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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Celebrity Bartender Rob Floyd’s ‘Cocktail Theatre’ Coming to TRIO Restaurant

Rob Floyd is one of the world’s most renowned cocktail creators. He’s a regular on the Bar Rescue TV show; he’s designed cocktail programs for some of the biggest cruise lines; he’s performed at some of Las Vegas’ most impressive hotel-casinos; and he travels the world as a consultant for bars and restaurants.

So why is he taking time out of his crazy-busy schedule to bring his Cocktail Theatre live show to TRIO Restaurant, in the middle of scorching-hot July? It’s because, he says, he loves Palm Springs.

“I can’t wait to get here,” he said during a recent lunch at TRIO. “Any excuse.”

Cocktail Theatre will arrive at TRIO, 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, for two shows on Saturday, July 6—one at 6 p.m., and another at 9 p.m.

Floyd said his interactive show takes a historical and theatrical approach to cocktails. He’ll tell the stories behind various drinks, from the 1600s up through the molecular-gastronomy era. Audience-goers will get to try five different drinks during the show, which runs just a little longer than an hour.

I asked Floyd what makes a cocktail great. His response: He treats creating a cocktail like a good artist creates a painting—except instead of colors, he uses ingredients.

“I use just a couple of primary colors, that are just gorgeous, and one or two accent colors that are just beautiful,” he said.

Of course, a lot of people can’t or don’t drink alcohol, for all sorts of excellent reasons—and many bartenders completely disregard this demographic. Fortunately, Floyd does not—and that’s why his show includes “zero-proof cocktails” for those who don’t imbibe. In fact, he estimates that up to 20 percent of his show attendees don’t drink.

Tickets to Cocktail Theatre are $62.50; a VIP meet-and-greet package along with the 6 p.m. show is $80, and includes a special cocktail created by Floyd. For tickets or more information, visit triopalmsprings.com.


In Brief

Workshop Kitchen + Bar, located at 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will soon have a sister restaurant in Los Angeles. According to Eater Los Angeles, chef/owner Michael Beckman has bought the space currently housing Odys + Penelope, at 127 S. La Brea Ave., with plans of turning it into Workshop; expect it to open sometime next year. … One of the west valley’s best sandwich joints is moving to a larger space—although customers will still get to park in the same place: The Sandwich Spot is moving from its tiny home at 240 N. Palm Canyon Ave., in Palm Springs, into the old Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace space, in the Henry Frank Arcade, at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The move should be effective on July 1; call 760-778-7900 with questions. … Coming soon to the old Elephant Bar space at 73833 Highway 111, in Palm Desert: The BaBaLoo Lounge. It’ll be the second location of the Peruvian- and Cuban-fare joint; the original spot is in Lake Havasu, Ariz. Watch www.facebook.com/BabalooLounge for updates. … The new managing partner at the retooled Persimmon Bistro at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 N. Museum Drive, in Palm Springs, has a familiar name: It’s Arthur Vasquez, who used to run Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage. Congrats, art! Visit www.facebook.com/persimmonbistro to learn more. … Congratulations to the bar at Melvyn’s, located at the Ingleside Inn, at 200 W. Ramon Road, in downtown Palm Springs! Esquire magazine just named it one of the 27 Best Bars in America for 2019. … Coming soon to the space that used to house Maxcy’s Grill in the Ralph’s shopping center at 425 S. Sunrise Way, in Palm Springs: Asadero Los Corrales. It appears this will be the third location for this Sinaloa-style Mexican eatery, joining restaurants in La Quinta and Coachella. We learned this news because we happened to drive by and see the new sign; we will keep you posted as we learn more. … Congrats to the folks at La Quinta Brewing Co., who have announced the construction of a new, larger brewing location near Interstate 10 and Cook Street. The brewery—which opened its doors in 2013 at 77917 Wildcat Drive, in Palm Desert—also operates successful taprooms in Palm Springs and La Quinta. The new location is slated to include food and an outside beer garden; keep your fingers crossed for an opening late next year. Watch www.facebook.com/LaQuintaBrewingCo for updates.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Awards and medals for Babe’s brewing excellence adorn the dining room at Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, in Rancho Mirage, like golf courses adorn the Coachella Valley.

