Gary Regan at LeNell’s

Jen’s got a photoset up of Gary Regan’s visit this weekend to LeNell’s. Imagine seeing Dale DeGroff, David Wondrich, and Gary Regan in the same week! Wow…

Anyway, Gary Regan is so charming and fun in person. He discussed mixing techniques, cocktail ingredients, and bar equipment, all while mixing drinks and passing them out to the crowd. He started with the sidecar. He discussed his theory of mixology—how everything reduces down to several basic recipes. The sidecar is cognac, triple sec, and citrus juice. The margarita—tequila, triple sec, citrus. The kamikaze—vodka, triple sec, citrus. The cosmo complicates things, but only barely—citrus vodka, triple sec, cranberrry, citrus juice.

This is a powerful idea, and Gary attributes it to Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh. But whomever the originator, it’s an idea worth remembering—a strong spirit, a liqueur (or other sweetening agent), and citrus juice. The spirit is your base; so many of Gary’s recipes are in the proportion of 3-2-1. Three parts spirit, two of liqueur, and one of citrus. Add other ingredients, maybe some vermouth, an additional liqueur, but keep the spirit as the predominant flavor, and just experiment.

On the subject of experimentation, Gary talked about coming down on the train to LeNell’s and thinking, Hmmmmmm, I love an aviation cocktail. (That’s gin, maraschino, and lemon juice—oh look! spirit, sweetening liqueur, and lemon!) Could you make an aviation with tequila replacing the gin? Well, why not try it. So he tried that with us. We got a Gary Regan original.

He said, well, you know that lime is traditional with tequila, so why are we using lemon? It seems that one night he wanted an aviation but was out of lemon. He tried lime juice instead, and it was vile in the drink. Just doesn’t marry well to the maraschino apparently.

So he mixed up this new drink and sampled a little. Not bad. Not bad at all. He poured up some and passed them out to the crowd, dubbing it the LeNell—which flattered and charmed the hell out of our hostess. And it’s a good drink.

Jen doesn’t like the maraschino (Stock) that I’ve used for drinks, but Gary used the Luxardo, and she liked it. Her only quibble was that the drink might be better if were drier, with a bit more citrus. Gary overheard her telling me that and mixed up a bit more lemon and added it to her drink.

He then said that a good bartender will, if he or she has enough time and isn’t in the weeds, remember a regular’s preferences and, for example, mix my drink with less lemon juice and Jen’s with a little more.

And that’s Gary Regan. Smart, accommodating, charming, drinker-driven, and damn good behind the stick.

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