For those who even dabble in the world of food media, Yotam Ottolenghi needs no introduction. Same could be said for those who’ve whipped through London in search of an excellent bottle of wine. The four locations of his eponymous Ottolenghi delis each have excellent lists helmed by sommelier Heidi Knudsen, which focus on natural/biodynamic/organic wines—from yeasty, savory col fondo Prosecco from Coste Piane to qvevri-aged orange wine from the Republic of Georgia. It’s a bold statement in the context of fast-casual dining, especially the American notion of it.
But cocktails are a fairly new association. Opened in 2011, Ottolenghi’s first full-size restaurant, NOPI, was the first to wrap a cocktail program around the food, which in this case is a mashup of Middle Eastern/North African and Asian flavors—“a meeting of two distinct worldviews,” as Ottolenghi puts it—the latter of which come by way of the restaurant’s head chef Ramael Scully, who is of Malaysian, Chinese, Indian and Irish descent.
The opening bartender for NOPI was Scully’s close friend and roommate, Niall Downey—a relationship that helped establish an open line of communication between the kitchen and the bar from the outset.
“It made complete sense that they would exchange ideas about food and drink,” said Ottolenghi in a recent phone conversation. “And it’s true about many places these days—the bar people and the kitchen people hang out together and you’re bound to have the crossover, which is incredibly good for both sides.”
Ottolenghi’s NOPI: The Cookbook, which was released in the U.S. on Tuesday, is the first of Ottolenghi’s now five cookbooks to include a selection of cocktail recipes, which are unique in their employment of everything from saffron to sumac—flavors that are practically tattooed onto the Ottolenghi brand.
“My previous books have involved stocking up on ingredients that you might not have at home; it requires a certain amount of effort to go out and get them—you have to go to a specialized shop or an ethnic market,” says Ottolenghi. “The cocktails reflect that, too.”
That is not to say that the cocktails in NOPI—a selection of 10 of the restaurant’s greatest hits, most of them contributed by NOPI’s current bar manager, Lukasz Rafac—are inaccessible. They merely require the same pantry ingredients you’d need to cook from NOPI and a little advance prep. (Take Ottolenghi’s advice and “read the full recipe before you start.”)
Our favorite four drinks, the Sumac Martini (sumac-infused vodka, velvet falernum, lime juice, pomegranate juice), the Chile Fino Old-Fashioned (chile-infused sotol, fino sherry, hazelnut liqueur, Angostura), the Saffron Chase (gin, elderflower liqueur, lemon juice, saffron syrup, Champagne) and the Pineapple and Sage Martini (roasted pineapple, sage- and cardamom-infused gin, clove syrup, lemon juice) are essentially liquid introductions to the flavors of the restaurant—a simple notion, but one that doesn’t always succeed in lesser hands.
Here, it is a welcome addendum—the sort that makes you wish that more cookbooks ably offered a similarly holistic experience—and a strong argument for the kind of kitchen-bar conversation that, when it clicks, helps move both forward.
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Images reprinted with permission from NOPI: The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully, copyright © 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography credit: Jonathan Lovekin © 2015