A month has already passed by since Jad Ballout traveled to attend the World Class finals. And I still haven't had the chance to visit him in his environment. The 2013's World Class competition organized by Diageo to find Lebanon's best bartender came to an end, with Jad Ballout as the winning candidate to represent our country on a cruise which took place along the Mediterranean.
Although he did not win, unfortunately, we are still proud to have one of the world's best 50 cocktail creators from Lebanon. I enjoyed Jad's creative spin at the bar and wanted to get up close and discover his world - Behind the Bar.
Garcia's for me has long been considered a bar, serving Latin drinks. I was so wrong and felt bad that I haven't visited before. Garcia's competes with my favorites in the same category, Habana, Joe Penas and Pacifico proposing a large menu of Mexican choices coupled with unique drinks prepared by Jad and the other bartenders.
I arrived at 6pm, thinking that I will end up drinking a cocktail or two and leaving early, but this love I felt for Garcia's made me want to stay more and experience sunset, the music and the many drinks created in-house with special syrups and aromas.
It started with a quick salad bite before drinking and here we go...
Starting with the signature drink, called the Tiki Wiki cocktail: A strong and balanced taste based on Rhum. Lime, grapefruit and cinnamon syrup blend perfectly together extracting several fruity flavours without making it to sweet. Falernum and absent bitter add the strength you expect a cocktail to give you. A great first impression to say the least. Here I knew that my night evening was going to be as special as I expected it to be.
End of round one, more was yet to come. This one is superb. A must try for all cigar lovers. Jad prepares in-house a cigar syrup. Yes, you heard well, a cigar syrup prepared with fresh Cuban smoke and sugar. Today, and for the first time, I felt a unique sensation around my mouth. This cigar syrup drank alone creates an after burning sensation that ignites under the tongue. I've felt strange things around my palate and all my mouth mucosa, but never under the tongue. A concentrated cigar flavor in a single drop: Very nice! This cigar experience drink like its name suggests has a cigar syrup base, chocolate bitter, zacappa Rhum and smoked with cherry wood. It starts by activating your smell sensation with the rich citrus aromas that enter your nostrils followed by the cherry wood smoke making all the difference.
Time for the tasting senses to work: Lemony in the back, a chocolate light flavor, the feeling of the rich zacappa Rhum before the acidity of the cigar takes action which you will feel under yet tongue and after swallowing. A must taste for all cigar lovers: A feeling of puffing a cigar with really doing so.
Food time: I really enjoyed every bite... The food is as good as the drinks that accompany it
- Guacamole Bar Combination: Roasted pepper & tomato compote guacamole, Simply naked avocade guacamole, loaded guacamole with crispy bacon, fully dressed avocado guacamole with cilantro. 39,000L.L
- Shrimp Quesadillas: I have never had shrimps quesadillas so generous that I could enjoyed the shrimps in every bite. I think they used more than 8 shrimps. It starts by the crunch of the outer dough, followed by the melting cheddar cheese, a gentle crunch of the shrimp and a tasty experience that ends with the gewy feeling of the beans mix. 19,500L.L
- Coco Lima Ceviche: decorated with thin slices of coconut, this multiple layer cake-like salad has it all. Freshness provided by the coconut and coconut Chantilly, fruitiness provided by the mango cubes, finesse provided by the premium salmon all layered one on top of the other on the signature guacamole sauce. A guacamole sauce I enjoyed so much for not containing garlic even though it should be a bit thicker.
- Chicken Fajita: This is what I call a chicken fajita. It's like half a chicken, cut in cubes, marinated for hours and served in an iron plate. Spicy, crunchy vegetables, a sour taste and some lemon zesty to decorate the mix. It's been some time I haven't enjoyed a juicy chicken especially without garlic: Yes, chicken without garlic. Thank you so much for respecting people's allergies. To top it all, the fajita bread is soft and tender. Lovely! 36,000L.L
- 8 Chicken Wings: Covered with a good sauce. Just good: Adequate on all levels. Perfect sweetness, consistency and spiciness. These wings are well cooked. 13,000L.L
It's almost 8pm, and the party was not about to start that early. More drinks on the menu, and Jad's strong need for preparing more:
A twist of the famous tequila sour: lime, sugar syrup, Lagavulin 16, Don Julio aniego, egg white with some lemon zest at the end. The egg white adds a fogginess on top and straightens the flavours. A stong smokiness is felt and brought to you from the single malt whisky. A strong bitter flavor, reduced by the balance of all the other ingredients makes this drink unique. As a single malt lover and specially the isle whiskies, this drink made me smile.
Our night ended up with a passion fruit drink, different from all the others for its sweetness and freshness. I enjoyed spending a night with Jad, as well as tasting Garcia's delicious food. I invite you all to give it a try.
Legend has it that Jose Garcia was a man who fell in love with Dahlia, the most beautiful bartender anyone had ever seen. Their relationship lived on through cocktails he tried and paintings she drew. But their love story was short lived when Jose joined the rebels to fight the people’s war and died in battle. To keep his memory alive, Dahlia opened up bars called “Garcia’s” all around the world. Years later, Jose was found to be alive, but the love of his life Dahlia was gone. Jose set out on a quest to find Dahlia but instead discovered the bars she built in his honor. Jose’s love for Dahlia lives on through “Garcia’s” and his never-ending quest to find her. Some believe the story just told is true, but others say that Jose Garcia never actually existed, that he was simply a man of fiction created by storytellers; a rebel who fought armies on his own to save people from dictatorship and oppression; a man of the people who helped everyone on his way. In reality, Jose Garcia is whoever you want him to be; he’s everybody and nobody at the same time. His true identity is unknown. He’s yours to create, yours to imagine. He’s an urban legend, a mystery… He’s simply Jose Garcia.