By OWEN MORRIS
Noah Robinson serving a White Lady; a gin-based drink that's one of his favorites.
Scott Beskow and Noah Robinson both work at M&S Grill on the Plaza, one of the few scratch bars in Kansas City. Scratch meaning absolutely nothing made from a mix, which explains the huge bowls of oranges and lemons from which both bartenders regularly draw. They obviously enjoy each other's company and intrinsically trust each other. McCormick & Schmick's (owners of M&S Grill) trusts them too -- Beskow and Robinson are bar trainers for the company's other locations, and they help decide the quarterly drink menus. I asked both of them to work together to create a drink that embodies them. They served me a White Lady.
Beskow: The White Lady is a classic. It's not original to us. It's been around for a long time. At least since the early 1900s. There's been a lot of twists on it in the past and this is not the original one. I like it because it proves gin can be in a cocktail and not be a gin and tonic.
Robinson: It uses Plymouth. A very old-school dry gin. Gin is an old-school spirit and It incorporates a lot of elements that aren't a predominate factor in a lot of bars, like fresh lemon juice. That's a scratch-bar thing. Very few bars in the city, country really, are doing things of that nature. It incorporates a simple syrup to balance it out.
Every drink must have balance. Even if you don't like gin you can try this drink and enjoy it. In fact, this is the first drink I really appreciated gin in. I was fascinated with the flavors: Cointreau being the quintessential orange-flavored spirit to put in there, but egg whites is my favorite ingredient in it, which explains the foam.
That's something that was used years and years ago, but because of salmonella and other reasons people stopped using it. But it gives it a texture that nothing else can give it. Not only that but it holds that lemon zest on the top.
Beskow: It's an element a lot of people are scared of at first because everyone thinks anything that's raw with eggs is horrible. We use pasteurized egg white. We shake them so we don't have to whip them. It gives it a meringue type effect... It takes all of these sharper flavors and mellows them all out. The gin, the juniper berries, the lemon juice, they all have bite but then you add the egg whites and the air, it stretches the whole drink out.
Robinson: People are surprised that something with so much gin can taste so smooth. I'd say only five percent of the population has ever heard of this drink.
Beskow: Most just know the gin with tonic, which is counter-intuitive. Gin has juniper, a piny flavor, and quinine, which is a bitter flavor, and then people add a lime so it's bitter, bitter, bitter. If you want to drink gin with tonic, you should squeeze lemon juice in it, which counter-balances it or even better, use soda. Lemon is a much better compliment to gin than lime. The White Lady has that lemon and gin and that's why the balance is there.
Robinson: It gave me an appreciation of gin but I don't really drink them. Too complicated. I love introducing them to guests but bartenders drink very uncomplicated drinks.
Beskow:: Gin and soda with lemon for me.