I have often said that one of my favorite moments of any evening out is when I first sit down at the bar. It’s all about grabbing a really good spot, settling in, and anticipating everything that the night has to offer. In order for that particular moment to be all that it can be, several key components have to fall into place. First off, I’d better be sitting in an awesome bar, with an amazing vibe, and an aesthetic that makes me feel like I’ve been transported to someplace incredible. Secondly, I need a cocktail list that really intrigues me. But even when these two factors are in place, things can all fall apart rather quickly if the bartender isn’t engaging or makes me feel less than welcome or comfortable. In fact, I like to think of the bartender as the element of this equation that holds it all together.
Whenever I walk into Charlie was a sinner on 13th Street in Philadelphia, I know just the spot at the bar that I have my eye on, and if it’s open, then you can bet I’m making a beeline for it. It’s the far right corner that’s perfect for conversation and for checking out everyone and everything that’s happening. It’s also the end of the bar run by Mathias Bable, a bartender whose talent and personality are a perfect example of that third element I talked about earlier. When I came up with this concept of having conversations with bartenders and the cocktails they create, I knew that I wanted Mathias to kick it off.
The cocktail that he chose to make for me is called Silent Spring and can be found on Charlie’s spring menu. It’s a super flavorful variation of a gimlet that uses a snap pea and basil infused gin as its base spirit, along with lime juice and simple syrup. I asked Mathias what inspired him to make this particular drink, and his answer came as no surprise to me. “I don’t know that I’ve ever been a person that is driven by inspiration. I have a touch of the nihilism so to speak.” Indeed he does. What he also has is an experimental spirit that leans toward the stranger side of ingredient combinations, and the Silent Spring expresses that spirit perfectly. After all, one wouldn’t necessarily think of snap peas as a cocktail ingredient. Mathias is also driven by the question, “Who is this cocktail for?” He enjoys going to the outer edges of flavor profiles, relying on his team to give him feedback on where he can find balance and make the drink more approachable. In this case, the snap peas also work for the cocktail philosophy of Charlie was a sinner, which is to incorporate vegetables into drinks wherever possible. Makes perfect sense for a bar that is also an awesome vegan restaurant. When asked about the overall driving force behind his passion as a bartender, Mathias claims that it has nothing to do with alcohol. Well, almost nothing. “If I can make a room full of people feel genuinely welcomed, it energizes me,” he said. And then added, “But getting to work with incredibly delicious hooch AIN’T a bad way to make a livin’ though!” I can attest to the fact that he most certainly can make a room full of people feel welcomed, and not only does it energize him, but it energizes the bar itself, and everyone in it! Head over to Charlie was a sinner soon and have Mathias make a Silent Spring for you. In the meantime, he’s shared the recipe with us so we can make our own at home. Cheers everyone. Happy Monday!
1 oz fresh lime juice
¾ oz simple syrup
2 oz snap pea & basil infused gin*
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until very cold. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe, Garnish with a cucumber wheel or ribbon. Enjoy!
*For the infusion, coarsely chop snap peas to fill three quarters of a pint glass. Add 8 full sized basil leaves. Dump the snap peas and basil into a large bowl and add 12 ounces of gin (vodka can be used if someone is opposed to gin). Cover and let sit in refrigerator for a day and a half (one full day and an overnight). Strain off the peas and basil.