By Jan Walsh
Photography by Beau Gustafson
Since Hot and Hot Fish Club opened in 1995 it has developed an extensive network of food purveyors, foragers, and artisans who supply the restaurant with their local products. A leader in the non-GMO and organic food movement, the restaurant boasts the Alabamians for GMO Labeling’s Facebook Group logo on its menu and door.
These products not only make up much of the menu at Hot and Hot, they are also incorporated into the restaurant’s farm-to-glass cocktails. Tonight bar manager Noah McCullough makes three in-season, elevated cocktails with a French twist. Elevated, indeed. Many of the ingredients and preparation of making these cocktails are a recipe in themselves—taking more time to prep than making the cocktail itself. So they are made in advance, before the bar even opens, in order that our drinks are made in one-and-one-half minutes flat.
First of the season strawberries arrived at Hot and Hot a couple days before this review. Lucky us. They are early this year and are featured in the Fraise et Sauge (strawberry and sage). This gorgeous, pink, flirty cocktail is served in a stemmed glass, garnished with a cream sherry caviar and a lovely sprig of heather on the stem. The delicate “caviar” also includes organic sunflower oil in its making. Nibbling it before my first sip becomes a cocktail memory—amazing that something this small could burst with such layers of complex flavors. The cocktail itself is medium in body, light and refreshing with rummy strawberry and whiskey notes. Bleuet tôt (early blueberry) is a two-tiered, smoky drink. It arrives nestled into a stone base, which is secretly filled with cherry wood smoke. When the Alabama pottery cocktail vessel is removed from its base, cherry smoke and its aromas drift upwards making the first sip a sensual delight of house made blueberry syrup, a rare Cruzan Black Strap Rum, and Hot and Hot Amaro. And it is beautifully garnished with Alstroemeria, Lily of Peru and dried pineapple, shaped into a flower. And Genevrier Sauvage (wild juniper) is a decorative and contagious cocktail. Everyone who sees it will want one. With its own under plate, a wine carafe is wrapped in juniper and juniper berries, encircling this on-the-rocks drink. Amber in color, the cocktail’s first sip via its stainless straw boasts notes of caramel, rum, citrus, brandy, and winter spices. It is garnished with bee pollen and herbs. But it does not stop there. There is also a quaint, side car digestif of Hot and Hot Fish Club’s amaro in a tiny quail egg shell, nestled into the juniper, as the last, lovely sip.