Garcia’s Cantina y Cocteleria was opened a year-and-a-half ago by Charlie Frem and Tony Rached, who noted that fresh-fruit cocktails work very well with Latin cuisines and – given the popularity of Mojitos, Margaritas and Daiquiris in Beirut – put two and two together and opened their bar-restaurant. Garcia’s drinks are full of fresh fruit flavours, its food is Mexican-meets-the Med, the design is cosy and warm and the music combines Latin beats, with jazz, blues and old skool. It is in Hamra where it joins the Black Lily pub in catering for an older professional crowd than the more typical student haunts in this the city’s university hub.
THE BARTENDERJad Ballout is 24, but already has seven years experience under his belt, having moved to manage the bar at Garcia’s after a spell at Lei. Jad usually takes his lead in drink development from the best herbs, fruit and vegetables at local markets. He counts bartenders Kazuo Uyeda and Erik Lorincz among those who inspire him, and is keen on equipment such as chefs’ smoking guns and the Perlini shaker (which produces highly carbonated cocktails). Another facet of Jad’s craft are his barrel-aged cocktails: classics such as Manhattan and Negroni, left to mature for three to four months in whisky casks on the bar top.
THE DRINKFood is also a big source of inspiration for Jad, and thus the Fattoush Cup was born. Based on that meze staple, the fattoush salad, it features many of the same Levantine ingredients, including olive oil and the spice Sumac. Jad found that the Ketel One Citroen with it’s fresh citrus flavour was the perfect anchor for the drink. Unlike with the salad, the ingredients are blended finely before shaking and the result is a particularly good accompaniment to a meze.
- Ketel One Citroen • 70ml
- Fresh lemon juice • 20ml
- Sugar syrup (2:1) • 20ml
- Cucumber syrup • 10ml
- Extra virgin olive oil • 15ml
- Sumac • 1 bar spoon
- 3 cherry tomatoes
- 3 mint leaves