In Cincinnati, Boca prides itself on timeless technique and modern decadence.
The inspiring menu showcases flavors from Europe, executed with French precision and technique. Lead bartender Morgan Elzey has introduced a new cocktail to the menu as a fun take on the Matcha Latte trend. We asked Morgan to tell us more about this trend.
Talk to us a bit about your background in the industry.
I have been in the industry for about 12 years. I started as a barista in a neighborhood cafe in Los Angeles. Through a stint as part of the opening team at a James Beard – nominated and Bon Appetit magazine – award winning restaurant, to managing a small family pizza chain, I eventually ended up in Ohio, where I rode out the pandemic and found my way to Boca.
Tell us about your Pacific Rim cocktail.
We wanted to showcase an alternative milk, through the medium of vodka, and provide our guests with the perfect spring/summer crushable tropical cocktail. The matcha and citrus play off each other and bring out a pineapple (i.e., tropical) flavor. It drinks smooth, wakes you up, and is super refreshing. (Plus, it’s pretty to look at!)
Give us some tips for working with Matcha powder. What do other bartenders need to know?
A little goes a long way! Matcha can be polarizing, especially when used with a heavy hand. It takes on an incredibly grass flavor profile if too much is used, so be sparse.
What about making syrups for cocktails? Any advice for other bartenders?
Be careful how much the syrup reduces. Set a timer! Too much and the flavor is too concentrated. Too little, and you just taste sweet. Especially when using particularly savory or herbaceous ingredients (like Thai basil, rosemary, or cucumber) don’t be afraid to add a pinch of salt. This will help meld the flavors together and bring out some subtleties lurking behind.
What do you consider your specialty behind the bar?
I’m a gin man through and through. I love its versatility and how it marries very well with grassy, herbaceous notes. But when I really get excited is with mocktails. There is no baseline to work from which means that your brain isn’t tethered to anything. The possibilities are endless. Purees and herbs are your friends here, and the seasons can really speak through the drinks.
What are some techniques bartenders should master behind the bar?
I think of restaurant work, bartending included, as a dance. With everything I do, I consider how it looks, which is to say that I try to do everything with a rhythm. The “hum” that we in the industry love about coming to work (clanking of silverware, kitchen’s calling for dishes, guests’ conversations, front doors opening and closing) is, I think, particularly affected by the sounds coming from the bar. Move with grace. Shake with style. Also, stock your bar with good ice and fresh herbs.
Give us 4-5 tips to creating inventive cocktails behind your bar.
- Do your research! There are plenty of great books/websites that can help. Cocktail Codex and Welcome Home by the Death and Co team, and Meehan’s Bartender Manual by Jim Meehan are three that I particularly love.
- Don’t be afraid of the past. Nothing is new anymore; everything has already been done. Know this and use it to your advantage. We’re all using the same 3 chords and a story to make a hit song.
- You gotta spend money to make money. R&D is incredibly important. Sometimes things just come together, but, more likely, you’ll have to tinker and play and adjust. The road is just as important as the destination, and the road ain’t cheap.
- Consider your guests and your market. What do they like? What is the bar down the street serving?
- Name, name, name. I think this is the hardest part of cocktail development. What you think sounds good may not resonate with anyone other than the voice in your head. Workshop it. Decide by committee. Ask for help. Just like you shouldn’t have to explain a joke for it to be funny, it should just hit, a good cocktail name should roll off the tongue and speak for itself. The story is important, sure. But the name needs to be spotless.
- 1 1/2 oz coconut infused Wheatley vodka
- 1 oz Thai basil and ginger simple syrup
- 3/4 oz oat milk
- 1/2 oz aquafaba
- 1/4 oz lime juice
- 1/4 oz lemon juice
- 1 bar spoonful of matcha powder
Preparation: Add all ingredients to a shaker and shake with ice. Strain into toasted coconut rimmed Collins glass and fill with ice.