Decades ago, Don Callender started a Southern California chain of American-style restaurants that was known for its pies, its fully stocked saloon and its salad bar. As the years passed, and the restaurant chain was sold and merged with other restaurants, Don had a slightly different vision of barbecue and beer.

It’s not as well known that Don was fascinated with craft beer. In the late ’90s, when the craft-beer revolution took hold, Don’s passion for these new styles led him to taste what Southern California brewers had to offer.

Don knew excellence when he tasted it. Strawberry blondes, pumpkin ales and fruit beers from upstarts like Belmont Brewing Company satisfied Don’s sweet tooth and culinary prowess. Don was also one of the first Californians to enjoy the Pasadena based Craftsman Brewing. The Marie Callender’s founder and craft beer aficionado drank their Heavenly Hefe and Orange Grove Ale, while brewing a legacy all his own.

Don opened two small breweries in 1998 and 1999. The first, P.H. Woods, was a popular BBQ and brewhouse with beer brewed by Hans Johnson. Johnson later came up with the award-winning craft beers for Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse, which opened in April 2002.

In 2001, as Don prepared to unfold his ultimate beer-and-barbecue concept, he and his manager, Arthur Vasquez, couldn’t foresee the volatile socioeconomic climate they were about to face. Just a few months before opening, the Sept. 11 attacks shook the core of America. Spending was down, and the slower, warmer months of the desert didn’t promise a hugely successful launch.

The most-pressing problem with opening a barbecue and craft-beer brewhouse in an area known for its spa resorts, art galleries, 60-something golfers and Rat Pack heritage was introducing the relatively new culinary art of craft beer. While nearby San Diego and Orange County were quick to catch on to the craft-beer calling, the gin-and-tonic crowd of the Coachella Valley was a little slower to heed the call.

“There were no hop heads out here,” Vasquez said—not smiling.

For several years, they pushed their light-to-medium beers. Vasquez carefully crafted the menus and tap offerings in order to please the Coachella customer.

The Honey Blonde Ale and Blackfin Lager caught on. But the passion to offer a bigger variety of microbrews smoldered inside Vasquez.

After all, Babe's Brewhouse has a beautiful, custom JV Northwest brew system with a hand-hammered, aged copper exterior, four fermenters and five serving tanks. Its massive functioning malt silo stands tall next to the restaurant's entrance and holds 15,000 pounds of malt. Coming in at a cost of just more than a half-million dollars, who wouldn’t want to show off what this thing can really do?

Hans Johnson (now with Blackstone Brewery in Nashville, Tenn., developed the recipes for the Honey Blonde Ale, Blackfin Lager and 29 Palms Pale Ale. Still served today and brewed by Scot Grabbe, the Honey Blonde Ale comes in at 5 percent alcohol by volume and has won bronze, silver and gold in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 medals in the Los Angeles International Commercial Beer Competition. Golden in color, light- to medium-bodied, this is a smooth beer with a subtle finish from the orange blossom honey.

Named in honor of the brave 29 Palms Marines, the pale ale is a deep, copper color with cascade hop floral aroma and sweet caramel malt notes. The Blackfin Lager has the most accolades, winning a bronze medal in the 2003 Australian International Beer Awards. Taking the gold in the 2009 and 2012 L.A. International Commercial Beer Competition, the dark German style beer has a hint of roasted barley and toffee sweetness.

Vasquez credited an assistant manager for giving him a nudge to expand Babe’s beer offerings.

