CH Distillery & Cocktail Bar beverage director Azrhiel Frost wants to know how your day is going. She doesn't want to know what your favorite spirit is or if you want something shaken or stirred; she just wants to know how you are feeling, as part of her new program "Cocktails Have Feelings Too." The experience, launching on March 3 and continuing every Wednesday in March from 5 to 7 p.m., takes the idea of dealer's choice a step further by crafting cocktails around guests' emotions.
The former Drawing Room bartender has been honing her skills of observation since her days at the former Gold Coast cocktail bar, where one of the hosts would sit down after her shift and ask Frost to make her a drink that made her feel a certain emotion. "At this point, it takes me a minute, maybe a minute and a half, of just talking to someone to figure out exactly what they want to drink," she says. "I always tell people just give me some words—throw stuff out there—I prefer you don't talk about alcohol. The easiest way is just to tell me how your day's been."
On this particularly snowy February day, patrons were feeling cold. A lingering cold that only happens after the snow seeps though your boots and leaves your socks damp. After a minute-long exchange, Frost begins mixing. Each cocktail is a unique combination of ingredients that she has never combined before. Since CH is a tasting room, Frost is limited to CH products and any syrups or bitters made on site. In this case, she fused cinnamon-nutmeg-chili-infused whiskey, tonic syrup, lemon juice, mole and Angostura bitters.
"The trick is I know how to make a balanced drink and (how to) get people talking about themselves—everybody likes to talk about themselves," Frost says. "The psychology behind it is you can convince people that this drink is made for them." Frost also picks up on voice tone, stereotypes (she can spot whiskey drinker verses a daiquiri one), trends, and ordering patterns. Each cocktail is not only designed to satisfy the customer, but also challenge and educate. "I like pushing people's boundaries, because I make some really weird stuff."
Eventually, Frost hopes to offer an entire menu of mood-based cocktails where guests are presented with a list of feelings rather than drinks. This would force them to step away from always ordering a whiskey cocktail or a gin drink and, maybe, drink something different yet still satisfying. It involves a lot of trust, "but in the end, what I really want to make you is what you want to drink right now," Frost says.