the brave new world of botanical liqueurs. Nice scene at the bar, by the way—by the time we left, there was plenty to do, see, and flirt with at the downtown attraction. Front & Cooper, open noon to 10 p.m. daily, till midnight Friday and Saturday.
Grow Your Own Garlic?
Why not—and you can learn how, from the ground up, on Sunday, Nov. 5 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at UCSC’s Hay Barn. Garlic farmer Pete Rasmussen of Utah’s Sandhill Farms will team with Orin Martin, manager of the Alan Chadwick Garden at UC Santa Cruz, to teach you how to select, plant, care for and harvest a great garlic crop. Learn about the many varieties of garlic, soil prep, seasonal care, harvest and storage tips. Yes, there will be roasted garlic to taste! $15-$30—pricing details and pre-registration online at brownpapertickets.com, or call 459-3240.