In this edition of Mixology 619, bar manager of Saltbox Joe Balin serves up a creative refreshing drink called Mr. November.
Watch as Bailin makes this sweet blueberry cocktail, perfect for fall.
Did you grow up in San Diego?
I grew up in the Midwest. Appleton, Wisconsin is my hometown, but I've been in San Diego for about four years now.
How did you get into bartending?
I got interested in bartending because of the creativity and passion I saw from the other bartenders I've worked with. I was drawn in by the history and tradition of the craft, seeing how cocktails that were created centuries ago progressed and influenced other new creations, while still maintaining relevance even today.
How long have you been working at Saltbox?
I've been at Saltbox for about a year-and-a-half, in various roles.
What kind of experience can someone get at Saltbox?
Whether you have a seat at the bar for a few cocktails and good conversation or have dinner and drinks in the restaurant, you can expect friendly and personable service in a laid-back atmosphere. It's a perfect spot to escape the noise of the Gaslamp. Plus, we have happy hour everyday.
What can diners expect from the new fall menu?
The cocktails on the new fall menu are very seasonal and unique. You'll find rich colors and flavors from seasonal fruits and spices, like apple, cinnamon, ginger and plum. You'll also find some spirits that aren't behind every Gaslamp bar, like Batavia Arrack in the Plum Forgot or High West Bourye in the Rye'd or Die. There is something for everyone, but also something to surprise the serious cocktailer.
What's your favorite drink?
My favorite drink is a classic daiquiri. I love the simplicity and elegance.
What's your favorite drink to make?
My favorite drink to make is a Last Word, which also happens to be one of my favorites to sip.
When you're not mixing drinks, what are you doing on your spare time?
When I'm not mixing drinks, I'm working on my other passion: architecture and design. I also enjoy reading, music and exploring the beauty of San Diego.
- 3/4 oz. Aviation Gin
- 3/4 oz. Lillet Rouge
- 3/4 oz. blueberry-sage syrup
- 3/4 oz. lemon juice
Fernet rinse and garnish with grated cinnamon.
What's the origin of Mr. November?
This drink was developed for our fall cocktail menu. My intention was to create a drink with complexity and depth, while maintaining the identity of the individual elements. The juxtaposition of both complementary and disparate tastes was exciting to explore. It requires some finesse to achieve a proper balance between the parts and the experience of the drink as a whole, especially with the inclusion of very bold ingredients.
How would you describe the taste to someone who hasn't had this before?
The juicy, fresh burst of blueberry is complemented by a darker, lush berry and subtle spice of Lillet Rouge.
Out of the array of gin brands, why did go with Aviation Gin?
Aviation Gin, the main spirit in this drink, works in this case to tie everything together rather than to stand out on its own. It's a great gin that is distilled in the Pacific Northwest. It works well in this drink with more pronounced botanical and citrus notes and a bit less prominence of juniper.
What would be the key component in this drink?
Fresh sage provides a robust herbal element, which is elevated by an earthy, vegetal funkiness from a few drops of Fernet Branca. Fernet does not always play nicely with other flavors, however in this drink, a small amount was just what was needed to round things out.
Any reason you went with Lillet Rouge?
Lillet Rouge is an aperitif wine made primarily from Merlot grapes, adding some nuance to the established flavor profile and playing off the slight tartness of the berry and lemon.
What are some good dishes to pair this drink with?
I'd recommend it with our goat cheese fondue or perhaps the roasted half chicken at Saltbox. I think it would be fantastic with a simple margarita flatbread too.
1047 5th Avenue, downtown.
(619) 515-3003 or saltboxrestaurant.com
Jarnard Sutton is a multimedia producer for DiscoverSD and San Diego Union-Tribune. He loves providing readers with updates on music and events happening in San Diego. You can follow Jarnard at @jarnard for everything music, food, beer and television. You can also follow him on Instagram at @nardvillain