Critically-acclaimed mixology maven Abigail Gullo – Head Bartender at Compère Lapin – has revealed her latest cocktail creations, just in time for the change of season with warmer days ahead. Gullo – who is a major influence in the world of mixology specific to the culture and history of New Orleans – has a knack for serving more than just a beverage; the story behind each handcrafted concoction is what differentiates her craft from the rest, with a cocktail program that is as whimsical as the mischievous rabbit for which the restaurant is named. Alongside 2018 James Beard Award: Best Chef South winner, Chef/Owner Nina Compton, Gullo has garnered local and national attention of her own behind the bar: In 2010, Abigail’s margarita won People’s Choice at Tales of the Cocktail; Eater NOLA’s “Bartender of the Year” in 2014; winner of Heaven Hill Liquor.com’s “Bartender of the Year” 2016; and winner of Tullimore Dew’s “Best Bartender Stories.” Since then, Abigail’s drinks have been featured in The New York Times, Imbibe, Garden & Gun, In The Mix, and Food & Wine magazine among others.
During the winter Olympics this year, Abigail participated as a special week-long guest on the nationally broadcasted Today Show where she prepared numerous New Orleans’ inspired libations in front of a live audience, honoring the Crescent City’s Tricentennial. While the Big Easy continues to celebrate its 300th anniversary with a series of festivals, events, and parades, Gullo memorializes the city in a one-of-a-kind cocktail.
TheTi’Centennial Punch embodies a local tradition – known as the New Orleans “Set Up” – which consists of a deconstructed bottle service, allowing imbibers to prepare their beverage on their own. Materials include all of the fixings which go into the drink, typically a half-pint bottle of the liquor of your choice, mixers, cups, and a large bowl filled with ice. Gullo offers Rhum Agricole from the three major influencers of New Orleans culture: Latin, French and American. Specifically, Oaxaca rum from Mexico, Blue Cane rum from Martinique, and Louisiana Rhum Agricole from Baton Rouge.
Abigail explains, “Rhum Agricole – “farmer’s rum,” more or less of the French Antilles – is just cane juice, distilled. When properly handled Martinique and Guadeloupe – Rhum Agricole country – the preferred way of absorbing the daily ration is in a Ti’Punch (Ti’ being how you say petit in Creole). Like the Cuban daiquiri or the Brazilian caipirinha, this do-it-yourself classic uses lime and a cane-based sweetener to take the edge off the hooch.” Once guests choose the Rhum Agricole of their liking, the remaining fixings are provided to create their own unique Ti’Centennial Punch – available all year long at Compère Lapin.
Though the classic mint julep is associated with the Kentucky Derby, Abigail’s twist on the classic is as refreshing as it is original. Perfect for warmer months, the CL Julep is served in a julep cup over crushed ice, using bourbon, St. Lucian spiced rum, cane syrup, fresh mint leaves, Peychaud’s bitters and a pinch of sea salt. To prepare, gently press mint leaves and cane syrup in the bottom of a julep cup. Add bourbon, rum, and swizzle; then, add more crushed ice making a mound of ice and garnish with salt, bitters, mint sprigs. Gullo advises sticking a paper straw in the mint so that one must nuzzle the mint to take a sip.
Inspired by the state flower of Georgia – and a reference to an episode of The Walking Dead, season 2 – the Cherokee Rose is made with Singani 63, manzanilla sherry, Cocchi Rosa, Preserve liqueur, and Avocado oil saline solution. This elegant drink is floral and light but has a rich mouthfeel due to the avocado oil saline solution, according to Gullo. The avocado oil, which is infused with thyme and rosemary and used as a garnish, floats over the gorgeous drink which also includes Bolivian Brandy – an unaged grape brandy like pisco. Abigail’s Bolivian Brandy of choice – Singani 63 – is the brand of Steven Soderbergh, Director of Oceans 11, who once inspired Abigail’s dream of becoming a filmmaker.
Gullo’s play on the Perfect Manhattan, the Martino is made with Rittenhouse Rye, Corsican sweet and blanc vermouth, Dopo Teatro, oloroso sherry, Bogarts Bitters, garnished with a lemon twist and cherry in a coup. Dopo Teatro – one of the featured ingredients in Gullo’s classic cocktail – is regarded as a rare “evening vermouth,” traditionally enjoyed after a night at the opera, which offers bitter taste notes along with Amaro flavors. The Martino is named after a friend and “regular” from New York, Anthony Martino, who rides in Bacchus. Like Anthony, this drink is very New York and very Italian.
Inspired by Nina Compton’s Caribbean roots, the Lucian Bacchanal is named after a St. Lucian party song played during Carnival. The drink itself transports you to the islands of the Caribbean, made with Chairman’s Reserve Rum, Vida Mezcal, lime, and Abby’s Mix spiced syrup, served in a coup. Gullo shares, “Abby’s Mix is a play on Don’s mix, a traditional Tiki syrup. My version combines grapefruit peels, sugar, cinnamon and star anise. We candy the grapefruit peels after making the syrup and use that for a garnish.”
