Fresno native Vanessa Meeks is creating delicious cocktails for the folks hanging out at Bivoac Ciderworks in North Park. On this episode of Behind the Stick, she shows us how to make their sweet and slightly tangy tropical cocktail called Pikes Peak Colada.
Pikes Peak Colada
1 oz Ube-infused coconut
1 oz pineapple juice
.75 oz lime juice 2 oz Pineapple-infused Maison Rouge Cognac
Garnished with pineapple frond,lavender and mint
What's the story behind the Pikes Peak Colada?
When we were starting Bivouac and knew that we had this unique liquor license that allowed us to serve fruit-distilled spirits (brandy, eau-de-vie), we reached out to Jesse Ross (Sycamore Den), who we know is a creative cocktail visionary, and tasked him with coming up with a menu that fits our vibe (camping and adventure-inspired), and can satisfy the diverse palates in San Diego. During the early days of building this project, our Chef DJ Tangalin was engaging in the same creative process for our food menu. He is Filipino, so many of his dishes have a Filipino influence - one of his favorite ingredients is ube (purple yam). Jesse was at one of our tastings when DJ made an Ube Panna Cotta. Jesse immediately took inspiration and created the Pikes Peak - an ube pina colada. The drink is named for the “purple mountain majesties” in America the Beautiful. The inspiration behind the song was Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, CO.
Describe the taste.
If purple were a flavor, this is what it would taste like. It is a sweet and slightly tangy tropical taste that makes you feel like you are on a beach vacation while you’re drinking it.
What's the key component of this drink?
The bright purple color is the thing that makes people ask, “Ooh, what’s that drink?!” But then all of the flavors of pineapple, coconut, ube and the cognac create a depth and intensity of flavor that leaves you wanting another sip.
What reactions do you get from customers when they try this cocktail for the first time?
I love the reactions, Its my favorite part about the cocktail. Everything from eyes rolling back to long and meaningful groans of happiness. Usually its followed by a few other orders because once people see it they want it.
If you had to pair this cocktail with a dish, what would you pair it with?
Our ube panna cotta with dehydrated pineapple and coconut! Or maybe our beignets that are crispy and fluffy and sweet.
Watch as Vanessa crafts up this delicious libation called Pikes Peak Colada.
What kind of experience can guests get at Bivouac Cider?
Our motto is “Embrace your adventure.” Our servers tell guests that they will be their “guide” for the evening, because we want people to feel that they had a memorable and delicious experience. Cider education is a big component of our taproom, introducing new flavors and styles to people, and getting new cider drinkers to appreciate the craft beverage that we love so much. We also want an environment that is fun and exciting. We have fantastic cider, incredible cocktails, delicious food and we play rad music. Our goal is to create something fresh and memorable for our customers. We have fun with our guests, and customer experience is our top priority.
About Vanessa Meeks
Are you from San Diego?
Born and raised in Fresno, CA.
How has your journey been leading up to your role at Bivouac Cider?
Kinda funny and Interesting. I started off as a regular at Coin Op in North Park about four or five years ago and relationships developed from there (I knew nothing about cocktails). I then was invited to tastings and events, where I found I was LOVING cocktails and this industry more and more. At that time, I got promoted at my job from server to bartender and my knowledge began to grow and grow from there. I was very fortunate to find Bivouac. A close friend of mine said they were hiring and I jumped at the chance. Now it’s become my home, a place where I don't just clock in, I get to go to work and see all these amazing people. It's really cool.
What's your favorite cocktail on the menu?
Hands down the Pikes Peak Colada. I'm all about that tiki cocktail life.
Define the perfect cocktail.
A perfect cocktail should blow my mind. That initial sip tells me everything. I will immediately order another one because its so damn good that I cant pass up on having a second.
What are some cocktail trends you are noticing in San Diego?
CBD and more vegetal cocktails are popping up everywhere on menus. All about both!
What is one thing you wish people understood about bartending?
Understanding that bartenders are not always about getting that drink order and being done with that guest, Its about building that relationship. I make it a point to talk to each guest that comes to my bar. We do have a lot of regulars and of course we engage in those conversations. Guests see that and I think they wonder "Why don't I get that same experience." So my goal is to make these relationships with every guest.
What's your favorite drink to make behind the bar?
Besides the Pikes Peak (which is really fun to make), I created a cocktail that's becoming a thing at Bivouac. Its called "Come f*** me pumps." It consists of: Peach bitters, fresh lemon, vanilla honey, Ginger, You and Yours Vodka and Automatic Dry Gin. Super refreshing, easy to drink, f****** delicious!
What's your favorite spirit?
Tough one. I'm a sucker for TIKI and Daiquiris are my favorite cocktail. Diplomatico or literally anything from Plantation Rum.
What's your favorite liqueur?
St. Germaine. Anything floral will always capture my heart and spirit.
What should everyone stock in their home bar?
Sacred Bond - Bottled in bond brandy that is pure magic! Oh and Fernet!
What do you do in your spare time when you're not creating cocktails?
Every morning I dedicate myself to yoga and snuggling my two cats. I have the raddest people in my life, so I do spend a majority of my time being out and active with those amazing creatures.
What's next for you?
Honestly, I really don't know, but you better believe I'm excited and ready for the adventures to come.