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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

What: The Maple and Cardamom Coffee

Where: Ernest Coffee, 1101 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $5.50

Contact: 760-318-4154; www.ernestcoffee.com

Why: Great ingredients make for a great beverage.

Ernest Coffee is part of a wave of great independent coffee shops that have opened in the West Valley in recent years (including Ristretto, Gré Coffeehouse and Art Gallery, 4 Paws, Joey, Custom, etc., etc.)—but several things set Ernest apart from the others.

First: It serves Stumptown Coffee, a renowned brand out of Portland, Ore., something the folks at Ernest are quite proud of. Second: It shares the space with Bootlegger Tiki (a space that once housed Don the Beachcomber, offering the building serious tiki cred), which means the place has a full liquor license—including some boozy coffee drinks on the Ernest side. Third: Ernest offers some of the more interesting coffee drinks in town—creativity spurred on, perhaps, by that aforementioned liquor license.

One of those creative drinks has become a favorite of mine. It’s listed on the menu board as “Maple and Cardamom,” with maple syrup, vanilla, cardamom and milk. Let’s dig into that a little deeper: The maple syrup is real maple syrup, and that vanilla syrup is made in-house. Add those quality ingredients to milk and good coffee, and sprinkle in cardamom—and the result is one delicious drink. It’s not a drink for everyone—the drink is quite sweet, and the aftertaste on my palate is a bit weird (a problem fixed easily by drinking something else afterward, like water)—but I think it’s fantastic.

If maple and cardamom aren’t your cup of … um, coffee, there are plenty of other unique creations on offer. (On my next visit, I’ll try the coffee with rosemary-infused white chocolate!) Oh, and fun fact: Don the Beachcomber’s real name was Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt. Now you know where the name came from!

So, go. Try something different at Ernest. You won’t regret it.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

It’s Saturday night, and Workshop Kitchen + Bar, in downtown Palm Springs, is buzzing. The bar is full—and the drink tickets are piling up.

A party of 12 walks in the door. A complicated cocktail order could put the bartenders in the weeds, or sink the ship entirely. (Full disclosure: I work at Workshop and its sister bar/restaurant, Truss and Twine—so trust me, I know.) Instead, Workshop bar manager Michelle Bearden deftly pours a pre-batched drink into a large antique punch bowl, tosses in a block of ice, sprinkles some micro edible flowers over the top, and—voila! The group’s first round is ready.

Punch, America’s first cocktail, is a win-win for the bartender and the guest, and is a perfect option for a party at home.

Bearden first realized the magic of the punch bowl when attending Orange County Bartenders Cabinet meetings, where roughly 50 groggy bartenders might show up at once, looking for a little hair of the dog. The punch bowls allowed attendees to get a drink in their hands before they started introducing themselves and mingling.

Bearden calls punch “a social lubrication.”

“For special events at the restaurant, or if you’re hosting something at your house, I love the idea of punch bowls, because it’s the water cooler of the party,” Bearden said. “It’s such a great way to break the ice, and it’s interactive: You go back to fill up your cup, or someone else’s. It’s very social and can get a dialogue going.”

Bearden said that on a busy Saturday night, Workshop might make six to 10 punch bowls, at least. The 5-year-old Uptown Design District staple offers one punch on the menu—the venerable Pisco Punch, Workshop’s take on the classic concoction containing Peruvian brandy, the house-made pineapple shrub, lemon juice, clove and sparkling wine—but will spin any drinks on the cocktail list into a bowl on request. The Pisco Punch at Workshop is perfectly balanced, refreshing, easy to drink and delicious.

Punch bowls are usually kept on the lighter side, as far as the alcohol by volume is concerned.

“They’re meant to be made so you can have two or three or four, and not get knocked on your ass,” Bearden said. “I love that about them.”

Bearden said she’s made punch bowls for groups in size from four up to 80 (!), and large groups can pre-order a punch bowl so the first round is ready the moment the party walks in the door.

“You walk up to your table, and there’s the vintage punch bowl all set with these cute little vintage tea cups. That just puts a good taste in everyone’s mouth,” Bearden said. “It’s exciting and takes the experience to the next level.”

