Smug Cocktail in Santa Monica

Here is a revelation for approximately none of you: Smug Scout consumes many Smug cocktails. She has mixed feelings about these, if mainly glowingly positive, so you may in fact be wondering what exactly makes a cocktail Smug. Here are the crucial criteria:

  • It will take a ridiculously long time to make, perhaps ten or fifteen minutes, because every single element will be painstakingly layered and mixed (seldom shaken), of course very, very slowly, which is to create excitement as well as to justify a breathtakingly high price that Smug customers will call “the cost of artisanal molecular labor.”
  • It will be made by a bartender, called a mixologist, most likely a man in a three piece suit and laughable Civil War era facial hair. He may have a watch chain, but this is purely decorative, as he only knows how to use his iPhone to tell time.
  • It will feature local artisanal small batch spirits with brand names unknown to almost all customers, including some of the Smug ones. You will not find anything as gauche as Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire, etc. You will find handmade looking labels that are covered in text in old fashioned looking fonts. The most Smug spirits today, especially rye and bourbon, will not come from a flyover red and redneck state but rather New England or the West Coast.
  • It will include any of the following ingredients: local organic fruit, possibly marinated or infused in the booze; local organic vegetables, possibly pickled in house and displayed in mason jars; spices, always in their whole, unground form; and heirloom eggs, usually minus the anorexia-unfriendly yolks.
  • It may require devices not commonly associated with drinks, perhaps a mini blowtorch to char a citrus peel, or a compressor to pressurize nitrogen for a dramatic, even potentially deadly, chemical coldness without the boring pedestrian quality of ice cubes. Still, Dr. Smug Scout would like to point out that no one has needed to have her stomach violently removed after eating plain old dull ice cubes; on a Smug scale, having your stomach chopped out is ultimately less Smug than drinking a cocktail with ice.
  • If it is a drink on the rocks, it will feature one single rock. Smug cocktails do not need more than one specially shaped gigantic ice cube that in Smug Scout’s opinion drastically reduces the amount of alcohol she is paying an extortionate sum to drink.
  • It may feature foams, bubbles, airs, mists, vapors, smoke, and flames. Smug Scout finds this presentation no more than vaguely interesting. After impatiently waiting an eternity for her drink, she does not care that it arrives in a cloud of smoke or mist or fog or smog or whatever the fuck it is. All of that drama disappears after one sip and leaves no trace beyond a massive bill.
  • It may feature garnishes you will not want to eat, such as a raw bean or unripe berry or blackened lemon rind (see above), or absolutely should not eat, such as a piece of leather or tobacco for “Wild West” style cocktails, or removable parts of trees, such as twigs, bark, acorns, and leaves. Smug Scout imagines those latter items in Smug New England cocktails.

Smug Scout may not be Smug enough for all of those elements, but she is Smug enough for some of them. She recently had an incredibly Smug and lovely cocktail at a Smug restaurant in Santa Monica called Rustic Canyon. It is called Lift Off and features Old Tom heirloom small batch artisanal gin, arugula, fresh cranberry, lime, agave, and artisanal ginger beer. It may not have arrived enshrouded by mist, but its Smug pedigree is strong:

  • It took ten minutes to make by a somber bartender in a brown three piece suit and 19th Century facial hair.
  • It contains local arugula. Arugula. No additional commentary necessary.
  • It contains a raw cranberry that Smug Scout was strongly advised not to put in her mouth and chew.
  • It contains a gin Smug Scout did not know: Old Tom. At first she thought it was an obscure brand, but then later she learned that it is a rare recipe from the mid-1800s. This is more Smug even than Prohibition-era cocktails because when it comes to drinks, the older the recipe, the more Smug the concoction. Still, Smug Scout wonders cynically what is next. American Revolution-era pirate-imported rum cocktails made by bartenders in waistcoats and tricornes?
For anyone seeking further information on Old Tom gin, here is a description from the incredibly Smug Ransom Spirits web site. Smug Scout is not sure if this exact gin was part of her Smug Cocktail–not one of the cagey Rustic Canyon employees she asked revealed the brand–but it was either that or one of three like it available in this country.
N.B. Someone at Ransom needs to learn correct apostrophe placement.

“This Old Tom Gin is a historically accurate revival of the predominant Gin in fashion during the mid 1800’s and the golden age of American cocktails. The recipe was developed in collaboration with historian, author, and mixologist extraordinaire David Wondrich. Old Tom is the Gin for mixing classic cocktails dating from the days before prohibition. Its subtle maltiness is the result of using a base wort of malted barley, combined with an infusion of botanicals in high proof corn spirits. The final distillation is run through an alambic pot still in order to preserve the maximum amount of aromatics, flavor and body. Only the ‘heart of the hearts’ (the very best portion of distillate) is retained for this special bottling.”


So what do you have to say?