Plaza Bar’s Cocktails Provide Respite from a Not-So-Cold Winter
Irving Gonzalez taps into the bar’s music scene for inspiration
The Hibiscus Royale, inspired by jazz musician Gilbert Castellanos.
Released in October, Irving Gonzalez’s winter menu for the Westgate Hotel’s Plaza Bar could be considered prescient, given the recent warm weather. While there is a traditional winter cocktail on the menu (Not Your Grandma’s Apple Pie, a potent blend of Jameson, rye IPA, spiced apple purée, and spiced sugar syrup, warmed and served in a tea cup), Gonzalez’s other creations are lighter and more refreshing.
He said much of the menu was inspired not by the season but by the musicians who perform at the cozy hotel bar three days a week. He also opted for spirits and flavors that linger, like the port in the Tawny Potion, a tiki-inspired cocktail where Calvados (French apple brandy) and Old Tawny Port add nice depth and fruitiness.
“Winter menus are more spicy, cinnamon, bourbon kind of flavors,” he said. “I decided to use tequilas, mezcal, ports that are also strong on flavors and have a deep aftertaste.”
Monday night, Julio de la Huerta performs Latin music at the Plaza Bar. “That’s where The Chamoy and Taste of Baja jump in,” Gonzalez said. The Chamoy is an easy-drinking smokey mezcal cocktail that also includes Ancho Reyes liqueur, watermelon, grenadine, lemon juice, and soda. The tequila-based Taste of Baja features juice made from nopales, an edible cactus that has all sorts of health benefits.
Fridays normally feature a jazz trio led by renowned trumpet player Gilbert Castellanos. On a recent Friday, pianist Joshua White — who’s awesome — subbed in as the trio’s leader. Many of the folks who packed the bar were ordering the Hibiscus Royale (and many of them opting for a second). Probably my favorite on the menu, it’s delicate, yet crisp and boozy, made with Pol Clement sparkling wine, hibiscus gin, Chambord, St. Germain, and house-made lemon sherbet, a classic cocktail syrup made from lemon peels, sugar and lemon juice. Serrano bitters give the drink some kick. The cocktail, Gonzalez said, was inspired by these Friday night jazz sessions — “classic, but at the same time, with a twist.”
Have a suggestion for a future post? Email me.