Punch’s roots run deep, perhaps as early as 17th-century India. Punch has five important elements, which are basically the building blocks of the modern craft cocktail: liquor, sugar, citrus, tea (or spice) and water. It’s believed “punch” may have been derived from the Farsi and Hindi word for “five,” which is pronounced “panch.”

English sailors brought the concept of punch and its necessary spices home with them, and by the end of the 17th century, a bowl of punch was all the rage throughout England and its colonies. Back then, punch was usually served hot, but it was sometimes made with ice or cool water for the upper class.

James Ashley, known as the world’s first celebrity bartender, had a famous tavern—The Sign of the Two Punch Bowls, where punch was the obvious staple—on Ludgate Hill in London from 1731 until his death in 1776. Punch has always been community-oriented, and has crossed class boundaries from lowly sailors to British Lords. It’s odd but true: In the 18th century, men used to carry little silver nutmeg graters around with them for their punch.

A punch and its five elements can easily be thought of as the cornerstone of tiki cocktails as well, and any tiki bar worth its salt should offer punch bowls. The two main tiki bars in town—Bootlegger Tiki and Tonga Hut—fill the bill.

Bootlegger’s signature punch for the summer is called Knee Deep, named after the classic George Clinton song. It includes Cuban-style rum, Blanc Rhum, aquavit, pear brandy, pineapple, lime, pineapple gomme, blue curaçao and soda. Like all the drinks on the list at Bootlegger, the Knee Deep is perfectly balanced and rich with flavor.

“I think it’s important to remember the idea behind punch is to have something light that can be enjoyed for an hour to a whole afternoon, depending on the event,” said Chad Austin, beverage director at the 3-year old Bootlegger, located in the Uptown Design District and attached to Ernest Coffee. “You aren’t trying to get everyone tanked, just loosened up after a few cups.”

Tonga Hut, in the heart of downtown Palm Springs, lists two punch bowls on its menu: the classic Scorpion Bowl and the Tonga Hut Treasure—but offers any of its drinks as a bowl for two or more people. The Tonga Hut Treasure is an original recipe containing rum, orange liqueur, cream, honey, orgeat and grapefruit. The Scorpion Bowl has rum, brandy and almond. The punches are served in classic volcano bowls—lit on fire and sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg, tableside, for a spark.

Legend has it the Scorpion Bowl was born in the 1930s at a bar in Honolulu called The Hut as a single-serve concoction, but came to prominence when “Trader Vic” Bergeron scooped up the recipe roughly a dozen years later. He then tweaked it, multiplied it and served it up at his famous Oakland bar.

No matter the setting, from fine dining to tiki to a pool party, a bowl of punch is a great kickoff.

“It gets the energy going,” Bearden said. “No one is looking at each other and asking, ‘Are you going to have a drink, or are you going to have an ice tea?’ It sets the stage and gets things moving in the right direction.”

Patrick Johnson is a journalist and head bartender at Truss and Twine. He can be emailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

Mezcal … we’ve had a complicated relationship haven’t we?

Remember our first time? I was 20, and you were so cruel. In those days, you needed a gimmick—you were the “poor man’s tequila” to us clueless gringos, its crazy backwoods cousin. We had heard the myth that eating the worm would make one hallucinate, just in case taking copious shots weren’t enough. We drank you in college when we couldn’t afford a more-polished spirit.

I know that many people still think of you that way. They don’t know you as you really are … a liquor whose time to shine has finally arrived.

Readers, if you haven’t been enjoying the renaissance of this misunderstood spirit, it’s probably not your fault. Despite nearly a decade of surging popularity, mezcal still won’t show up on your radar if you haven’t been to a bar that specializes in Mexican spirits or craft cocktails. However, if you feel like it’s time to get swept up by the charms of mezcal, and they are many, now is the perfect time to do so.

For one thing, it’s more available than ever (although the market has been somewhat flooded by non-descript brands looking to capitalize on the trendiness). For another, the tasting notes can range from vanilla and banana to truffles and leather. Aside from Scotch whisky, few spirits can boast such a dramatic variation in flavor. Like Scotch, mezcal is known for being smoky, but the level of smoke varies from product to product. Unlike Scotch, you can use it easily in a margarita variation during atypically hot Coachella Valley fall days.

