Part alchemy, part rock ‘n’ roll, cocktails are liquid excitement—especially in the hands of creative mixologists like Vim’s Uyen Tran. While we watch, she never stops moving. From squeezing limes and filtering out the pulp to measuring, pouring, and garnishing, she’s kinetic. Crafting her own infusions and syrups, Tran admits to being a micro-manager.
“I always like to make my own infusions of various strengths,” she explains while mixing a guava margarita. “That way I can control the ratios of fruit and herb flavors.”
Rinsing a shallow goblet with vermouth, she prepares Bev’s Venus No.1 martini. “I make drinks the way I like them myself,” she says with a smile from behind her mask.
I’ve returned for a second visit to my new favorite cocktail, Tran’s refreshing Basil Highball. Last time I called for Venus No.1 gin in this tall tart drink made of lemon juice, basil simple syrup, soda and gin. This time I ordered it with the house well gin, Tanqueray. The difference was notable. Tanqueray makes a smoother, softer statement inside its jacket of fresh lemon juice and savory basil. I preferred the more assertive Venus. Bev’s martini exuded that unmistakable gin perfume, entwined with olives. Lovely. I asked about the thin, golden slice of lemon in my basil cocktail. “Dehydrated lemon,” Tran tells me. “I make them myself. They keep well and don’t dilute the cocktail.”
Tran has been at VIM for a year. She likes the place and the management. Originally from San Jose, she picked up her craft “by asking questions. I’m curious, I like to know how things are made. And I like to cook so it’s all about mixing.” Right now, summertime, the guava margarita (made with Tran’s handcrafted guava puree) is enjoying a moment at the Westside restaurant. “I design each cocktail to go with a specific entree on our menu,” she explains. “The menu changes seasonally, so I’ll be making a whole list of new special cocktails soon.” We’ll definitely be there. Vim Dining and Desserts is located at 2238 Mission St., SC. vimdining.com. Vim will be closed in celebration of the owners’ marriage from Sept 12—29th.
Armed with a smart idea about delivering locally crafted designer pastries and other specialty foods directly to consumers’ front door, the entrepreneurs of Los Gatos-based Locale got my attention. So I ordered some luxury items, including gluten free pastries ($1 more per muffin than at the store), organic figs, Manresa granola (oh baby!) and something wonderful called Authentic Israeli Hummus, which tasted like what Jesus might have eaten. The ordering process is easy. The selections are enticing, from small farms and businesses that deal in high quality, e.g. Straus, Coke Farm, Pizzeria Delfina, Straits, Alexander’s Patisserie, Blue Bottle Coffee, Comal, Fogline Farm, Cowgirl Creamery. Quite a few Santa Cruz purveyors on the list, including Mutari, Companion, Full Belly Farm, Live Earth Farm etc. Everything is picked and procured the morning of the Saturday delivery ($5) between 9am and 2:30pm. For a few dollars more, you can choose a narrower delivery window. You are invited to leave a tip. My order arrived beautifully packaged with a frozen coldpack. I admit, the almond granola ($10) from Manresa has spoiled me for life. But I feel the service will work best for those who don’t have access to these specialties (I can run out to Companion Bakeshop, for instance, pretty easily), or for those who just don’t want to run around to acquire free-range eggs, organic meats and upscale pastries. You will notice mark-up, for the ease of access. It’s a great idea for discerning diners. shoplocale.com.