Hadi Ktiri made a name for himself behind the bar at Arnaud's French 75. He recently became food and beverage supervisor at the Roosevelt Hotel (130 Roosevelt Way, 504-648-1200; www.theroose- veltneworleans.com). Ktiri spoke with Gambit about the Roosevelt and his blog (www.napkinlocal.blogspot.com) about food, drinks and local life.
You're working on the new cocktail list for Fountain Lounge. What will it look like?
Ktiri: The idea is we don't want our two bars to compete — so while the Sazerac Bar is 1920s classics, Fountain Lounge will be trendy and now, with a focus on seasonal, culinary-driven cocktails. We'll use vacuum sealers for quick infusions and juicers to access ingredients we weren't using before, like cilantro and kale. Juicers also create a richer base for simple syrups — replace water with, say, juiced strawberries and cucumbers. The flavor punches you in the face, in a good way.
I wouldn't have thought to use these kitchen tools, except I used to cook in a restaurant and we made everything from scratch. I like that holistic approach. It's tough to justify pushing ingredients further away from their original form. As soon as you focus more on the drink than the customer, you've missed the point.
Punch magazine recently linked to your Napkin Local blog, where you offer observations, interviews and snippets of advice written on bar napkins. What inspired you?
K: I scribbled on napkins all the time at French 75. A bachelor party would come in and ask where they should go in New Orleans and I'd put it on a napkin. I wanted them to have a good time, and I wanted to send other bartenders my great bar guests. Cane & Table sent a guest to me that way while I was bartending in Denver, which was cool. I thought the napkins had some kind of abstract value, even if you weren't sitting at my bar. It feels natural for me to do something in the artistic realm, because my mom was an English professor and my dad was a photographer who went to UCLA film school. There was always a camera pointed in my face. If you do it right, it's vivid. It grabs you.
The Napkin Local post that Punch picked up reads: "Suddenly, and with a grand gesture, she toppled her glass of Champagne." Where did that come from?
K: It's from a book I'm writing, On Booze and Men — my commentary on drinking culture, done in a playful way. This particular piece came from watching college girls topple glassware in the bar. It suggests someone talking with their hands in a very European and excitable way. For the book, I wanted to explore that strange, convoluted and dark area that's the time in a bar when those little experiences happen, before all clarity is gone. There's a lot going on between your first drink and last, and I'm filling in the blanks.