We can’t stop drinking the Nantucket Sound. Because let’s be real: There's homemade spiced ginger sorbet in this drink. You can find it at The Spare Room every Wednesday night all summer long, and we’re declaring it the drink to sip to survive a proper Los Angeles summer.
Naomi Schimek is the bar-goddess who thought to pour gin and fresh-pressed cantaloupe juice over a scoop of sorbet; heavy-drinking Angelenos might know Schimek as the woman who took away the Los Angeles title in Tales of the Cocktail (which is like the Oscars of the mixology world). She is running Hollywood's best bar with a bowling alley, and in Los Angeles, Schimek is arguably paving the way for lady bartenders to enter the male-dominant world of mixology. And she’s doing it with potent panache.
How did you come up with the Nantucket Sound?
When I first came up with the concept, I thought, what a great way to showcase James' sorbets. James is my head bar back –- and soon-to-be bartender here –- and he created the spiced ginger sorbet. I just went up to him, said this is what I want -- make it. And he made something that people come in here and ask if they can get it in the grocery store. Like, in cartons! It's amazing. There’s cardamom and tons of other spices in there.
Do you think folks in Nantucket have ever had something quite as delicious as your Nantucket Sound?
No, I think they would have to travel to Los Angeles. Our general manager is from Boston. He was like, give me something summery! Refreshing! I want a Nantucket kind of theme. Cantaloupe and ginger are a natural pairing, and gin is wonderful –- it adapts to subtle flavors like that. Any other spirit would knock out the delicacy of stone fruits.
Where do you like to go out in LA?
Eveleigh and Spago –- right now, that's it. For awhile, I was only going to Eveleigh for the cocktails because the cocktails are exquisite. I think between what Dave Kupchinsky is doing and what Julian Cox is doing around town –- those are probably my two favorite people to see for drinks. But I gave the food a try recently, and now I'm just in love. And the vibe there is great.
When did you have your first sip of alcohol?
Screwdriver. I was seven. My dad gave me sips off his screwdriver. I grew up in New England, sitting right next to my dad in bars. And I would get to have chocolate milk and burgers that my mom wouldn't let me have at home. He would give me his Maraschino cherries that were soaked in whiskey or a sip here and there –- which was fun.
What are some interesting ways customers have tried to get your attention from across the bar?
I've gotten everything from, "Hey, Blondie!" and snapping fingers. But here, it's kind of a non-issue. It's just "Excuse me …"
What happens at The Spare Room and only at The Spare Room?
Drunk celebrities bowling. I don’t think I've experienced that anywhere else.
There's a lot of men in mixology. Why is that?
I think there are a lot of parallels between the bar world and the culinary world. For a long time, men were only chefs, too. But I think winds have changed. In other cities, like New York, you have Audrey Saunders and Julie Reiner, and I love to see a couple ladies do that here in LA. I think it’s definitely changing, but it's something that I've always kind of pushed for. People that know me know that it’s an issue with me. I'm always fighting gender dynamics in drinks -- there are no girly drinks or manly drinks. Let's knock this one out right now.
Whose drinks are you curious to try?
You know somebody I've never gone to visit that I want to -- to try because I'm a big mezcal fan -- is Edwin Cruz on the Westside (Tlapazola Grill). It's rare for me to get over on the Westside, and I used to live there for 10 years. I'm dying to go to The Tasting Kitchen in Venice. I have this whole Westside list that I'll have to knock out in one day.
Recipe for Naomi Schimek's Nantucket Sound:
1 1/2 parts Chamomile and lemon balm-infused Plymouth gin
3/4 part Bianco Vermouth
2 parts fresh-pressed cantaloupe juice
1 scoop spiced ginger sorbet
Fresh lemon juice and Peychaud's bitters to taste
Candied lemon balm leaf for garnish
“Go to the farmers market and find the best organic sweet cantaloupes -– we've tried a couple different varietals and discovered standard works best. Juice them in a juicer and sweeten it just a little bit with simple syrup. Soak dried chamomile and lemon balm leaves –- at The Spare Room, these lemon balm leaves are from my garden –- and soak that in gin for about three hours so it takes. Strain it out. A little Bianco Vermouth to modify it, and give it some complexity. And a bit of lemon and Peychaud's bitters to level it out a bit.”
Shake ingredients together with ice and strain over a scoop of spiced ginger sorbet. Garnish with a candied lemon balm leaf.