A buzzword heard a lot in southern California is "organic" (along with "non-GMO" and the now-controversial "craft beer"). Now topping $43 billion in annual sales, organic products are a driving force in the national food and drink economy.
Like many Americans, health conscious San Diegans want to know the ingredients in the food they are consuming are safe from pesticides, food additives and unhealthy growing practices, and conserve biodiversity. Enter Café 21.
The downtown and Normal Heights restaurant prides itself on providing fresh, local and organic ingredients for its discerning customers. Multi-talented chef/owner Leyla Javadov also acts as the beverage creator/mixologist for the restaurant's cocktails, and just unveiled her latest creations in an all-organic list.
PACIFIC chatted with Javadov to find out her inspiration, how drinks are like food, and her favorite cocktail on the menu.
What was the inspiration for this new organic cocktail list?
We stress the importance of our ingredients being organic and locally sourced. We thought that revamping our cocktail menu in the summer was the perfect time. The fresh and vibrant colors of summer fruits and vegetables that are available allowed for us to develop a great menu that has something for everyone.
Chef and mixologist — impressive! Have you always created the cocktails yourself?
Yes! I find that mixing cocktails is very similar to being a chef. The ingredients need to balance each other out and also be compatible with the food we serve. I also get suggestions from our employees and incorporate cocktails that our bartenders create.
How did you partner up with Greenbar?
Greenbar Distillery prides themselves in being the largest distillery in the world with only organic spirits. Being that they're well known and located in Los Angeles, we wanted a company we could trust and incorporate in our fully organic cocktails.
Several of the cocktails are savory and/or food like (red bell pepper, carrot cake). How does being a chef help you create cocktails?
Mixing a cocktail is like a creating a well-rounded meal: It's a mixture of ingredients and flavors that work well together. Whether I'm making a savory meal or a dessert, the ingredients need to work with each other.
Favorite Greenbar spirit or product, and why?
I like TRU Vodka, as it doesn't have an overpowering flavor and it is made with organic wheat. It's a perfect spirit to use with many ingredients, as it is light and balanced. I also appreciate the fact that for every bottle of it sold the company plants a tree.
Favorite cocktail from the new list, and why?
The Ginger Turmeric is my favorite. It is bright in color and has a balance of flavors.
Normal Heights: 2736 Adams Ave., 619.640.2121. Downtown: 802 Fifth Ave., 619.795.0721. cafe-21.com. Hours at both locations are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
3 oz. watermelon juice
1 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. lime juice
1.5 oz. IXA Silver Tequila
Shake all ingredients with ice, strain over fresh ice, splash lime juice on outer glass, sprinkle with chili and garnish with a watermelon slice.