In the classic Marx Brothers bit, Groucho struggles to come up with the password that will grant him entry into the local speakeasy. When offered a hint – it’s the name of a fish – he asks “Is it Mary?” After the bouncer, played by Chico, observes that Mary is not a fish, Groucho ponders “She isn’t? Well, she drinks like one.”
Finding the password to Savvy, the new Prohibition era-inspired speakeasy in downtown Monterey, is not so problematic. It can be found on the bar’s website. For owner Todd Howland, the little barrier to entry was more of a quaint novelty for guests and a way for him to dive into research on cocktails of the ’20s and ’30s.
He pilfered the recipe for the whisky-based Affinity from an old guide. It offers a breezy impression of orange blossom and vanilla, countered by toasted wood and the bite of citrus peel. But he slips Bruto Americano into the Negroni recipe. The result is a drifting floral, herbal sip with a bitter edge reminiscent of dark roasted coffee. And for the Mexican Firing Squad, Howland introduces mole bitters, providing an earthy chocolate balance to the zesty, bracing drink.
Howland ages all of the offerings in barrels and pours from Mason jars. “Barrel aging softens the flavors,” he explains. The process also develops intricate notes – lightly toasted oak on the finish of the Negroni, a delicate spice that traipses through the Affinity.
The Mason jars? These are sophisticated drinks. “We’re doing this for the fun of it,” Howland says. “We’re trying to set a higher standard.”
See if “Swordfish” will get you in.
SAVVY is at 420 Tyler St., Monterey. Open Thursdays 7pm-midnight, Fridays-Saturdays 7pm-2am. 920-2518, savvybarinc.com