Bar report: Town
From left: Mai Thyme, Jitterbug Perfume, El Sur
In Kaimuki, 3435 Waialae Ave. #104
As any cocktail aficionado in Honolulu will tell you, Ed Kenney's Town Restaurant has quite a history of great barmen and drinks. New bar manager Jordan Edwards (formerly of Aziza in San Francisco) brings a fresh and welcome approach to Town's highly reputed bar program. While he has big shoes to fill (former Town alums include Kyle Reutner of Hawaii Bitters Co. and Dave Power of Feral Pig), Edwards has a lot to offer with his cocktail menu that includes housemade syrups and ingredients, like ginger beer and strawberry rhubarb jam. His drinks are some of my favorites on Oahu.
The bar sits along the side corner of the Town dining room and also includes the patio. Attaining a seat at the bar is somewhat like a prize, as there are only seven seats and they are often full. (Tip: Go at opening and you'll have a good shot.) It's easier to fly solo, and if you do, you'll likely find yourself in conversation with UH professors, arts patrons or restaurant industry folks. There's always a lively community, and what better way to make friends, than with excellent food and drink?
Edwards' drinks draw inspiration from the kitchen, where aroma and scent play as large a part as the liquid ingredients themselves. The Mai Thyme, a twist on the Dark n Stormy, made me wish I had all the time (and thyme) in the world to recline near a pool and enjoy the summer breeze. El Dorado dark rum, fresh pineapple, and house made ginger beer are accented over a big cube, with a stalk of lemongrass and a thyme sprig.
The fragrant Jitterbug Perfume, inspired by the Tom Robbins novel, reminded me of summer nights frollicking and catching fireflies at Tanglewood in the Berkshires. Dill, fennel, and other herbs helped the Jitterbug Perfume whisk me out of Kaimuki and into those oh-so-grassy fields. Edwards' use of St Germain, an elderflower liqueur, helped lift this gimlet variation whose herbal and floral notes keep the drink bright.
My favorite? El Sur, a beautiful balance of reposado tequila, house made Kula strawberry-rhubarb jam, a touch of Campari for bitterness and color, and Kaffir lime.