Vice President of Operations and Cocktail Expert, Charity Johnston, of Noble 33 Hospitality Group (a lineup of unique social dining restaurants stateside and abroad, including Toca Madera West Hollywood, Toca Madera Scottsdale, Sparrow at Hotel Figueroa in Downtown LA) redefines the social elixir experience and takes patrons of Noble 33 venues on liquid adventures that pair well with cuisines at every course.
Johnston plays into visuals and seasonal ingredients to take cocktails from something to drink to a viral Instagram moment.
Her forward-thinking drinks exude bold color, movement, and are presented uniformly including the garnish and often delivered eloquently on a tray for a visually stimulating experience. Months of planning, creation, and teamwork are implemented into each cocktail.
“Toca Madera is like an enchanting get away,” she says. “The music is always good, the lighting, and ambiance are captivating. It’s lively and energetic. It’s a restaurant that you get lost in the experience from the moment you walk through the doors.”
The drink menu at Toca Madera is meant to be, bright, bold, and interactive with a major focus on fresh ingredients. “For me personally, I think cocktails should tell a story. Just like a great bottle of wine or an incredible dish a chef creates. The ingredients, garnish, name, and everything in between all play a piece in the story,” notes Johnston.
“I think when your guests have an opportunity to take part in the experience physically it makes them feel like part of the creation. Also, there should be reasons for show stopping elements and they should never take place of great ingredients and flavor. We make every cocktail as it’s ordered, that may take more time, but you’re getting a fresh handmade cocktail each time and you can’t beat that.”
– Charity Johnston
The cocktail, Alma de Sol is one of Johnston’s favorites “shhh,” she laughs. “It’s one of my favorites because I made this cocktail perfectly on the first try, which rarely happens. I wanted it to be different. Passion fruit, turmeric, St-Germain, Arbol, lemon, red wine—all things people enjoy but a different combination all in one. As I made the cocktail for the first time I tasted it, and it was almost perfect, I added a red wine float, mixed it in, and wow it went from good to great! I keep that same experience for guests. The staff encourages the guest to try the cocktail first, then mix in the red wine. They experience what I experienced making it for the first time.”
Her Winnie de Pooh cocktail is based on her love of tea, with elements that she likes in the beverage—like honey, lemon, ginger, chamomile, and mint. Then she adds tequila and the herbaceous green chartreuse. “It has a fun honey wand garnish, crushed ice and mint, the whole cocktail really suites the name.”
According to Johnston creating a cocktail program is about the whole story. “I think building a program from the ground up is both exciting and challenging.”
Here are some of Johnston’s secrets to creating an elite cocktail menu:
- Teamwork: I think most important is making sure you set your team up for success.
- Organization: Make sure your builds are functional and organized to ensure efficiency and consistency. Organization is key.
- Believe: Make the program something not only your guests are excited about, but your team is as well. It feels good to work hard behind a program they believe in. My goal is always that each cocktail is exciting when a guest receives it, and that they become a conversation piece and a memory when they think back to their experience with us.
- Good Ice! I can live without but prefer not to. I think ice is so extremely important!
Winnie De Pooh
- 2 oz. Chamomile-infused Casamigos Blanco*
- 3/4 oz. ginger root juice
- 3/4 oz. lemon juice
- 3/4 oz wildflower honey**
- 1/4 oz. Green Chartreuse
- Handful of mint
Preparation: Combine ingredients.
Alma de Sol
- 2 oz. Avion Reposado
- 1 oz. Arbol Chili & Turmeric Infused St Germain
- 3/4 oz. passion fruit puree
- 3/4 oz. lemon juice
- 1/2 oz. agave
- 1/2 oz. Zucca Amaro
- Red wine float