Friday, January 7, 2011 at 12 p.m.
Since Fullerton's the Cellar is one of OC's finest dining establishments, well-known for its extensive wine list, its staff could theoretically get a pass were they not able to make top-rate cocktails. But that's not how the Cellar rolls.
This week's sipper is a testament to the dedication of the Cellar's bar staff to making tasty drinks relying on a creative spirit as well as the lost art of the muddle. And since the ingredients used in this week's drink, known as the Halle Berry, were so fresh, we can't think of a better symbol to represent the fresh starts promised by a new year.
The mixologist begins by muddling sweet blackberries along with a slice of jalapeño in a glass, smashed together with a small baseball bat. This process liberates the flavors of the fruit. They then squeeze a lemon over the mixture. A jigger of Tanqueray Gin is added, shaken in a mixer with ice, then strained into a martini glass.
If it's done right, the zest of the berries and lemon will function as the predominant taste of the drink, with sublte overtones of juniper berry thanks to the gin. And of course, the Cellar did this one right, and as a result, there was no involuntary face-twitching because of a strong taste.
It's a nice surprise to have a drink sporting naturally sweet flavors as opposed to the revved-up, sugary concoctions one finds in any club. And because of the way the ingredients of the Halle Berry settle in the glass, each sip brings a slight change in taste. The closer I got to the bottom, the more heat I could taste from the jalapeño. Delicious.