Helmed by world renowned Bar Director Adam Fournier, the bar program at Fellow in west Los Angeles launches an entirely new menu, that is both culinarily and narratively driven.
The program is sustainable and culinary-driven, highlighting some house-made non-alcoholic spirits and a variety of low-ABV cocktails. “All the cocktails on the menu tell a story – every drink, every spirit, every pour. Sometimes it is a quick, summery distraction from a long day, and sometimes it’s an epic tale to transport you to other lands. Each cocktail also pairs well with food and evolves over time. They’re all complex drinks that have the hard work done well before service. This means that the drink arrives quickly, is complex and delicious, and sparks conversation,” says Fournier.
Talk to us about the cocktail program at Fellow in west Los Angeles.
The Cocktails and spirits program here at Fellow is Culinarily and Narratively driven. It also has an element of Theater and live performance.
It is Culinarily driven in the sense that flavor is king. If a drink doesn’t taste good, it doesn’t matter how good it looks or how good the idea is. If it doesn’t taste good, it isn’t going to go on a menu. It’s also culinary in the sense that we work closely with the kitchen, utilize many of the same techniques in preparation, and work to reduce waste and increase our sustainability by repurposing kitchen and bar waste into cordials, citrus stocks, and other unique ingredients.
It is narratively driven in that every drink, every spirit, every pour tells a story. How deep you want to dive into the story is totally up to you. Sometimes you want a quick summery and distraction after a long day. Sometimes you want an epic tale to transport you to other lands. All of those are available if you look.
And when I say theater, I don’t just mean performance. While there is an element of that, every member of the bar team is on stage in a way few members of the restaurant team are, it also applies to our approach to service. Prep, or “rehearsals” happen well before service. Our infusions, prep techs, batching, education, etc. are all done “in the wings” to allow the suspension of disbelief for every guest that walks into the space.
Every cocktail on the menu has a story to tell- tell us what inspires the cocktails?
The cocktails are inspired by a lot of different things. Some, like the Los Angeles Sour and the Miami Vice Milk Punch, are inspired by cocktail history and looking to make something more unique or in some cases better quality. Some drinks, Like the Practicing Sandita, are inspired by a single ingredient or spirit. The through line is that there’s always something that interests us that we’re excited to share with guests.
What can guests expect when visiting Fellow?
Guests visiting Fellow can expect a thoughtful and meaningful experience. We’ve put a lot of thought into all of our offerings so that you don’t have to. You’re also going to get quality and impeccable service.
What are some of the cocktails you are most proud of and why?
I think the best cocktails that currently represent this philosophy are the Los Angeles Sour, The Miami Vice Milk Punch, and the Bilbao.
These are all drinks that tell a story, pair well with food, and evolve over time. They’re all also complex drinks that have the hard work done well before service. This means that the drink arrives quickly, is complex and delicious, and sparks conversation after the serve versus needing a lengthy lead up.
I’m also incredibly proud of our Non-alcoholic options right now. My personal favorites being the Zero Fashion, and Non-alcoholic old fashioned, and the Cherry Rose “Champagne”
What advice would you give other bartenders for creating a successful cocktail program?
I would say one of the least glamorous but most important aspects of running a successful cocktail program is the behind the scenes work like costing and inventory management. While flavor is king when crafting a cocktail or menu placement, it ultimately doesn’t mean anything if you can’t balance your books. After that, I’d say make sure you’re engaging your staff. Get them involved, a good bar team is ultimately much stronger and more valuable than any individual bartender.
Talk to us about the low- no-abv trend happening now.
I believe the low and no ABV trend that we’re seeing is a natural outgrowth of craft alcohol and cocktail boom. Craft spirits and cocktails were, and are, driven by people being more interested in what they’re drinking. Being more mindful about what they’re drinking. And guests want to experience the quality and flavor of great cocktails while being mindful about how that can impact them. Creating low or no ABV drinks with that same level of thought and mindfulness is an important part of any modern program.
What inspired you to make no-abv spirits on premise?
I wanted to make no-ABV spirits at the bar because I wanted to give guests walking through the door something they couldn’t get anywhere else. I also wanted to give the same kind of thoughtfulness to the non-alcoholic options as the full spirited cocktails. There are innumerable reasons why someone might not be drinking during a particular visit, but that shouldn’t lessen their experience in any way. I also think about it from the angle of a group of friends getting together for an evening of celebration. If one person happens to not be drinking their beverage is often an afterthought and they might not get to share in the experience the same way their friends do. I want their drink to be just as thoughtful and make sure they can be fully involved.
How are the cocktails going over with guests?
The non-alcoholic drinks have been going over very well. We have a very eclectic and diverse clientele and there have been a lot of reason many of them are choosing not to imbibe. Some work at the local hospital, others just don’t want to have a second or third drink before driving home. People have been loving them so much they’ve been asking us to start bottling them. I think the fact that they’re not just fancy lemonades has really intrigued our guests. We’re offering non-alcoholic drinks that are for all sorts of styles including a nonalcoholic Old Fashioned and a Sparkling “wine.” So no matter what you’re drinking preference we’ve got a style for you.
What are some of the most popular?
I’d say our three most popular at the moment are the You Had Me At Fellow, a sugar free orange cream soda on draft that is available Alcohol Free, Low ABV or Full Spirited, The Zero Fashioned, a non-alcoholic old fashioned made in house, and the Cherry Rose Champagne, a blend of sakura, rose petal, and verjus that’s carbonated to simulate the experience of having a lovely Rose Champagne.
How do you make some of your non-alcoholic spirits?
The non-alcoholic spirits are essentially really fancy teas and infusions. It’s taking ingredients that you would normally find in the tasting notes of a spirit, say popcorn and American oak in Bourbon, and infusing those into a water base. The result doesn’t taste exactly like the traditional spirit on its own, but it has the flavor backbone and complexity to build a drink around. The result is something that, once mixed thoughtfully into a cocktail, creates a unique and complex drink just like a true cocktail.
Tell us about the You Had Me at Fellow cocktail.
The You Had Me At Fellow is a combination of our efforts to have low and No-ABV options and our drive for sustainability. It is essentially an orange cream soda on draft. It’s made with clarified orange juice that is left over after a week of service, vanilla, and monk fruit. Monk fruit is an amazing sugar substitute that pairs wonderfully with citrus and vanilla. We then keg the whole concoction and put it on draft to carbonate.
This base is available on its own as a non-alcoholic serve or you can choose the low ABV option with a measure of Pale Cream Sherry, or you can do it full spirited with your choice of spirit. I personally prefer it with Bourbon or Tequila. But the result is a signature drink that you can have no matter what style of imbibing you’re interested in.
Where do you see this trend headed?
I only see this trend getting bigger. Like I said, I think it’s a natural outgrowth of people being more interested in what and how they’re drinking. I think it also opens a lot of doors for creativity and to welcome in guests for a full experience regardless of if they are imbibing or not.