Sacramento Magazine | April 2018
by Marybeth Bizjak:
Hawks Public House
If Hawks Restaurant in Granite Bay is the dignified, rule-following older sister, then Hawks Public House in midtown is her mischievous, rule-bending little brother. When it comes to cocktails, the first is all about the buttoned-up classics, while the second is about boundary-pushing experimentation.
Zeph Horn oversees the bar programs at both places. In his black shirt and tie, he looks the part of an old-school bartender. He’s been in the business for 20 years, working in dive bars and upscale craft-cocktail lounges. As a kid, he loved literature and history. That scholarly bent comes through at Hawks, where he is well-steeped in the lore and romance of classic cocktails.
At Hawks Public House, owner Michael Fagnoni gives Horn a lot of room to experiment. Horn’s progressive approach manifests itself in inventive riffs on classic cocktails. Le Penicilina is a Mexican take on the Penicillin, made with mezcal and cilantro instead of scotch and lemon. The Stockton Griffon is a rye-forward version of the venerable Hanky Panky, which was invented in the early 20th century at the American Bar at The Savoy in London. For aroma, Horn sprays the inside of the glass with a mist of chocolate bitters before he pours the cocktail.
Horn has a way with egg whites—when making a whiskey sour or Ramos Fizz, he can shake them to a froth in little more than a minute. (In certain circles, he’s known as Foam Guy.) He uses aquafaba—the braising liquid left over when the kitchen makes garbanzo beans—as a vegan version of egg whites in a drink called The Licorice Wren (Pimm’s and black licorice rum).
Horn’s drinks look like works of art. For one cocktail, he fans thin slices of Pink Lady apple across the top of the drink, uses tweezers to add a scorched orange slice and tops it all with a painstaking dusting of cinnamon. For another, a drink called an Eastern Thai Crested Gimlet, he nestles a partially open Thai chili inside a Thai basil leaf, so that it looks like the stamen of a flower (or something a little more ribald). (Check out his work on Instagram @zephhorn.)
But perhaps his most notorious concoction is his Blueberry Banh Mi Buteo, a mojito made with blueberry fish sauce-infused rum and banh mi herbs (cilantro, basil and mint). It’s umami in a glass. 1525 Alhambra Blvd.; (916) 588-4440; hawkspublichouse.com
Opened: Late 2016
Vibe: Upscale neighborhood bar
Demographic: People who serious about their cocktails
Top tipple: Eastern Thai Crested Gimlet
Best bar bite: Harissa deviled eggs
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