Thursday, January 13, 2011

Great Scott: Beattie Resurfaces at Spoonbar in Healdsburg

Scott Beattie gained national renown for his market driven cocktails at Michelin two star restaurant Cyrus during his three years at the Sonoma restaurant from 2005 – 2008.  He frequented the twice weekly Healdsburg Farmers’ Market and was known for his cocktails that not only used the freshest seasonal ingredients but were visually stunning.  He wrote a cookbook entitled Artisinal Cocktails in 2008 and left Cyrus to go on tour to promote the book; in the interim he has been under the radar.

This summer Beattie resurfaced with a splash in Healdsburg again, creating and managing the cocktail program at Spoonbar, just a few blocks from his old perch at Cyrus.  He also launched HMS Catering with H. Joseph Ehrmann of Elixir and Marco Dionysos of Rye & Smuggler’s Cove to provide cocktail catering for parties and events in the Bay Area.  Lastly, Beattie is working with well-known chef Daniel Patterson of Coi on the cocktail programs for his two new Oakland restaurants, Bracina and Plum, the latter of which will have a bar in an adjacent storefront.

Spoonbar is located on the ground floor of the new H2 Hotel, an eco-conscious upscale 36-room hotel that is LEED Gold certified.  At Spoonbar, Beattie’s philosophy is “classic cocktails done properly with great ingredients and at a fair price.”  Most of the menu is classic drinks made with spirits that provide the best representation of the cocktail.  Beattie is looking to offer a “classic drink but refined a bit to make it more interesting using spirits that are quality products but reasonably priced.”  He also seeks to use spirits that are environmental and progressive in their farming practices and to use local or organic whenever possible.
For each of many of the classics, such as the Negroni, the Old Fashioned, and the Manhattan, Beattie’s menu provides three options at different price points.  Amazingly, these classics begin at only $7.50, a bargain, especially for beverages of this quality.  

An example of the menu is the Negroni variations:
Classic: Beefeater Gin, Carpano Antica, Campari, Orange Zest ($7.50)
Boulevardier: Maker’s Mark, Noilly Prat Sweet Vermouth, Campari, Lemon Zest ($7.50)
Tempus Fugit: Ransom Old Tom Gin, Dolin Rouge Vermouth, Gran Classico Bitter, Orange Zest ($8.50)

A Negroni
To create the list of classic cocktails, he picked through old cocktail books and sought out the best products, using small producers whenever possible.  “We’d rather be busy year-round, than just be a place for tourists.  We built this place for the local community.”

In keeping with the more casual atmosphere and to be able to serve quality drinks to the 110-seat restaurant and bar, Beattie’s menu includes pitchers of several classics that are meant to serve five.  This is his fun take on the punch service trend.  For example, a pitcher of the version with the traditional spirit Appleton Reserve rum is $37.50.  Beattie tweaks the traditional recipe by using fresh lime juice, essential oil of ginger and Angostura bitters rather than just the traditional ginger beer.

Beattie’s favorite cocktail is The Last Word, although he finds the perfect version to use slightly more lime juice.  Typically the drink is made with equal parts gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and lime juice.  Beattie prefers ¾ parts of the three alcohols and 1 part lime juice for the high acid and uses Blade Gin and Luxardo Maraschino at Spoonbar when making The Last Word at Spoonbar.  He missed being behind the bar during his hiatus to promote his book and is excited to be making drinks again.  Spoonbar is considerably more casual than Cyrus and Beattie enjoys the relaxed environment, “I love it here.  I can wear a t-shirt during service.”

The legendary Bloody Mary

One of Beattie’s signature drinks at Spoonbar has been his Bloody Mary.   He makes it using tomatoes that he picks from Le Bonne Terre farm that he grinds down and pushes through a sieve.  He adds verjus, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, black pepper, cutting celery and Bustelo’s Very Hot Pepper Sauce.  It was by far the best Bloody Mary I have ever had and Beattie attributes that to the fresh tomatoes. 

Beattie sees the cocktail resurgence as more than a temporary fad.  “Cocktails are more popular everywhere.  There are more bars creating more drinks than ever before in history.  I don’t think it is a trend; I think it is permanent.”  The upcoming Plum project will be with David Lazar, the co-author of Left Coast Libations, and will feature cocktails and inspiration from the book.  Bracina will be more focused on seasonal ingredients, like his program at Cyrus.  Patterson will have a farm that will grow fruits and vegetables specifically for the bar.

Those who loved his infusions at Cyrus should not fear that he has left his herbal touch behind.  Beattie is still creating his own ginger and bergamot essential oils.  His focus on creating his own ingredients to create superior cocktails gives him a greater degree of control over the final product than at most cocktail spots and he takes full advantage of the natural bounty in Sonoma.

The HMS catering program is still nascent but includes options such as Sazerac Tea Service with a Chinese teapot and a side of fortune cookies.  The ability to bring top level cocktails and service outside a bar or restaurant to a home or other private setting without diluting the quality makes it special.  The fortune cookies are emblematic of Beattie’s attitude towards cocktails: he wants the customer to have a fun and comfortable experience while enjoying a great drink without any pretentiousness.

Sitting at Scott’s bar at Spoonbar and sipping one of his cocktails is a great way to begin or end an evening.  It is truly “worth a detour.”

Spoonbar: 219 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA. Phone: (707) 433-7222. Website:

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