It is as true in cocktail creation as it is in life that inspiration comes in many forms—from scouring history books to sourcing new ingredients. For Joey Smith, the beverage director at Chez Zou and Zou Zou’s at the Pendry West Hotel in Manhattan, the idea for his favorite cocktail on the list started with a game.
“The Bekaa Highball was based on a game my roommate and I would play to order the most off-the-wall highball,” he says. “We were at a karaoke bar in the Village drinking Malibu Sprites, Kahlúa and ginger ales, and other weird combos when someone ordered a calvados and tonic. As it turns out it was a delicious combination.” Smith, who was formerly the head bartender at the NoMad, played with the formula to incorporate Champagne, white grape juice, and Lillet Blanc, and then carbonated the drink to add extra fizz, for a cocktail that’s “fun, approachable, and unique,” and a “sleeper hit” for the bar.
Menu ideation at Chez Zou and Zou Zou’s was primarily based around the flavors of the Middle East and the Levant—the Bekaa Highball, named after the Middle Eastern wine region and featuring several grape-based ingredients, is “meant to evoke a taste of [its] winemaking culture,” says Smith. But Smith also likes to utilize certain techniques as a central concept—here force carbonation—and in doing so “make a cocktail better than the sum of its parts.”
The Bekka Highball Selling Points
- “It combines novel presentation and technique with familiar flavor to create something that feels classic but is also new,” says Smith.
- Using frozen cotton candy grapes instead of ice “gives the drink not only the tastiest garnish but also a unique look.”
- Featuring Coquerel Calvados and Moët & Chandon Champagne, with this riff on the highball “you are getting quality ingredients all the way through.”
The Bekka Highball Recipe
- ¾ oz. Coquerel Calvados
- 1 oz. Lillet Blanc
- 2 oz. white grape juice
- 1 oz. Moët & Chandon Champagne
- 1½ oz. tonic water
- Garnish: 15 frozen cotton candy grapes
Method: Combine all ingredients and then force carbonate. Keep it at serving temperature under pressure in the fridge until ready to serve, and then pour over the frozen grapes.
Tyler Wetherall is the senior editor for SevenFifty Daily and the Beverage Media Group publications. Her drinks journalism has appeared in publications including Punch, The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveler, Thrillist, and The Spirits Business, which awarded her the Alan Lodge Young International Drinks Writer of the Year. Tyler is also the author of No Way Home: A Memoir of Life on the Run. Follow her on Instagram at @tylerwrites.