Julian Cox is one serious mixologist, but he doesn't take himself too seriously. Case in point: An ingredient in the Beer and a Ball, one of my favorite cocktails at John Sedlar's new Beverly Boulevard restaurant Playa, is listed as "Hops Infused Champagne" on the menu, but it's actually the Champagne of Beers, Miller High Life. Who knew?
Cox has been everywhere over this last year, from dreaming up concoctions for the rotating-door restaurant Test Kitchen, to creating a South American-spirits-only menu at Ricardo Zarate's forthcoming Peruvian restaurant Picca. And at each restaurant, he comes up with inspired drinks that perfectly match the chef's vision.
At Playa, he approaches the cocktail list the same way Sedlar does his menu by using spices, flavors and small-batch spirits that maybe a lot of people aren't familiar with. You might find cardamom bitters, caramelized pineapple syrup, East Indian sherry, or, sure, a low-brow beer like Miller High Life making his cocktails sing.
The Beer and a Ball is a fun take on an Aperol Spritz, which usually blends the bitter orange liqueur with Prosecco. Instead, at Playa it's mixed its cousin, Campari, muddled grapefruit and the beer ("It has to be Miller High Life...no substitutions," says Cox. "We tried everything and this worked the best."). It's the perfect summer weekend sipper, and great with a side of chile-spiced corn nuts, which is how it's served at the restaurant.
The Beer and a Ball
Recipe adapted from Julian Cox at Playa
Makes 1 drink
1 thick slice pink grapefruit, quartered
½ fresh sage leaf
1 ounce Aperol
1 ounce Campari
½ ounce fresh lime juice
½ ounce simple syrup
1 ½ ounces Miller High Life
In a cocktail shaker, muddle three slices of the grapefruit and pinch of sage. Add a few ice cubes, the Aperol, Campari, lime juice and simple syrup and shake well. Add the beer, and then strain the drink into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit.