Marché might be one of the swankiest restaurants in Menlo Park, but it is also one of its most neighborhood-friendly restaurants — especially when it comes to its bar. John Sanders has worked behind Marché’s bar for eight years and has gotten to know its steady stream of regulars, one of whom is even responsible for developing Sanders’ palate for wine and spirits. Meanwhile, it is another regular who is responsible for its signature cocktail: the Chi Chi Rodriguez. It was inspired by a friend who wanted something with tequila, and who also happened to be very fond of Arnold Palmers. Though he has been at Marché for eight years, only recently has Sanders begun to develop the restaurant’s cocktail program that focuses on all those classic concoctions such as the Marché Manhattan, which features Michter’s 10-year-old rye whiskey, Carpano Antica vermouth, a dash of orange bitters and an orange twist. 898 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, (650) 324-9092, www.restaurantmarche.com
Where are you from originally? I was born in Abilene, Texas. I grew up in Bakersfield, and I’ve been living in the Bay Area ... it’ll be 13 years in October.
So Bakersfield ... You know it’s odd. It definitely has a small-town mentality, but the population of Bakersfield is approaching 500,000 people. A lot of people don’t realize it’s as big as it is. People who travel Interstate 5, at the turnoff for Bakersfield, there’s a huge truck stop; a lot of people think that’s Bakersfield, but it’s not.
When you order a cocktail, what will it be? A well-made Manhattan is a drink to behold, and a well-made martini, even though it sounds fairly simple, is actually really easy to mess up.
How do people most often mess up a martini? I see all sorts of mistakes. Say you just rinsed out your mixing can with hot water, you immediately put ice in it, the ice begins to melt, you’re going to get a watery drink. People shake entirely too much as far as I’m concerned. I rarely shake drinks unless it has fruit in it.
For someone at home who is making a martini, what’s your biggest piece of advice to them? Ice. Ice is the biggest key. Trying to make a drink with the ice cubes [typically made in an ice tray], you can get one or two of those in the shaker, plus the booze, but they’re not really conducive due to the size of the ice to making proper drinks. You should really have ice no bigger than [the size of a marble]. And you can make ice at home with anything and everything. If you’re having a cocktail party at home, go buy a bag of ice because it’s a lot smaller than these huge blocks that you’re going to get from the trays in your freezer. The other thing is if you’re using ice in your freezer that you froze three months ago, it’s going to be kind of gross. If you melt it and pour it into a glass, it's going to taste like the turkey that’s in there. It’s amazing how much flavor the ice will pick up that’s in the freezer.
Chi Chi Rodriguez
- 2 oz. Don Julio blanco tequila
- 1 oz. strong chilled Earl Grey tea
- 0.5 oz simple syrup
- Juice of half a blood orange
- 1 tsp. fresh lime juice
Squeeze orange with citrus press. Shake all ingredients including orange rind and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist and enjoy.