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Have a Cocktail for a Cause at Sycamore Den This Wednesday

The ‘zero waste’ menu features creative bourbon cocktails and benefits homeless-services nonprofit Think Dignity


Jesse Ross' Old Fashioned variation made with Angel's Envy bourbon and a popcorn simple syrup. | Photo: Stephen Kurpinsky

A couple of weeks ago, Sycamore Den bartender Jesse Ross posted a link on Facebook to a Union-Tribune story about a homeless person who was accidentally scooped up by a city garbage truck. He added a dig at his friend and fellow bartender Stephen Kurpinsky (George’s Level 2): “But hey (all the people in Golden Hill that complained about the homeless camp), at least they’re not in your neighborhood anymore, right?”

Kurpinsky lives in Golden Hill, near the city operations yard where a temporary homeless camp was located last fall. At the time, he felt his neighborhood hadn’t been given a chance to weigh in on the camp.

“I was playing the ‘not in my backyard’ card,” Kurpinsky admits.

Amid what could have become an epic online debate between two stubborn friends, Kurpinsky wrote to Ross, “Let’s do something about this! We can raise awareness.”

“I’d be super down,” Ross responded.

Further discussions led to the idea of a fundraiser at Sycamore Den on February 21 to benefit homeless-services nonprofit Think Dignity, whose efforts range from legal clinics to handing out basic hygiene kits to operating the city’s transitional storage center, where homeless people can safely store personal belongings. The nonprofit launched in 2006 when a group of young female attorneys decided they wanted to do something about homelessness.

Ross and Kurpinsky will be joined behind the bar by Sycamore Den’s manager, Garrett Thor. All three will donate all of their tips. The trio came up with a special four-cocktail menu featuring Angel’s Envy bourbon. A dollar from the sale of each cocktail will go to Think Dignity and Angel’s Envy will match, and donate, the total sales of those cocktails.

“It starts a conversation in our community in a more constructive way,” Kurpinsky says.

The focus of the menu will be zero waste, a new bartending practice where cocktail-ingredient leftovers that otherwise would have been thrown out—like rinds and husks from citrus—are repurposed. Kurpinsky is making a cordial from grapefruit rinds for a riff on a Brown Derby, and using egg yolks (left over when whites are used in a fizz or sour) to make a salted honey cream that’ll go in an Angel’s Envy / Illegal Mezcal cocktail. Thor’s using toasted lemon husks in a Paper Plane variation and Ross’s Old Fashioned will include a simple syrup made with leftover popcorn from Sycamore Den’s popcorn machine. Angel’s Envy rye is finished in Caribbean rum casks, giving it hints of caramel, Ross says, which will pair well with the salted syrup.

So drink up and tip big. The event starts at 8 p.m.

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