M: On a recommendation, I suggest Mace as our first stop of the sunny Sunday afternoon. It is half past five, the prime quiet drinking time of the weekend. Brunch day drinking is done, it is not yet dinner, but for those of us with off-beat schedules, off-peak drinking hours are a gem.
E: The menu at Mace reads like a storybook of herbs and spice–cocktails No. 01 – 12 are listed horizontally with petite illustrations of their namesake components. Antidotes of flavor profile, preparation and spice origin follow the description lines. It’s styled like a vintage science text. We’ve been seeing a lot of glassware legends on menus lately, a trend we’re into. Mace includes a glassware icon next to each cocktail’s price.
M: This is the most beautiful and well thought out cocktail menu I’ve seen yet.
Everything sounds delicious and we have a hard time deciding on drinks. I ask what pandan syrup is – an Indonesian leafy plant generally used to flavor fluffy sponge cakes. The bartender gives me a sample of the bright green liquid; sold. I start with the Nutmeg (absinthe, pandan syrup, coconut milk, nutmeg, egg). It is rich, decadent, sweet without being syrupy or sickening. It could be dessert.
E: I initially consider the Vanilla Bean, but our bartender persuades me to start light and finish strong–always good advice. So I move in the opposite direction.
No. 11 Saffron (saffron-infused gin, almond milk, rose water, orange flower water, lemon juice, lime juice, sugar, egg white, soda salted pistachio) is listed on the menu as “shaken; creamy and floral.” What’s put before me is a meticulously made beverage, served tall in a Pilsner glass. The color is lemon-cream, and as it settles, the stark separation cures the beverage into two halves: inches of egg white foam over a bright citrus drink. The first sips are almost all foam, but then the clouds part, and the drink slips through, joining all elements in the taste.
Saffron, notably the most expensive spice in the world, has a hay-like flavor. The softer elements of almond milk and floral waters counterbalance the acidic and herbal qualities. The cocktail is pleasantly tart.
M: “Should we do another round?” I ask. The answer is yes and we conclude on Yerba Maté and Vanilla Bean. Vanilla Bean (vanilla bean infused bourbon, cynar, sweet vermouth, coffee and walnut bitters) is as cautioned, rich and dark and bitter; we both love it. It’s a heavier drink with coffee and chocolate bitters.
E: No. 03 Yerba Mate (yerba mate-infused pisco, Fernet Branca, sweet vermouth, malbec reduction, red cabbage syrup, lime juice) is another good afternoon choice. The reduced fruit from the wine (think plum, cherry, blackberry) offer a little punch to the other herbal elements. The citrus melts away to a bitter, mate-tea finish. Lovely. Complex. A touch sweet but multifaceted.
M: Soon two more drinks are in front of us – the Mace and Chia Seed. “You must be in the industry,” the bartender says, “It’s slow and I couldn’t help but overhearing.” We laugh at ourselves with two full rounds before us, and say thank you, and yes, we are in the industry. Shop talk ensues and the bartender returns to the other patron as we alternate sips on all four drinks taking notes on notecards and iPhones.
E: The space here is narrow and full of clean lines, punctuated with modern details. Sunlight floods the front window, spilling over the trio of cocktail tables in front. There is one other patron seated at the zinc bar.
M: Mace is about a year old. Plans for outdoor seating, with a view of the community garden across the street, should complete within the next month. Inside, the minimal decor is personalized with mason jars of spices, all uniquely utilized as ingredients.
E: The Chia Seed (Jamaican rum, overproof rum, Batavia arrack, mango juice, coconut milk, basmati rice water, lime juice, 8 spices, chai seed–clarified) is light and tropical, soft and fruity, easy going and delicious. Through the rum, the fruit, it’s still a touch savory, super-balanced.
M: We marvel at our collective favorite drink, the Chia Seed. Is the whole thing clarified or just the mango and lime? I ask. Unlike Booker and Dax, who uses a centrifuge to clarify citrus juices, Mace does the long-form natural version of clarification by combining all the ingredients together and resting. The drink takes about 4 days to make, as the citrus pulp naturally rises to the top of the mixture and is strained while the rum helps preserve the fruit.
E: Mace (Aperol, aquavit, beet juice, orange acid, young Thai coconut cordial, mace mist) is a beet-red shaken cocktail that’s earthy, fruity. The beet juice predominates for me, conquering the Aperol. Still, this namesake cocktail is an easy one to drink. Mace, on the nose, is warm and inviting, and much like the overall experience, lures me back for another sip.