Named after the Irish soldiers who switched sides in the Boer war against the British, the Wreckers’ Corps features Irish whiskey, Cointreau, lemon juice, and strawberry-cayenne pepper jam, served in a Sazerac glass with a half rim of strawberry sugar as garnish. Herbaceous yet citrusy with a touch of sweetness, the Wreckers’ Corps encompasses two classic cocktails – a breakfast martini, also known as a “marmalade cocktail,” and a Commando cocktail – both of which are in the Side Car family.
Crafted with vodka devotees in mind, Gullo’s Andromeda is essentially an aromatic vodka sour of sorts – made with Pisco, green chili vodka, lime, grapefruit, rose cordial, honey and egg white, served with half sugar, half salt rim; topped with a Peychaud’s decoration on top.
Abigail uses Peruvian pisco blended from three different grapes; green chili vodka (from St. George Spirits located in Alameda, CA) which uses a blend of jalapeño, Serrano, habañeros, red and yellow bell peppers, lime peels and cilantro; Giffard Pamplemousse liquor from France; and rose cordial from El Guapo, which is a local bitters maker in New Orleans.
In Greek Mythology, Andromeda was the first play to depict a young man falling in love with a woman and later inspired other novels such as the Clash of the Titans – an all-time favorite for Gullo.
An old-fashioned variation, the Louisville Slugger features Old Forrester bourbon, an unaged apple brandy from Louisville, and chicory liqueur from the Cathead folks in Mississippi, topped with homemade smoked vanilla syrup. Using smoky Lapsang souchong tea, the leaves are roasted in a bamboo basket – called a hōnglóng (烘笼) – over burning firewood. Pinewood is used as the firewood for lapsang souchong, highlighting the characteristic of resin in both aroma and taste, which contributes to the dried longan aroma and smoky essence in Gullo’s Louisville Slugger.
Taylor Bird Sazerac
This rendition of the Sazerac has a split base of exquisite cognac and Abigail’s favorite rye. The Taylor Bird Sazerac embodies New Orleans’ history, while packed with bold, oaky flavors – simply made with cognac, rye, barrel-aged Peychaud bitters, and absinthe.
The history of the Sazerac, concisely explained by Gullo: “The origin stories of the Sazerac are, you might say, under the influence. Like much of history surrounding alcohol, the facts get a little, well, muddled. But there are three solid men involved in the story: Sewell Taylor, Aaron Bird, and Antoine Peychaud.
Sewell Taylor was the man who first imported Sazerac-brand cognac to New Orleans. Aaron Bird was his friend, who ran the Exchange Place Coffee House (“Coffeehouse” was a giveaway that an establishment was a bar in New Orleans in the mid-1800s). Another pal, Antoine Peychaud, was the creator of the world-renowned Creole bitters. Together they invented the Sazerac cocktail.
But rye – the great American spirit – was plentiful in New Orleans at the time and France’s vineyards were being attacked by an American aphid, so the first official record of the Sazerac (in William T. Boothby’s The World’s Drinks and How to Mix Them) calls for whiskey – which, back then, would have been rye.”
These days you can find diverse versions of the Sazerac with cognac or rye, but Gullo says, “Why choose? My riff on this classic cocktail calls for both cognac and rye. And really good booze at that, with high-end barrel-aged Peychaud’s bitters too.”
Named for the artist famous for her searing portraits of flowers that looked like a woman’s sexual anatomy, the Georgia O’ Keeffe is made with Cathead Honeysuckle vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, hibiscus syrup (made in-house), and rosé wine; served frozen. The three different kinds of flowers highlighted in this botanical concoction make for a tasty, thirst-quenching rendition on the ever-so-popular Frosé.
Continuing with Gullo’s artist inspiration, Sacred Spring is named after the magazine where Gustav Klimt worked. Served frozen, the Sacred Spring cocktail is prepared with tequila, Aperol, orange juice, orange liqueur and passion fruit liqueur. Abigail shares the story behind her delicious frozen creation, “Klimt was famous for his painting, The Kiss, but Hygeia Detail from Medicine is my favorite and matches the colors of this drink, a play on a Fraperol – frozen Aperol spritz – discovered by Aline and Deb in Mexico City.”
Compère Lapin is located in the Old 77 Hotel & Chandlery Hotel at 535 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans. The restaurant serves lunch daily 11:30AM–2:30PM; light bites 2:30PM–5:30PM; Happy Hour 3PM–6PM; and dinner nightly from 5:30PM–11PM. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30AM–2PM. For more information, please call (504) 599-2119, or visit www.comperelapin.com