When we visited Zeppelin in March we said it will become a date night destination and raved about their cocktail menu. So we asked Zeppelin Partner Micah Wilder for a drink diary. We’ll let him take it from here while we plan our next trip to Eden Center.
Since Zeppelin’s inception the beverage menu has evolved in many ways through countless experiments and creative structure. Initially I knew I wanted my primary focus to be on classic Japanese simplicity with balance and modern innovation.
The foundation of our cocktail menu is the bubbles, ice, temperature and Japanese spirits. I had been on site working with our design team and fabricators to build a state of the art “Airship” cocktail bar. The final outcome would enable us to execute these cocktails at a very high volume with precision and consistency.
A trip to the market
I woke up early to run a list of shopping ingredients for my liquors, which were time sensitive. I had to get these batch recipes finalized and perfected so I started with my Japanese pour over coffee at home for a jump start, a ritual which I have always been dependent on since my college years in art school. I pulled up to the old produce supplier in the Union Market area. I needed 4 cases of very ripe bananas and pineapples. In addition I had ordered a number of other ingredients for delivery such as marshmallow root, gentian, vanilla bean and other bittering agents.
After the market I headed to Zeppelin to set up my tinctures and batches. Today’s goal is to set up two large batches of Banana Armagnac and Pineapple Pastis, which would appear in multiple recipes. I’m making root tinctures so I can slowly add to batches until they are perfect. This method helps avoid compromising an entire batch at once on experimentation.
Oysters for thought
I met up with Ari for oysters to dream up some new recipes for additional sections on our cocktail menu. We have been talking about a spring snowboarding trip because it has been an epic snow season. We grew up on snowboards and really find our Zen and connection with nature to maintain balance. Like the Japanese snow monkeys we thrive on our mountain lifestyles. With our new restaurant Zeppelin rising we probably won’t make the spring trip. Now for delicacies at Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Union Market. We got a dozen briny old salts oysters and another dozen grilled and served with smoky jalapeno butter. Oysters tend to stimulate my creativity so keep them coming.
After a couple dozen and lots of notes we head back to Zeppelin to follow up.
I’ve been waiting in anticipation for Suntory’s highball installation for what seems like an eternity. Finally I’ll put this machine to the test and all of my intense recipes will rise with a flurry of champagne baller bubbles. I set out to master this modern marvel and really take it to a new level. After extensive development of my new line of syrups, vinegars, mixers and ice it was finally time to unleash the Highball program. These drink recipes have concentrated layers of intense flavors. In theory when they become a “long drink” these profiles should bubble in perfect balance and fizzing harmony. I started shelling out these highballs and spent most of the day tweaking them until they were just right.
Magnetic draft cocktail agitator set up
We met at my favorite lunch spot, Birds Eye on 14th Street, for some bahn mi and Vietnamese pour over coffee. They actually have condensed and very luxurious goats milk to complete my Southeast Asian coffee experience. We proceeded to add to our growing archive of creative direction, which we plan on unloading in bursts throughout our first year.
After lunch at Zeppelin we regrouped to demo our new draft set up. One of the biggest issues with cocktails on draft is the lack of circulation in the keg. Unless you are running routine shakes on the kegs every few hours the batches tend to settle which compromise the recipe. These new magnetic plates rotate a magnetic object dropped within the keg for a constant and consistent drafty cocktail.
After filling all four kegs with four very different cocktails I dropped the magnets in and listened intently to a sudden magical hum. I pulled a “Heartbreaker” first and I was instantly rewarded with a gushing Japanese stone fruit daiquiri. Fresh from the tap with poured it directly in to a tulip glass packed with crushed ice marveling at its smoky and fruity with a spicy depth from Yuzu Kosho. Perfect.
We woke up early to get a full day in at APD Farm in Warrenton, VA. This farm is focused on regenerative agriculture. Johanna Hellrigl is taking us to meet this amazing couple on their farm and pick up some healthy bones for a large batch of broth. It was beautiful out so we stopped at Big Bear for a couple cortados on the patio in the scattered sun. After a super charge from the café we jumped in our truck with our young boxer Luna and headed to the country.
Upon arriving Matt and Abby graciously welcomed us to what truly felt like the Promised Land. Their farm is clearly an expression of who they are. Matt’s amazing passion for nature and progressive approach to farming coupled with Abby’s beautiful film documentary Chef’s Table and award winning film Do You Dream In Color? We spent the entire day touring the farm and meeting the different herds of cattle while constantly managing our excitable pup Luna. We ended up with some beautiful cuts and about 150 pounds of fresh bones. These bones were covered in fat with big knots of gleaming tissue on joints and knuckles. They were fully loaded with the nutrients we needed for the bone broth of life.
Bone broth and the legend of our drunken masters
We regrouped to taste the bone broth which Johanna had reduced to a rich, robust and concentrated “broth of life.” Approximately 8 oz of this broth a day and your hair will grow and fall lustrously while your nails shine glassy and razor sharp. In short you will grow white teeth and gain a strong back which makes you good for breeding. Ari and I were throwing ideas around for my new line of drunken masters with Japanese whiskey and a number of other savory and spicy ingredients to compliment the broth. We set up our cocktails in different jars and started injecting pork gyoza dumplings with lethal looking meat injectors. The trick to achieving a successful recipe is to consider the dumpling as the primary ingredient within your cocktail. This allows you to balance the amount of alcohol to ingredients so it’s a tasty sting and you can still appreciate the dumpling.
R&D at Eden Center
I genuinely enjoy flipping a lazy Sunday into an action packed day of R&D which means lots of adventurous dining to fuel a whirling brainstorm. These storms generally yielded an abundance of crazy ideas and new direction for our think tanks to process. At the end of this excitable Sunday rampage I slash thru my notes which are usually riddled with sauces, pandan and Vietnamese coffee stains to organize and fashion new magical direction to captivate our audience.
We hopped around Eden Center for a few hours tasting, shopping and discovering.
After piling my cart high with fermented pastes, savory sauces, Szechuan peppercorns, ume plums, shiso, tea, roots, bark, bittering agents, five types of pandan, oddities for garnish, Asian spices, space candy, gnarled and exotic fruit.
I am feeling complete. To cool off and celebrate I brave a funky durian shake as my reward. Cold and creamy with strong aromas of sweaty feet, rancid cheese rind, and a delightful honeysuckle finish. Now life is good.
Staff trip to DLC Farm
We are always excited to visit our friends at Distillery Lane Ciderworks in Jefferson, MD. With only about an hour drive we met our staff at Chaplin’s and squished into four-truck caravan formation. It was another beautiful day on the farm like last years trip. Its always worth the visit with our gracious host Rob Miller, family and farm dog Kingston (named from the Kingston apple.). We hung out all day in the orchards tasting different apples and intense aronia berries, which are great for health benefits, color and intense flavor. We finished in the tasting room with a copious grazing board of bread, meats and cheeses. We marveled at the mountainous pile of apples. Over 40 varieties towered high above us like a treasure. At last we raised our glass to toast and cheer for another good year and bountiful harvest.
Feature image by Sarah Gerrity from our Zeppelin piece “Drink Highballs, Eat Sushi and Party All Night at Zeppelin“