Sunday night, Restaurant 1833 sent the holiday weekend out with a bang with a special menu of absinthe cocktails for the evening. Spirit smith Mike Lay hosted Anne Louis Marquis—Big Sur native and national brand representative for Pernod absinthe—and together they devised a menu of crafty cocktails highlighting Pernod.
My friend and I settled in at the bar to sample some of the cocktail collaboration. We’d only planned on enjoying one cocktail, but when we saw the tempting libations on the menu for the evening, we found ourselves saying “just one more” until we wound up trying almost all of them.
The menu was set up with four options—unadulterated absinthe (traditional style with sugar and water, $11, or flaming Russian-style, $11); classic cocktails, “The New Guard” cocktails created just for the occasion and an absinthe punch.
We started with the punch—lime, simple syrup, water and cucumbers, spiked with Pernod absinthe in a drink ominously named “The Green Beast” ($8). It was a little sweet for me, with the cucumber really bringing out the licorice notes in the Pernod Absinthe. But it made for a light start to the evening.
My first proper cocktail was Le Jardin—Absolut vodka, lemon, basil, absinthe, soda and water ($11). It truly was like a trip through the garden—I loved the flavors of the basil and lemon with the licorice.
The sips I tried of La Belle Amie—Pernod absinthe, Plymouth gin, Lillet Rose, pink grapefruit juice and fizz ($11)—were a little too sugary, even with the tart grapefruit. It was a bit like an absinthe twist on the classic French 75. It would have been perfect on a summer night outside on the porch, but didn’t quite work on a brisk fall evening while nibbling on the hen egg with prosciutto and brioche ($13).
But The Good Doctor—Gosling’s Black Seal dark rum, lime juice, mint, Pernod absinthe and ginger beer ($11)—set me back on the right path. The flavors were a bit like a Dark and Stormy, with a lot of depth.
We took a bit of a break to enjoy the scallops—seared scallops served over Brussels sprouts, chestnuts, apples and a butternut squash puree ($26).
The scallops were cooked perfectly—a light caramelized surface and tender center. I loved the medley of fall flavors—bitter Brussels sprouts, crunchy chestnuts and sweet squash. (And my partner in crime was pleased to discover this was a gluten-free dish!)
The Russian-style absinthe—flaming, with root beer and bitters ($11)—was the perfect digestif. Normally the absinthe is ignited and poured into a glass of orange juice, but this evening it was served with root beer, a twist courtesy of general manager Tobias Peach.
I’m not one to mess with a good thing—if it’s not broken, why fix it? But this was actually a great twist. The sweet, caramel flavor of the root beer and the licorice of the absinthe made for a great combination.
While the special absinthe menu only lasted one night, remember Restaurant 1833 has nightly absinthe service. Choose from about a dozen different brands of absinthe served the traditional style or set ablaze. (I vote for the latter—it makes a great show!)
And the bar serves a couple absinthe cocktails. Lay’s Halloween-themed Levanta Muertos—Sombra mescal, Combier, Lillet Rose, absinthe and strawberry ($11) offers a unique combination of sweet and smoky, thanks to the addition of mescal. My favorite is The Corpse Reviver #2—Plymouth gin, Combier, Lillet Blanc and absinthe ($11)—an old-time classic.
Restaurant 1833 is at 500 Hartnell Street in Monterey. 831-643-1833. www.restaurant1833.com.