A few months ago, I had a chance to visit Greenbar Distillery in downtown. Litty Mathew, one of the founders and makers, had invited me for a personal tour after enjoying a cassoulet night at LQ Foodings. Cassoulet night can do that!
As Los Angeles’ original distillery, she and her husband, Melkon Khosrovian, have been making spirits since 2004. They make pretty much everything you can think of – vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, amaro, liqueurs and even bitters.
What makes these organic spirits interesting to a chef is the use of real ingredients, just like in cooking. I was intrigued so we collaborated on a cocktail pairing dinner with Greenbar Distillery earlier in the year. It was really fun and we’ll be doing it again.
I had a chance to ask Litty a few questions about Greenbar Distillery’s unique approach to liquor and I thought you’d enjoy the answers:
Laurent: So Litty. Welcome to my blog.
Litty: Thank you, Laurent! No one’s ever invited me inside one.
Laurent: What struck me on our distillery tour was how you look at everything as if it were a cooking ingredient. You talked about the wood you use to age your SLOW HAND whiskey as an ingredient. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Litty: It’s true that we have a culinary approach to making spirits, even whiskey. For Melkon and me, the act of eating and drinking shouldn’t be separated. Therefore, there’s got to be certain tasty harmony. And regarding the six woods we use in the SLOW HAND whiskey, each one has a unique taste that reminds me of stuff we eat. The hard maple wood tastes like butterscotch and the red oak tastes like clove and cinnamon.
Laurent: Are you trying to replace wine at the dinner table?
Litty: Don’t get jealous, wine. Cocktails made with Greenbar Distillery spirits add a dimension to the meal because you can mix flavors from the meal into the cocktail. Remember at our first cocktail pairing dinner, you made a sea urchin chawan mushi, which is like a Japanese style savory egg custard? We paired that with a cocktail made with TRU lemon vodka and shiso leaf. You can’t add shiso leaf to wine is all I’m saying.
Laurent: Okay. That was a nice drink. It is fun to change things up because it’s like being on an adventure.
Litty: Adventures in flavor.
Laurent: What I like about you guys is you’re bringing life to something commercial. Alcohol used to be more about lifestyle and entertaining. You’re changing the boundaries of what is acceptable at the dining room. Do you see yourselves that way?
Litty: Thanks! We are trying to change the way people think of spirits. There’s such a disconnect between eating beautiful, locally grown food yet consuming vodka that came in a plastic jug. I hope we’re helping to take the blinders off. When folks try Greenbar spirits, they’re delighted by the taste. Our spirits do belong on the dining table because that’s the place we had in mind when created them.
Laurent: So when you’re not making spirits, what are you doing?
Litty: Eating! Ha ha. I adore coming to your dinners because you have, how do you say in French, and I’m sure you’ll correct me if I say it wrong…ouverture d’esprit. You’re fearless with flavor. I admire that.