To celebrate mezcal and its many amazing aspects, I decided to visit some local cocktail bars to see how they explore the versatility of the spirit. I was not disappointed.

My first stop was Arrive in Palm Springs, where Paul made me a Smoke and Berries. It’s on the drink menu, and is a nice way to explore the light and breezy side of mezcal. He muddled raspberries and blackberries directly into the liquor, and added some lime and simple syrup, as well as a dash of peach bitters, and voila! It was a perfect poolside sipper. It was light and breezy, with a hint of smoke, black pepper, vanilla and pineapple from the Primario mezcal.

Next, he made me a Sweet Surrender. You won’t find it on the menu, but it’s worth asking about. He bravely mixes Primario with white rum and mint, and then adds some creme de mure, lemon juice and Peychaud’s bitters. It’s a beguiling beverage. If I’d sipped it without knowing the ingredients, I would have been hard-pressed to guess them. My first impression was Fernet-Branca—the drink leads you almost there, with a strong medicinal hit—but the creme de mure brings you back before it becomes too much. There are also notes of cola, menthol and black pepper. As I left, I wondered about the rum: Would a funky Jamaican overproof make the cocktail better or worse? I think he played it smart with a quieter dance partner for the mezcal—but I might play around with the specs at some point, out of curiosity.

Next I went to see the tiki wizards at Bootlegger, right down the road—rather fortuitously. Chad had posted a picture of his new Aztec Warrior mezcal drink online, and although it’s not on the menu yet, Aisha was happy to make one for me. It starts with Ilegal Mezcal, and then my favorite ingredient of the last few years, Ancho Reyes, joins the party. (If you haven’t picked up a bottle of that yet, do yourself a favor.) The drink is finished with lime juice, coconut cream and NOLA coffee liqueur from St. George, with a grating of cinnamon. Tasting the drink, I got the impression of candy chased with a little New Orleans café au lait with chicory. I confess I have a bit of a sweet tooth with my coffee, so when I make it at home, I might add a touch of simple syrup or turbinado sugar.

I called it a night with a drink on the menu, For Luck’s Sake. La Niña mezcal, Cabeza tequila, yellow Chartreuse, honey and lime are mixed together and served on a big ice cube, with a basil leaf garnish. A bit of fire is added with a serrano pepper tincture, and the vegetal notes of the ingredients are accentuated by celery bitters. Yellow (not green!) Chartreuse is incredible with tequila, so I was not surprised that the drink came together so nicely. It’s a little spicy and a little sweet, with a good measure of herbs de Provence to boot.

Four drinks, four totally different looks. Mezcal is a powerhouse of a spirit, no matter how you use it. Whether you’re by the pool when it’s 95 degrees, or staying warm on a cool desert evening, mezcal just might be the spirit you need to add to your liquor cabinet. Even better, have your local bartender do the work for you.

If you need some more inspiration, here is one of my recipes.

La Rubia

  • 1 1/2 ounces of mezcal of your choice (Vida works nicely with its baking spice notes)
  • 3/4 ounce Ancho Reyes
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice (no cheating with the bottled stuff!)
  • 1/2 ounce pineapple syrup (leave fresh, not canned, pineapple chunks in simple syrup for a couple of days; add gum arabic for extra credit)

Shake, serve up or on the rocks, and garnish with one of those pineapple chunks or a leaf from the pineapple. Waste not, want not.

Cheers!

Kevin Carlow is a bartender at Seymour’s and can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

Hard Rock Replaces Sessions With Simon Kitchen + Bar

Another celebrity chef is coming to the Coachella Valley.

Simon Kitchen + Bar, a restaurant under the direction of Kerry Simon, is slated to open in mid-September at the Hard Rock, located at 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It’s replacing Sessions, which had occupied the Hard Rock’s restaurant space since the remodeling of the former Hotel Zozo.

