There are so many talented bartenders on the West Coast that I’m surprised it took this long for someone to capitalize on them and make a book. But Ted Munat and Michael Lazar just did, with their slick little book Left Coast Libations.

If you are living and drinking fancy cocktails in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, or Vancouver, it feels a little like being given a secret decoder ring for the high-end cocktail scene, and it’s also fun (and a little voyeuristic) to read the mini-profiles on the 51 bartenders. But this is definitely an advanced recipe book for serious cocktail geeks, full of gastriques, foams, smoked air, and kumquat marmalade.

At a release party for the book last night, I spoke to bartender Ryan Fitzgerald for a few minutes as he mixed up a batch of Rocky Mountain Monkberry and made wisecracks when someone trying to take his photo complained that bartenders are always looking down. The drink introduced me to the liqueur brand Leopold Brothers, out of Denver. It makes fruit liqueurs that take about three pounds of fruit per bottle, and you can taste it—it’s nothing like that garbage Pucker Berry Fusion or other cheap candy-colored liqueur. The downside: It goes off fast. Fitzgerald says it needs to be refrigerated or it’ll lose flavor. I tasted a little of the off stuff too, and well, even that was still pretty good. But it definitely had less of the berries-smashed-into-your-face freshness. Check out his simple three-ingredient recipe featuring it below.

Left Coast Libations, $24.95

Leopold Brothers Rocky Mountain blackberry liqueur, $31.99

Rocky Mountain Monkberry by Ryan Fitzgerald (pictured)

adapted from Left Coast Libations

2 ounces Rittenhouse 100-proof rye (Wild Turkey 101-proof rye is a good substitute)

1/2 ounce Benedictine

1/2 ounce Leopold Brothers Rocky Mountain blackberry liqueur

Broad lime twist, for garnish

Stir all the ingredients except lime twist with ice. Strain into a chilled, small cocktail glass. Garnish with the lime twist, twisting it over the drink before serving.

Photo by Jenn Farrington 2010

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