Behind the Scenes: The Nectar of the Damned

Nectar of the Damned #1

A few weeks ago, I was at Drago Centro, one of my favorite restaurants.  Bar Manager Jaymee Mandeville handed me a drink she was considering entering into the LA’s Best Bartender competition. Initially, the bartenders were nominated and then the top bartender won the people’s choice. Two more were to be selected based on their Karlsson’s Gold Vodka recipe and the final two finalists were judges’ choices. The rules were you couldn’t use any homemade syrups or infusions. All the recipes had to have easily available ingredients. Jaymee had made a really lovely heirloom tomato syrup and unfortunately, she couldn’t enter it. She made this cocktail with Karlsson’s, Dimmi (I’ve had Jaymee’s other Dimmi cocktails before- they’re fantastic) and the aforementioned heirloom tomato syrup.

Nectar of the Damned #1

It was then a bit of a surprise when I went to the recipe tasting round and saw this cocktail had actually made it in. I thought Jaymee was going to submit the Vitamin A (Karlsson’s Vodka, St. Germain, Fresh Carrot Juice, Serrano Tincture, Fresh Ginger, Orange from the Drago Centro Fall 2010 menu).

Nectar of the Damned - finals round

As it turned out, this particular cocktail didn’t quite taste the same as the one Jaymee made me. No doubt Marcos Tello is a fantastic bartender but it was missing something- the Dimmi. You were only allowed 5 ingredients (not including the garnish). Here’s the recipe:

Nectar of the Damned by Jaymee Mandeville

  • 2 oz Karlsson’s Gold Vodka
  • 1/2 oz heirloom tomato syrup
  • 3/4 oz orange juice
  • 4-5 sprigs of cilantro
  • thin sliced red jalepeno

Muddle cilantro and jalepeno, add other ingredients, shake and fine strain over rocks. Serve in an old fashioned with smoked salt rim, tomato slice and cilantro sprig. Special note- cilantro and jalepeno can be infused into the orange juice for batching large quantities in order to eliminate muddling and fine straining.

It was very interesting to me to see the evolution of this cocktail and to be behind the scenes. I nominated Jaymee and was bummed she didn’t get a finalists spot but I know she’s a damned good bartender. Otherwise I wouldn’t have nominated her.

I will be cheering all the bartenders on this Sunday, October 9. Hope to see you there!



Read about last year’s party.

Drago Centro

525 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, CA 90071 – (213) 228-8998


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