Behind the Glass

(page 1 of 2)

Honolulu’s bar scene is changing. Meet the people responsible for the transformation.

Sure, Honolulu may not compare to New York or Miami for its cocktail culture. But you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. In the last couple of years, Island restaurants and hotels have tossed out their dusty cocktail menus and tapped into the world’s desire for a hotter, healthier, more unique drinking experience. Here, some of the top trendsetters in the industry share what’s happening behind the glass.

Seated, not stirred, Philana Bouvier has built a business around predicting hot new drink trends.

Photo by Alex Viarnes

Bringing It Home

Meet Philana Bouvier. She’s young, energetic and completely obsessed with cocktails—in a good way. Her mission: To find high-quality beverages—from juices and wines to vodkas—that are hip and happening in metropolitan cities and bring them back to Hawaii. Think of her as a cocktail maven, flipping through magazines and flying off to Mainland locales searching for Honolulu’s next big drink.  

Bouvier started her boutique beverage company, B&Co., after working as a beverage consultant for Pearl club owner Beau Mohr. “When he hired me, he said I want you to go to Florida, New York and Las Vegas and look for great cocktails,” she explains. What Bouvier found was a goldmine of products that weren’t available in Hawaii.

B&Co.’s items can be found in high-end resorts and restaurants across the Islands, including Roy’s, the Westin Moana Surfrider, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and the Four Seasons Resort Lanai. A key selling point is that each of her products is shrouded by a certain mystery and charm. Take New Zealand’s

An unusual rose nectar is one of beverages B&Co. brings into Hawaii.

Photo courtesy of Sence.

Waiwera Water as an example. In days of yore, it’s said that the Maori called it te rata (the doctor) for its therapeutic benefits. The water is drawn from a geothermal aquifer about 5,000 feet below the surface.

She also represents a beverage called Sense Rare European Rose Nectar, which is made from rose petals in central Bulgaria, and tastes like, well, roses. The blossoms are harvested only three weeks out of the year, and picked between 3 a.m. and 10 a.m., when dew levels are at their highest.

Bouvier’s favorite occupational pastime is watching someone’s face light up as they try something new. She says, “I want people to know that there are other things out there to try, and it’s OK to go back to the same everyday brand, but it’s good to experience new things.”

Organic Cocktails

This may sting a little ... Mixologist Joey Gottesman tests out a liquor-infused-strawberry concept.

Photo by Alex Viarnes

These days, you won’t be called a tree-hugger if you eat granola for breakfast or track your carbon footprint online.  So it’s not surprising that the green craze has hit the cocktail world. And for good reason: Fresh, organic ingredients not only taste better, but they make drinking healthy—OK, almost.

Joey Gottesman, a mixologist for Better Brands who’s created drink menus for Indigo, The Kahala, E&O Trading Company and 60 other spots Islandwide, says that anyone who is jumping on the organic or handcrafted cocktail bandwagon is ahead of the curve. “Instead of using sugars, we’re saying, let’s use honey… or we’re doing things in-house like making our own ginger ale so the drinks aren’t as processed and you get the natural flavor out of them,” he says. “The guests appreciate it and we’ve exceeded their expectations by giving them something fresh.” Açai berries, lemongrass, dragon fruit, cayenne pepper, spirulina—yes, the blue-green algae supplement—Gottesman has used it all. 

As a result, chefs aren’t the only ones tapping into the local agriculture market. “The beauty of being in Hawaii is that you have access to exotic fruits, raw sugars, and all of the components that go into an organic cocktail,” says Gottesman. 

The best thing about a green drink? It’ll probably give you less of a why-did-I-drink-so-much-last-night hangover. Gottesman says, “If you can keep yourself naturally hydrated with things like watermelon, which has a lot of liquid in it, or fresh-squeezed orange juice, it can decrease the effects.” When in doubt, use his other rule of thumb: one water for every cocktail.