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Venerable Houston restaurant shakes things up with a cocktail master — and a revamped menu

3 Bottom's Up at RDG August 2013 bartebder, Marcy de Luna, Robert Del Grande
RDG + Bar Annie unveiled a fresh cocktail menu crafted by new bar manager Chris Frankel and new bar bites from celebrity chef Robert Del Grande. Photo by Joel Luks
2 Bottom's Up at RDG August 2013 shrimp
Robert Del Grande's shrimp cocktail with cucumber salad and Thai curry coconut dressing. Photo by Joel Luks
1 Bottom's Up at RDG August 2013 cocktail
Chris Frankel's Looking Glass cocktail. Photo by Joel Luks

It's anything but business as usual for one of Houston's most venerable restaurants.

RDG + Bar Annie's showing off a fresh cocktail menu crafted by new bar manager Chris Frankel and new bar bites from H-Town's original celebrity chef Robert Del Grande.

Frankel has long been the recipient of praise for his cocktail work at Anvil Bar & Refuge, Underbelly and Cuchara Restaurant —to name a few. He's shaking things up at RDG with a myriad of internationally inspired, adventurous cocktails that highlight mainly eau de vie and brandy, such as the Eastern European brandy Slivovitz used in Frankel's creative Looking Glass drink.

 He's shaking things up at RDG with a myriad of internationally inspired, adventurous cocktails. 

The Looking Glass, meticulously made and named for the 1972 hit song "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)," combines dark fruit notes of plum and cherry from Kirschwasser and Slivovitz brandies, respectively, softened by the addition of Nigori Sake. Passion fruit syrup and orange bitters round out the recipe for this stiff drink that's both fruity and dry.

Del Grande complements it all with a revamped Bar Annie menu that features hors d'oeuvres such as oysters on the half shell and bacon wrapped Texas quail, and bar plates like the crispy chicken breast sandwich and beef barbacoa enchiladas.

You'll find Del Grande's twist on a classic shrimp cocktail, the Thai curry coconut shrimp cocktail, a tempting option.

Served in a martini glass, the intense flavors of the punchy and bold Thai curry coconut sauce — courtesy of exotic Asian spices like ginger, lemon grass, red chile and coriander — are able to stand up to the zing of the Looking Glass cocktail, making it the perfect palate partner.

The recipe for both Del Grande's Thai curry coconut shrimp cocktail and Frankel's Looking Glass beverage appear below. Both will be featured in a cocktail class at the restaurant on Sept. 21, in which you can also learn how to make traditional cocktail classics such as margaritas and martinis, in addition to a few unique variations.

Watch the video above to see Frankel and Del Grande show just how easy it is to craft these recipes at home.

Looking Glass cocktail

  • 1 ounce  Slivovitz plum brandy
  • 1 ounce  Kirschwasser cherry brandy
  • 1 ounce  Nigori Sake
  • 1/4 ounce BG Reynolds' passion fruit syrup (available at Houston Wine Merchant)
  • Two dashes orange bitters
  • One kaffir lime leaf, optional for garnish

In a mixing glass, combine all ingredients. Add ice and stir with a spoon until well chilled. Strain into a small cocktail glass, garnish with a kaffir lime leaf and serve.

Shrimp cocktail with cucumber salad and Thai curry coconut dressing

Dressing:

  • 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons coconut puree
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lightly toasted whole coriander seeds
  • One crushed kaffir lime leaf (optional)

Cucumber salad:

  • 1 cup cucumber, peeled and diced
  • Four Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper

Shrimp:

  • 8 ounces Gulf shrimp, poached, peeled and chilled
  • Four Thai basil leaves for garnish

For the Thai curry dressing, combine all of the ingredients and mix vigorously with a sauce whisk. Chill. For the salad, combine the diced cucumber, basil, sesame oil and lime juice in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Lightly toss.

Place the cucumber mix in the bottom of a martini glass, then add the chilled shrimp on top. Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and garnish with Thai basil leaves. This recipe yields enough for four people — or two  people with Texas-sized appetites.

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