I’ve never really thought about the difference, but Evan Leihy of Swordfish has and there’s a reason why James Bond asks for his martinis shaken.
“When you shake a cocktail, you’re whipping air into it and that makes the cocktail foamy, frothy because of all the tiny air bubbles. Stirred drinks will not have all those air bubbles, their texture is smoother, silkier. With that, our rule of thumb is, if it’s opaque (meaning the cocktail), shake.”
While we were talking, mixologist Emily Spriet prepared a Rosa Martini for me. Hayman’s Navy Strength Gin, a splash of Cochi Rosa red Vermouth from Italy, orange bitters made by Emily and a neatly cut lemon peel. Wow.
When Evan envisioned Swordfish, he wanted it to feel secretive and exclusive.
“As a kid, what could be more compelling than an invite to a friend’s treehouse? That’s what I wanted Swordfish to feel like.”
On the outside, Swordfish is quite minimalist. Inside, its gorgeous woods, exemplary service, polished glasses and backlit bottles create a million-dollar atmosphere. Evan, however, built most of Swordfish in his garage prior to signing the lease. The bar, tables and most of the cabinetry are all his.
“We wanted something beautiful, thoughtful. An atmosphere that would be loved by our customers and our team. Food and drink is a noble service, a sacred honor that we’re happy to provide. Our customers have an expectation of romance when they arrive, and we provide that along with a show.”
The cocktails at Swordfish are just that, classic, romantic and created with a show. There’s something slightly hypnotic about watching one’s favorite cocktail being created with skill and style. In south Louisiana we called an unexpected treat “lagniappe” and Swordfish is just that. Great cocktails, a beautiful setting and the added bonus of watching that cocktail made with skill and style.
As we’re close to Valentine’s Day, Evan is planning on a very busy weekend. Swordfish, though, isn’t a place where one should show up without a reservation because you may not get in. Most of its customers make reservations the morning of but on a weekend they will fill up quickly.
Evan says he’s developed a philosophy of service, to do the best you can with what you have. And every time I’ve enjoyed a cocktail at Swordfish it came with a dose of fine hospitality. In short order, Emily produced another wonderful cocktail she called New Japanese. Suntory Whiskey with Orgeat Almond Syrup and Angostura bitters and it was another superb cocktail. When we wrapped up our conversation and I finished my second cocktail, Evan asked if I were driving myself home.
“No sir. My son is driving me home. Cheers!”
Swordfish Cocktail Club at 220 E. Coffee St., is open Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 5 p.m.
“City Juice” is a colloquial term for a glass of tap water served at a diner. John Malik is a culinary adviser and broker with National Restaurant Properties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.