“My assistant manager, Josh (Levish, who has a beer podcast at beermepodcast.com), he kind of brought it to my attention and said, ‘Art, there’s a lot more going on here with craft beer; we should start paying more attention,’” Vasquez said. “And I was kind of in this funk, and I said, ‘No, no, we gotta keep the product medium bodied.' That’s what’s selling.

“Y’know, I lost that spark from the ’90s. Then Stone (Brewing Co.) started doing their own distribution and so we started to bring in a few more things. … And by summer 2011, I said, ‘You know what? Eff this. We’re going to go big.’”

As the years passed, and the American craft-beer industry continued to grow, Vasquez and co. bumped Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse up to six taps. They featured two seasonals and made smaller four-to-five-barrel batches, so they could rotate the beers more often. They phased out Southern beers and offered more bombers and the likes of Flying Dog and Dogfish Head. Every seasonal was higher than 8 percent alcohol by volume, and they started wood-aging some of their beers.

In other words, Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse was getting real with their beer. And it took off.

While the quality of their beef short ribs can’t be overstated, Vasquez has shown that he is serious about not just the quality of craft beer offered, but the quantity. Because of his passion and due diligence, Babe’s is now on the allocation list for Southern California-based Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Stone Brewing Co., so all of those breweries’ new and interesting releases are automatically sent to the brewhouse. Babe’s BBQ and Brewhouse is one of only three places in the Coachella Valley to be on this special beer list.

Callender passed away in 2009, and while the restaurant pioneer and innovator may no longer be with us, it’s apparent that Vasquez, Babe's chief operating officer and executive chef, is committed to making sure that Don's spirit stays alive.

Budget-conscious beer-lovers will be pleased to find craft beer at half-price from 3 p.m. to closing on Monday. Even the growlers are half-off: Refill a 32-ounce growler for $7, or the 64-ounce growler for $9. Happy hour is Monday through Friday, from 3 to 6 p.m., and 9 to 11 p.m.

“The Cicerone” flight consists of four smaller beer tasters. Currently, you can enjoy the 58 Palms Imperial Pale Ale (7.2 percent alcohol), the Babe’s 10th Anniversary Ale (seasonal), guest Belgian draft Delirium Nocturnum (8.5 percent) and guest American draft Stone Brewing Co. 12.12.12. Vertical Epic (9.4 percent).

I’ve become a fan of the 10th Anniversary Ale. With eight malts, 50 pounds of Belgian rock candy, California cherries, blackberries, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and cherry-and-cinnamon bourbon-aged American oak, this beer is the perfect complement to slightly spicy barbecue during the chilly, winter months. The guest drafts were also impressive, proving that Art and the rest of the Babe’s team know more than your average restaurant about good beer.

Babe’s just renewed its 10-year lease and is starting to market the beer outside the brewhouse.

“I just want outside accounts in the Coachella Valley,” Vasquez said. … “I want people to know, when they’re coming here, if they don’t see our beers on tap, I want them to ask for it.”

And the gospel of Babe’s is spreading. LQ Wine has all of their bottled products. Grill-A-Burger in Palm Desert also carries their pale ale.

Love barbecue? Love beer? Love Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse.

Call to schedule a free tour of the brewery 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., December through June (excluding Wednesdays and Thursdays) or July through November (excluding Sundays and Mondays). Babe’s is located at 71800 Highway 111, in The River in Rancho Mirage. For more information, call (760) 346-8738, or visit www.babesbbque.com.

About the author: Erin Peters has been enticing beer drinkers since before beer blogging was really cool. (It’s cool, right?) She started down the carbonated path of intoxicating reviews and articles about craft breweries and the people behind the beer in 2008 and hasn’t turned back since. Erin studied journalism at San Diego State University. Rearrange the letters in SDSU, and you get SUDS. Coincidence—or, divine inspiration?

Below, from left to right: Erin Peters (the article's author), Arthur Vasquez and Scot Grabbe. Photo by Sean Planck.

Published in Features & Profiles