Spend much time bar-hopping around Los Angeles, and you’ll inevitably run into Matthew Biancaniello (bald head, great hat collection) sooner or later — and not a few of his cocktails. Biancaniello started out mixing drinks at the Library Bar at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, and has worked at many of this town’s restaurants and bars, consulting on cocktail programs and doing pop-up events.
Like farm-to-table chefs, he spends more time at farmers markets than you do. Biancaniello has also worked with noted L.A. forager Pascal Baudar, roaming local forests for ingredients (sweet clover, toyon berries) to pair with the booze in his drinks. Biancaniello’s first book is a well-photographed, handy guide to so-called “culinary cocktails,” making drinks that spill over, metaphorically at least, from drink to plate.
So he makes cheese and crackers using bourbon jelly, a drink built around a smoked Hachiya persimmon, ice cream made with Candy Cap mushrooms and bourbon, and a Maya chocolate drink topped with marshmallows. How many bartender’s manuals call for “1 golf-ball-size white truffle” and needles from a local fir tree? Imagine Mr. Boston crossed with Marc Veyrat or Rene Redzepi and you get a sense of this book, as well as how much fun it is to read. Ideally, of course, with an elderflower cocktail in hand.