“Palm Springs is hot right now,” Simon said in a news release. “I’m very excited to be a part of this laid-back, hipster getaway. The menu that I’ve developed for Simon Kitchen + Bar is a little edgy, a little fun and full of contemporary takes on the comfort foods we all love.”

As for that menu: It will include “an emphasis on sharing,” with “sandwiches, entrées and stone-oven flatbreads. Social plates include tempura green beans made with pepper jelly and cream cheese; bacon jam served with baked brie and toasted baguette; and ‘devil’s eggs’ complete with crispy pancetta and caviar.”

Sounds tasty to us. Simon should be a good fit for the Hard Rock; after all, Rolling Stone once called him the “Rock ’n’ Roll Chef.”

Watch www.hrhpalmsprings.com for updates and more information.

Cactusberry Getting a Remodel and a Concept Tweak

Cactusberry, the popular frozen-yogurt shop in the Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center at 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, is going in a slightly new direction following a change in ownership.

Johnny Ramirez Jr. and Dale Sutherland are the new owners. After they got the keys, they closed the shop for remodeling. Ramirez tells the Independent they hope to reopen around Oct. 1.

“We are taking ‘Cactusberry Frozen Yogurt’ and expanding the brand, but keeping the same great tastes, as well as adding new items like gelato and frozen custard,” Ramirez said via email. “Our new name in honor of this expansion is ‘Cactusberry+ Frozen Treats.’ We hope to become the Coachella Valley’s go-to shop for frozen treats and drinks!”

Watch Cactusberry’s website (cactusberryplusps.com) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CactusberryPlus) for updates and more information.

TRIO, Purple Room Shaking Things Up Just a Bit

Trio and the Purple Room, the popular restaurants in Palm Springs owned by Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen, are both going through some minor yet welcome changes.

At TRIO, located at 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, executive chef Van Laanen recently introduced weekly specials to complement the tried-and-true menu. Every week, TRIO is offering an all-day drink special and three new dinner dishes.

“We love pairing fresh ingredients with distinctive flavors, and we are thrilled to cook up these new specials,” Van Laanen said in a news release.

For example, the specials ending the week of Sept. 4 are seared Cajun ahi tuna and carrot cucumber slaw with pickled ginger wasabi; a USDA New York strip steak with caramelized onions and sautéed wild mushrooms; and pan-roasted barramundi with mango pico de gallo and sweet saffron butter sauce. The drink special is the “TRIO Fizz,” featuring muddled orange, Absolut Mandarin, orange juice, lemon juice and soda.

Watch www.triopalmsprings.com for a list of specials throughout September.

Meanwhile, the Purple Room, inside Club Trinidad at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, was slated to reopen after a month off on Thursday, Aug. 28. The slightly rebranded Purple Room Restaurant and Stage also has a new chef and a new menu; a “peek” was posted on the Purple Room Facebook page shortly before the Independent’s press deadline. The new menu includes a wide variety of modern cuisine, ranging from a Brussels sprout salad as a starter ($10) to filet Oscar ($36) and chicken paillards ($23) as main courses.

Head over to www.facebook.com/purpleroomrestaurantstage to get gobs more information on the Purple Room, including a list of upcoming shows.

In Brief

After a seemingly endless construction period, Pho Vu is finally open at 285 S. Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs. … The transformation is complete: The former Chop House Palm Desert has been converted into the Kaiser Grille Palm Desert. The moderately priced restaurant at 74040 Highway 111 is now open. … Tell your beer-loving friends in Arizona that offerings from Coachella Valley Brewing Company will soon be available there, thanks to a distribution deal with Young’s Market Company. … The Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, which opened in June with the first 2014 Splash House, closed with the second 2014 Splash House in August. However, management says the closure is only temporary, and that the Hacienda will reopen on Friday, Sept. 26. … The Bootlegger Tiki bar is slated to soon debut at 140 W. Via Lola, Suite 1101, in the back of the building occupied by Ernest Coffee. … Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill, which has been a La Quinta staple for almost a decade, recently opened a second location in the Westfield Palm Desert at 72840 Highway 111. Get more info at www.stuftpizzabarandgrill.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News