A caviar canapé and a perfectly icy vodka cocktail—this is what we had in mind when we called Leann Kruger. A master mixologist in the most transient city in America, Kruger has nonetheless built a loyal clientele that follow her from gig to gig. It is clear why: Kruger instantly understood our request and created a very clean, simple drink based on a classic she loves called the Vesper. The Vesper’s flavors are too complex for caviar, so to make the pairing work, she took away the citrus and toned down other elements to create the Caspian, a shimmering backdrop for the luxurious caviar. Her final touch: A shiny green Castelvetrano olive stuffed with golden osetra. Chef Shawn McClain returned the favor with a sublime canapé of tuna tartare with caviar.
But Kruger did not stop there. No matter the December desert temperatures, she craves a warming cocktail on a winter night, “and nothing does the job like bourbon,” she says. For her Giacomo, she blends robust Woodford Reserve, a little Carpano Antica Formula vermouth and Amaro Montenegro. But the secret ingredient is a few dashes of Bar Keep’s baked apple bitters. “It carries the scent of apple pie,” she says, “and that’s what draws you in.”
1 oz. Jewel of Russia vodka
1/4 oz. Hendrick’s gin
1/4 oz. Cocchi Americano aperitivo
Caviar-Stuffed Olives (recipe below)
Add the vodka, gin, and aperitivo to an ice-cold shaker. Shake vigorously over ice and strain into a coupe glass or serve as shots. Garnish with a Caviar-Stuffed Olive.
Caviar-Stuffed Olives: Pitted Castelvetrano olives are available at Parthenon Foods (www.parthenonfoods.com) and Amazon.com (www.amazon.com).Using a caviar spoon, gently stuff each olive with about 1/2 gram golden osetra caviar.
2 oz. Woodford Reserve bourbon
1 oz. Carpano Antica Formula vermouth
1 oz. Amaro Montenegro liqueur
3 to 4 dashes Bar Keep baked apple bitters
Brandied cherry (see note below)
Add all ingredients except the cherry to a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir and strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a brandied cherry.
Note: Griottines Brandied Cherries are available at Touch of Europe (www.touchofeurope.net).
BIGEYE TUNA TARTARE
10 oz. bigeye tuna loin, finely chopped
1/2 c. chopped, pitted Castelvetrano olives
1/2 bunch chives, minced
1 oz. osetra caviar
3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
20 Toast Circles (recipe below)
In a medium bowl, gently mix together the tuna, chives, caviar, olive oil, and sea salt (tartare can be chilled up to one hour in the refrigerator). Place 1/2 oz. of the tuna mixture on top of each Toast Circle and serve immediately. Makes 20 small canapés.
Toast Circles: Cut a loaf of rustic sourdough bread into 1/4-inch slices, and use a cookie cutter to cut 20 1-inch circles, avoiding the crusts. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes, until golden. Let cool.