I basically live at Memphis at the Santora, the grand dame of downtown SanTana's food scene, swimming through a sea of Manhattans and climbing mountains of bread pudding every week, if not night. We named them Best Bar last year, an honor well-deserved and one that they're not resting on at all. Their bartending crew is the Dallas Mavericks of our mixologist scene (quick thought: does that make the 320 Main crew the 1992 U.S. Olympic team?), with each cocktail master doing their bit to wow the public by whipping up new drinks at request.
If Johnny Sampson is Memphis' Dirk Nowitzki and Dave Mau its Jason Kidd, then Ricky Yarnell is Rodrigue Beaubois: the young gun learning at the altar of the masters, already possessing scary-good chops (not to mention a fabulous mustache). Memphis knows this, advertising every other Wednesday as “Wednesdays with Ricky,” where Yarnell picks a theme and runs with it. Take his Stinger
I had it at Yarnell's urging, a bit skeptically at first since it's chiefly composed of Fernet Branca, the infamous Italian digestif with a flavor profile approximating aromatic engine oil. But he had a mint-flavored bottle in stock, and poured the Fernet into a cup along with a healthy dose of congac. True to its name, the Stinger smacks into you with no subtlety, Fernet's multiple herbs sending your palate into sensory overload. But then the cognac comes in, settling the situation, with the mint swooping in at the end to refresh your being. I'll stick to my Manhattans, but Yarnell's Stinger warms you, comforts you, and is but a glimpse into his arsenal. By the time he's done, Yarnell just might be SanTana's Bob Cousy–or at least Larry Bird.