Florida native Kimberly Patton-Bragg has stirred up drinks behind the bar at a number of New Orleans venues, including Domenica, Swizzle Stick Bar and a couple of chef Dominique Macquet's restaurants. These days Patton-Bragg is behind the bar at Tivoli & Lee in The Hotel Modern, where she shares her love of American whiskey and occasionally lends her shoulder to Miss Scarlett, the Modern's parrot mascot.
One of the specialties of the bar program at Tivoli & Lee is American whiskey. Why did you decide to focus on that? P: We're serving modern Southern food here, so I thought, "What makes more sense to go with that than a Southern spirit like bourbon?" Not to mention that it's one of the nearest and dearest spirits to my heart. Our whiskey program is extensive, going anywhere from inexpensive bonded whiskeys like Rittenhouse Rye and Mellow Corn, to rare, high-end boutique collections like Col. Taylor Tornado. That is some good bourbon and not easy to find. We also serve a whiskey flight of the day every day, as well as several other specially selected American whiskey pairings. We've been trying to keep it as light and fun as possible. There have been groups of four or six who come in and order small plates, and I'll take them through a whiskey tasting, which is a great time.
You're also known for your craft cocktails. How would best describe the type of drinks you like to mix up?
P: "Culinary contemporary style," would be the best way to describe it. I use a lot of fresh fruits and herbs, and do a fair bit of infusing in the kitchen. I communicate closely with the chef to see what products we have coming in so we can keep things seasonal and responsible and sustainable whenever possible. But most important was the realization that this is a bar for the restaurant, not the other way around. It's important for the food and drinks to pair well. The chef is doing a dish with pepper jelly for fall: ravioli with duck confit, smoked onion broth, pork belly marmalade and pepper jelly. So I decided to make a cocktail using pepper jelly to pair with it. It's called the Highlighter, a gin cocktail with Suze gentian liqueur, Chartreuse and pepper jelly. The name comes from its bright, vivid yellow color.
You also make a drink called the Cereal Killer, which employs "cereal milk" as an ingredient. What was the inspiration behind that?
P: I was eating cereal with a hangover when I came up with that one. I made a version of it for Tales of the Cocktail a few years ago for the apprentice's welcome breakfast. I decided to revive it here, so I tweaked the recipe a bit and brought it back. It's made using Rebel Yell whiskey, sugar, vanilla and milk that I've infused with Honey Smacks cereal. It's like all of that good stuff at the bottom of the bowl that you loved when you were a kid, only with bourbon in it. It's our version of the bourbon milk punch. It's great as a brunch cocktail, and people seem to really love it. — SCOTT GOLD