Spoonbar's Scott Beattie Talks Cocktails at Plum, Bracina

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Jeremy Brooks/Flickr
Scott Beattie (right) with the author.
After stopping by Spoonbar in Healdsburg earlier this month, we sat down to chat with Scott Beattie for a taste of what to expect behind the bar at Plum, the perennially delayed Bracina, and other projects from Northern California's trailblazer of farm-to-cocktail drinking.

SFoodie: What was your approach to the drink menu at Spoonbar?

Beattie: The cocktail program at Spoonbar is an attempt by me to give the Healdsburg area a taste of classic cocktails that I have always liked drinking. I know a lot of bar managers/owners say this but it's true: My bar is the kind of place that I would like to drink [at]. The wine director [Ross Hallet] and myself spent months testing out classic recipes with a preference towards local and/or small-batch spirits to find which liquors created the best results. We tried to create many drinks at the $7.50 price range, which is quite affordable for the area.

I was surprised at how large and classic the list at Spoonbar is. What was the idea behind the program?

I've always loved Negronis, Manhattans, Sazeracs, and old fashioneds so we came up with three different variations for each, all with a $7.50 traditional version. This is also my first time working with Kold-Draft ice (we actually have two machines, a full-cube and a half-cube machine), and these machines allow us to physically and visually construct some pretty cool beverages, as we are the only restaurant in the area that has Kold-Draft.

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Lou Bustamante
At Spoonbar in Healdsburg, Beattie rings changes on cocktails classics.
You defined the farm-to-cocktail style of drink, so one would expect changes to the drink menu as the seasons change. Will you be doing anything similar here to what you did at Cyrus?
There will be a lot of seasonal items on the menu ― right now peaches for our Bellinis and lots of flowers and herbs (lemon verbena and mint) are grown by some friends who live out here. However, the original drinks that I created for Cyrus are still being made at Cyrus by their bar team and I think that it would be rather tacky to set up shop two blocks from Cyrus and start making my old drinks again. I have to believe that I have at least a bit more creativity and originality left in me. With that said, the Spoonbar program is mostly about classic cocktails done properly with great ingredients, at a fair price, executed with Kold-Draft ice. The Kold Draft machine allows us to consistently chill and dilute our cocktails very efficiently. It also allow us to make pitcher drinks (just like a Rickhouse punch bowl) that won't dilute too quickly.

At Cyrus, you worked a lot with chef Douglas Keane to ensure that the drinks were complimentary in style and complexity with the food. Have there been similar discussions with Spoonbar chef Rudy Mihal?
Rudy and I are mostly doing our own thing, but we go visit local farms together in search of great produce [for the kitchen and bar]. I want to make drinks and keep working in Healdsburg. Nowadays I just want to make cocktails four nights a week at Spoonbar and focus on [cocktail catering company] H.M.S. Cocktails on Fridays and Saturdays.

The pitcher of drinks idea is great ― it reminds me of the punch bowls of old. Can any of the drinks be made as a pitcher? Will the pitcher program change as the weather does?
Yes, people have been ordering pitchers of Manhattans and Negronis (God bless them!), but our menu encourages pitchers of margaritas, Dark and Stormys, mai tais, and daiquiris.

Could you give us an idea of how different Spoonbar's program will be from Daniel Patterson's Oakland projects Plum and Bracina?
Bracina will be hyper-seasonal, with local products from local distilleries, and the bar will reflect that seasonality. It will be more of a Cyrus version than the program at Plum. It's really exciting; they are in the process of building a farm that will not only provide produce for all of the properties and provide great stuff that will influence what happens in the bar. My role with both properties will be to consult and keep tabs on the consistency.

Plum is going to be loosely based on the Left Coast Libations book, with Michael Lazar as the active bar manager. [Author's note: Left Coast Libations (Left Coast Libations, $24.95) is a newly published book by Lazar, Ted Munat, and Jenn Farrington that features 50 of the greatest bartenders from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.] The intention is to have a different visiting bartender come in every week and feature their drinks. It will be a bar venue to showcase all this national talent ― but we're also going to make it work so that this makes sense.

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