Ornate punch bowls, tricked-out tiki mugs: presentation is, of course, part of the cocktail experience. And smart bartenders often consider the aesthetics of their own bars when planning a drink’s look and feel. But a cocktail that actually doubles as a design element? That’s new to us.
Meet “Den After Dark” at San Diego’s Sycamore Den, the creation of bar manager Jesse Ross: a cocktail for four, served within a functioning lamp that lights up at the table. “I had noticed a trend of large-format drinks that were not served in conventional punch bowls,” Ross says. “I wanted to put our own spin on it—but cooler.”
Ross worked with a local craftsman to create the custom lamp. The rounded base serves as a punch bowl, accommodating the entire cocktail, with four holes for Pyrex straws; the shade is upholstered and fringed, jibing with the bar’s aesthetic.
“We wanted the lamp to look liked it belonged at Sycamore Den, which is designed to look like a 1970’s ‘Dad’s den,’” says Ross. “There’s wood paneling, lava rock and vintage light fixtures, plus era-appropriate replica shotguns and rifles, banjos and fiddles.” (It’s just another example that the ’70s are back with a vengeance, especially in the cocktail world.)
And don’t worry. Lest you worry about electrocution, there’s no power cord in sight. “The lamp ‘lights up’ via a non-functioning light bulb that we filled with firefly lights, and control by a remote,” Ross explains. “It gives the effect that the bulb is plugged in and shining.”
And the drink itself? Ross calls it a “modern, funky take on a classic Mai Tai,” echoing tiki flavors with housemade orange curaçao and clove syrup, together with fresh lime and tangerine, vodka, and for an unexpected herbal quality, Jägermeister. “The single-serving version comes in a custom vintage-style Mai Tai glass,” says Ross—but why would you opt for a single serving?
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