Mixology Mad Scientist
It’s not like mixology wunderkind Richie Moe just woke up one day and said to himself, “Hey, wouldn’t it be neat to mix up a batch of cocktails, pour them into tiny oak barrels, and let them bake in the Arizona sun for a month? And all the while, spritz the barrels with sea salt like they were seal pups?”
It wasn’t as fanciful as all that. In fact, Moe – co-owner and bar maestro at Citizen Public House in Scottsdale – based his new “Shipwrecked” cocktails on solid historical precedent: the harsh lashings of sea water and sun on cognac barrels strapped to the decks of old-time freighters. The sailors noted that above-deck cognac tasted smoother and more nuanced than the barrels stowed safely below decks – evidently, the daily expansion and contraction of the sun-beaten wood caressed the spirit like a talented masseuse. “That’s what we’re trying to synthesize,” Moe says.
For Moe – a relentless tinkerer who has used such exotica as kaffir limes and coffee presses in his creations – there’s always method to his mixology madness. Leading a staff of merry cocktail pranksters, dubbed “the Lost Boys” by one CPH regular, Moe is arguably the Valley’s premier beverage showman, fusing his rock star panache with a firm intellectual grasp of culinary traditions. We visited the former Kazimierz and Cowboy Ciao staffer in his Old Town laboratory.
What’s in your bag of mix tricks right now?
Nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Right now I’m thinking pretty seasonally. I’m stuck on fall flavors. Our latest thing here is a cocktail with rye whiskey, spiced cider syrup and a splash of lemon soda. And then finish with a sprig of sage. It’s called “Ryes Wide Open.”
What was your first cocktail creation?
Well, one of the first cool cocktails I did was at Kazimierz. It was an aquavit caraway-infused vodka martini, with caperberry juice instead of vermouth.
An ungodly number of man hours go into your “Shipwrecked” cocktails. Is it safe to say there’s a dash of OCD in them as well?
It’s definitely a bit of an obsession. And, yeah, there’s certainly a level of insanity walking the barrels outside every day. Singing to them. Burping them. But I have so many capable people working here at CPH. I know I can trust them to take [care] of things, so that helps relieve my obsessive tendencies.
What’s the wildest cocktail you’ve ever done?
I just made something called a PDWT. It stands for Please Don’t White Trash. Spam fat-washed Wild Turkey 81 with Boon Farms strawberry reduction syrup and Miller High Life foam, and pork rind/Twinkie dust on the rim. And then served in the shittiest, cheapplastic champagne glasses we could find.
Sounds just a bit tongue-in-cheek.
Very tongue-in-cheek. But I’d call it functionally tongue-in-cheek. You don’t want to overplay the clever stuff. Ultimately, everything has to serve your mission of making a great beverage.
What’s a basic piece of advice for the novice mixologist who wants to up his game?
The most essential thing is using fresh ingredients. Too many products out there have artificial flavor components. For instance, why use cucumber-flavored vodka to make a martini when you could just add a fresh slice of cucumber? Infusions are fun, too, but you have to be careful. Generally speaking, herbs don’t work very well. They break apart in the booze and rot. A basic infusion that I like is adding a stick of cinnamon to a bottle of
Is there a rare ingredient or foodstuff you’d like to work with but haven’t gotten your hands on yet?
I’ve used pretty much everything. One time, a buddy gave me a buttload of [marijuana] shake. I steeped it out in 100-proof vodka and put in some wormwood, and made some really nice bitters. That was for personal use, mind you. You can’t get it at CPH.
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