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That Ratatouille Moment

By Matt Pachmayr

My first Ratatouille pursuit as a bartender happened while at Il Bistro in Pike Place Market. I was obsessed with Britt's Pickle juice. Britt's had a small shop in the market, and I would buy these 20-ounce bottles of pickle brine. I wanted to make a cocktail showcasing this wonderful local product. I knew I wanted to make the cocktail with Aquavit for a few reasons: the caraway flavors of the spirit paired with dill made for a natural pickle pair and the Nordic connection to Seattle's history. The cocktail tasted awful. Like a cheeseburger but not in a good way. Imagine blending up a big ole greasy double cheese and having it in liquid form. Not a great thought, right? But that cocktail did spark something in me that hasn't gone away yet, a search for flavor combinations that remind me of food, something that sparks nostalgia, something that transports me with a simple sip of a well-constructed drink.

That journey toward a style of bartending that incorporated techniques from the kitchen and the pairing of food and booze took a few years. Il Bistro wasn't the type of place where one experimented. I continued buying cocktail books, marking recipes that intrigued me and biding my time until I could be in charge of a menu. Le Coin offered that opportunity.

Momofuku martini, courtesy of Jessica Avery

Grey Whale Gin/Lustua Fino Sherry/Brovo Witty Vermouth/Shiitake Mushroom Brine/Soy Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms. Mushrooms are pickled in soy sauce/sherry vinegar/sugar/fresh ginger/mushroom stock, a recipe from the first Momofuku cook book.

Funnily enough, the first thing I experimented with at Le Coin was infusing cucumber into Aquavit. That's how good that pickle brine is from Britt's Pickles! I ended up using the cucumber infused Aquavit in a cocktail with Campari, Yellow Chartreuse and Carpano Bianco Vermouth, and some Scrappy's Celery Bitters. The cocktail is a weird mélange of flavors that together created a very pleasant but savory cocktail. I did not see savory cocktails represented on many menus and for good reason - there wasn't a huge tradition to build from nor was there a popular trend driving people to create savory cocktails. That moment might be here now though. Double Chicken Please in NYC is the exact kind of bar I wanted to drink at when I was creating that gross cheeseburger drink with pickle brine.

Three years after I first sous vide'd cucumber into Aquavit, we are still trying to combine the farm, the ocean, and the forest into our bar program at Le Coin. I'm continually surprised by things. Who knew that mezcal went so well with spruce and lemon? Or that raspberry and preserved lemon would sing alongside Reposado Tequila? Pork fat isn't as aggressive as you want it to be, but duck fat is. The list goes on and on. Food ingredients and flavors are now found on the majority of cocktail menus that you see at craft cocktail establishments. The kitchen has found its way into the bar and the bar is more interesting because of it. Not only do savory infusions add more complexity and possibilities to a cocktail program but allow for the natural progression to pairing food with cocktails and vice versa. I'm lucky to work with a talented staff at Le Coin, a staff interested in flavors being enhanced and changed in surprising ways. Being surprised is one of my favorite parts of any meal.

My first Ratatouille moment happened in 2018 at Rich Table in San Francisco. Porcini mushroom dusted donuts dipped in raclette. Tasted exactly like cream of mushroom soup, a flavor I was wholly familiar with as a picky kid who loved a can of Campbell's soup for dinner. The dish transported me to my old family kitchen table, the scratched-up metal pan we always used for cooking, and the tiny kitchen in the Ozarks where I grew up. I thought to myself as I inhaled each delicious donut hole . . . how cool is this? May 2023


Matt Pachmayr is a lead bartender at Le Coin restaurant in Seattle. He's been bartending since 2012 and living in Seattle since 2014.

Le Coin
4201 Fremont Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103



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