Cocktails are capable of taking flavors and ingredients in many different directions, even with something as seemingly simple as a switch in bitters. An infusion or syrup can marry the culinary accents of a restaurant's cuisine to the drink, and in the right hands, can make it act as much as an amuse than a cocktail.
If cocktails have one weakness, it's their higher proof than beer or wine, which can make it a struggle to pair with food. Even as cocktails become a more integral part of fine dining, their role as a successful accompaniment to a tasting menu is typically limited to bookends of the meal.
See also: Drink of the Week: Winter Smash at Pesce
When I found out that Parallel 37 offered a cocktail pairing ($50) with their tasting menu ($95), I know I needed to go check it out for the sake of "research." Of the five courses and three cocktail pairings (the steak course came with a glass of Napa cabernet sauvignon -- a smart concession that demonstrates they understand the limits of pairings), the Pig 'N Boots ($14, Pig's Nose Scotch, Lillet Rose, lavender, yuzu, cinnamon) paired with the Seared Octopus ($19, olive oil, green shiso sorbet, crispy garlic, pickled onions) was the highlight. The acidity and sweetness between the two dishes was spot on, with the light smoke from the scotch accenting the blistered edges of the tender octopus.
Bar manager Camber Lay was inspired to create the drink, which is also on the regular bar menu, by one of chef Michael Rotondo's dishes that featured yuzu citrus and lavender. As for the name, after being charmed by the adorable viral photo of Clive the Pig from Pennywell Farm wearing little red rain boots, combined with the fact that the cocktail uses Pig's Nose Scotch Whisky, the name seemed appropriate.
While doing a full tasting menu might not fit your schedule or savings account, the daily changing menu items are usually featured as a la carte options, each coordinated with a different cocktail, beer, or wine. Or go for the whole experience and get additional extras like the recent intermezzo, a ginger granite with Buddha's Hand citron, that tasted like it might inspire a new drink on the menu.
Pig 'N Boots
1 oz. Pig's Nose Blended Scotch Whisky
1 oz. Lillet Rose
½ oz. House-made lavender syrup
½ oz. Yuzu juice
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly grated cinnamon.
Parallel 37, 600 Stockton (at Pine), 773-6168