COCKTAILS TAKE A CUE FROM SCORCESE’S SPARE STYLE AT MONDRIAN SOHO
Early on the backwoods of Maine beckoned to Jason Farrell Cousins. Becoming as wily as Peter Rabbit he spent his youth ferreting out the best in his parents’ vegetable patch. Absconding with the freshest, tastiest delights – a radish here, a cabbage there – Jason learned the rules of the vegetable kingdom early on making smoothies fresh from the farm. So gifted was he at mixing it up that his father forecasted his career choice.
Applying from day one a purposed sense of minimalism, Jason left Maine for New York in 2003 with a plan to become a documentary film editor. “Filmmaking. Editing. Pouring. It’s all about sharing an aesthetic message,” he observes. Finding himself sucked into bartending to pay the bills, he became an eager student of the business learning from the best – Dale DeGroff aka “The King of Cocktails,” Paul Pacult aka “America’s Foremost Spirits Authority,” David Wonderich famed (and highly entertaining) cocktail guru and finding Steve Olson curator of the wines and spirits selected for The Mondrian Hotel SoHo, as a steady mentor. “At first tending bar was just a blast – having so much fun, keeping crazy hours, doing crazy stuff – but after awhile I realized I was wasting time. I wanted to get serious, to settle down, to ‘marry the girl’ or in this case, commit to my career. Of course, I’m still having fun but it’s a lot saner now.”
Before long, he developed a basic philosophy: “There are no new cocktails. But there is a cocktail list which has evolved over the past 800 years. And this list offers endless possibilities.” So how does this genial and genuine cocktail historian dedicated to what’s pure and simple re-invent a glorious past? With modern technology. Keeping his focus on fresh ingredients he puts an airtight seal on such earthly delights as fresh peaches chopped with just a whisper of powdered sugar allowing him to stay true to his roots and use only the freshest ingredients for cocktails all year long. So when you’re craving ripe, juicy peaches long before their August peak, Isola is where you’re likely to find a truly precious peach cocktail that at first sip, will sweep you away on a Mediterranean breeze to the peach orchards of Italy.
Early in his career working in Tribeca at Bubby’s he’d see Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel, as he’d buzz off on the restaurant owner’s Vespa to the farmer’s market and bring back fruits, vegetables of all forms and flavors. Fascinated with these fresh ingredients, he would “play” with them making creative concoctions. Moving on to hotels, where cocktails first originated, he joined The SoHo Grand as beverage director. From there he went to The Meatball Shop in Williamsburg to continue his culinary connection to cocktails.
Never abandoning his relationship with film, he found mixology a parallel track to film editing: telling a story was paramount, but without extraneous details to bog down the plot. “My goal,” he explains,”is just to keep what’s really interesting. Like Scorcese and the way his films are edited. The raw elements are there, the poignancy is tangible. Things are kept as fresh as possible. It’s all about breaking free from tradition. And that is my mantra.” And so the moral of the story is that like one of Scorcese’s “Goodfellas,” Jason Farrell Cousins broke the rules – and eventually found freedom in a spare, pared down world he’s created behind the bar.
ABOUT ISOLA THE “GARDEN” OF
JASON FARRELL COUSINS COCKTAIL CREATIONS
Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar is a coastal Italian restaurant inspired by the Amalfi Coast, Italian Riviera and Sicily. Light, fresh and flavorful Italian cuisine that captures the spirit of these Italian provinces is paired with the fresh, bountiful cocktails created by Jason Farrell Cousins. Isola invites all to experience a magical escape within the Mondrian SoHo’s 5000 square foot greenhouse, inspired by the famously lush landscape of the Bobboli Gardens in Florence and the private Italian estates that line the
country’s coast. In May, the rooftop bar Soaked will be open and there Isola’s signature fresh fruit cocktails will bring you closer to the stars.
Isola is located within The Mondrian SoHo, a four star hotel, located at
9 Crosby St, New York, NY 10013. Phone: (212) 389 – 0000.
Rabalismo is a magical name grown in the garden of Isola’s Mixologist Jason Farrell Cousins’ imagination. It echoes the Italian word for Rhubarb, the crimson-stalked fruit with a tangy taste. Combine rhubard with sweet strawberries to infuse Limoncello (the traditional Italian liqueur, a combination of vodka and lemon zest) then add the bold bubbly of Brachetto – result a cocktail that is delizioso! As delightful a treat on a patio overlooking the Amalfi Coast as it is in a greenhouse in Manhattan just off a SoHo side street.
1 oz. Strawberry Rhubarb Limoncello (this is homemade from fresh local berries and rhubarb at the Mondrian SoHo just for the drinks at Isola, to make your own involves marinating rhubarb and berries in vodka with lemon zest for a week or more, recipes online from Nigella Lawson and others may offer inspiration.)
4 oz. Brachetto The light, aromatic red bubbly from Italy’s famed Piedmont region. Ruby red and effervescent, it enhances the strawberry sweetness of the cocktail. A surprising and delightful alternative to a Mimosa or Bellini at Brunch. (Available at Chelsea Wine Vault or Astor Wines & Spirits in New York City for about $20.00 a bottle)
Chill champagne glass. Pour the Strawberry Rhubarb Limoncello in first, then add chilled Brachetto. Garnish with lemon peel curlicue or fresh strawberry. Perfect for a warm, breezy afternoon; refreshing, rich and fruity.
COCKTAIL RECIPE #2: MONSTRO VERDE
Absinthe, the anise and wormwood liquor long known as the “Green Monster “ (aka Monstro Verde in Italian) takes a sunny, far from sinister, turn here with traditional Italian ingredients – fennel, cucumber and lime – tossed together and poured over crushed ice – and most deliciously, topped with fresh mint. Perfect poolside or post-shopping, this flavorful concoction does beckon with hallucinatory allure – one sip and you’ll imagine yourself as brilliantly witty as Oscar Wilde or perhaps, as passionate as Ernest Hemingway, both avid absinthe consumers. Who will you become when you consume a Monstro Verde? Stop in at Isola and see. Later this Spring you’ll be able to enjoy cocktails crafted by Jason Cousins at Soaked, the Mondrian’s rooftop bar.
1 oz. Cucumber Juice (chop and place ENTIRE cucumber in blender, skins and all)
¾ oz. Simple Syrup flavored with fennel (the Fennel brings out the flavor of the absinthe with its anise essence, simple syrup can be made by hand, recipes on www.epicurious.com or purchase at Crate & Barrel)
¾ oz. Pernod Absinthe (the original “Green Monster” – a spirit raved about for hallucinatory properties and favored by famously decadent poets and artists)
¾ oz. Fresh-squeezed lime juice
Shake all ingredients together with fresh mint. Pour into tall glass over crushed ice. Garnish with fresh mint.