For Emmy Kaplan, the proprietress of both the San Francisco and Sonoma, California iterations of Emmy?s Spaghetti Shack, the secret ingredient to a good cocktail is ?freshness.? Fear not for Emmy?s punk rock cred, however, a favorite among Bay Area musicians, artists and foodies alike, the Shack (as it?s colloquially known) has not been Michael Pollan-ized. Simply put, Kaplan and her staff don?t believe in mixing good booze with so-so mixers. To avoid doing so, they make their own with seasonal ingredients sourced from artisanal providers instead of agribusiness.
DH: ?So far as I can tell, your rules are ?Don?t use frozen purees or pre-made syrups, triple sec is verboten and stay seasonal whenever possible.??
EK: ?Work off what?s available. If Meyer lemons are in lemon season, make a killer lemon compote, or lemon puree.?
DH: ?Sounds like a farmers market in a glass.?
EK: ?It could be considered a farmers market in a glass, although we do like to do it a little more eccentric than your classic farmers market might. There wouldn?t just be peach, it would be peach with something you wouldn?t think peach would go well with. Instead of peach and mint, consider peach and basil. Don?t be typical.?
DH: ?What about sustainable??
EK: ?We try to be as sustainable as possible for the price. We don?t want to go overboard.? We don?t want our specialty drinks to be more than $9.?
DH: ?What will nine bucks get you??
EK:? ?The Emmy?s Berry Margarita made with Patr?n for one. We worked a long time making sure we had the proper berries. Again, it depends on what?s in season. Sometimes the raspberries are better, sometimes the blackberries are better ??you could do blueberries or a mixture of all of the berries. The other great thing about using good ingredients and forgoing products like triple sec that have a lot of sugar is that you can avoid a lot of hangovers, which are caused, in part, by the excessive sugar.?
DH: ?I thought hangovers were caused by excessive drinking.?
EK: ?If you make the simple syrup yourself, boil it down, you don?t get as bad of a hangover. You don?t need to over sweeten it. You just need a little bit of sugar. If it?s good liquor want to taste it, if it?s a martini or a margarita, you want to taste the vodka or tequila, that?s the whole point. If you?re going to put triple sec in your margarita, in my opinion, you shouldn?t be using top-shelf liquor.?
DH: ?I hear you have a ?secret menu.? What?s on it??
EK: ?It?s a secret.?
DH: ?What?s the protocol one has to enact to receive the secret menu??
EK: ?They have to make friends with us, they have to get in good, be friendly and bring their family in and we?ll surprise them every once and a while.?
DH: ?You got a tequila joke??
EK: ?It?s an old one. A guy sits at a bar in a high-rise ??like the Equinox in San Francisco.?
DH: ?That?s the restaurant on top of the Hyatt that spins. Great place if you?re afraid of heights and merry-go-rounds.?
EK: ?So, the guy next to him, slams a shot of tequila, opens a window and jumps. Five minutes later, he?s back and totally fine. The guy at the bar is shocked. He says ?How did you do that?? The guy who jumped is totally wasted and says that he doesn?t know, just that after he slams tequila and jumps out the window, at the last second the tequila suspends him above the ground.?
DH: ?It has the exact opposite effect on me.?
EK: ?Listen. The jumper does it again ? orders a shot, slams it and jumps out the window and come back unscathed. So, the guy at the bar is so impressed he insists on trying it too. He orders a shot, jumps out the window and ? wait for it ??splat! It?s over. The bartender looks at the other guy and says, ?You?re a real a?hole when you?re drunk, Superman.?
DH: ?So, the moral of the story is don?t try this with the Emmy?s Berry Margarita.?
EK: ?Unless you?re Superman.?
Emmy?s Berry Margarita with Patr?n
1 ? ounces of Patr?n Silver
? an ounce of Cointreau
? a squeezed fresh, organic lemon
? a squeezed fresh, organic lime
1 tablespoon organic berry compote
Generous splash of simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar, boiled and chilled)
In a pint glass brimming with ice, pour the above contents, shake and strain into a sugar-rimmed martini glass. Garnish with lime wedge or with a raspberry or blackberry or all the above.
A version of this article appeared in Patterson’s Tasting Panel Magazine.