Surf’s up in Marina del Rey. Well, it seemed that way on May 14, when torrential rain fell outside Catch & Release, a fun New England-esque seafood spot from Chef Jason Neroni and Sprout Restaurant Group in the former Paiche space. Considering the waves were bound to be fierce the following morning, it’s fitting my favorite cocktail was the Surf Report ($12).
Julian Cox and Nick Meyer are helming Catch & Release’s bar along with day-to-day bar manager Dave Kupchinsky, late of The Eveleigh. The Sprout LA bar team riffs on classics like the Negroni and White Russian, but I couldn’t put down the Surf Report, a savory gin-based drink with cucumber, mint, lime, dry vermouth, anisette and “salt air” sprinkled with a pinch of black Hawaiian sea salt to drive home the oceanic message.
According to Meyer, “We designed the Surf Report to feel like you’re drinking ‘a day at the beach.'” Given that, they opted for Plymouth gin, which has a “historical connection with the navy and oceanic ventures.” Noilly Prat dry vermouth is another spirit with a link to the sea that “stemmed from the unique aging it received by being shipped via boat in wood barrels in the 18th century.” Salt once again came into play with the finishing touch. Meyer said, “We are not shy about using salt in cocktails to season certain elements and make flavors ‘pop.'” The group avoided a “sometimes abrasive” salt rim in favor of “salt air,” a José Andrés recipe that utilizes lime juice, a pair of salts, cucumber juice, mint syrup and Sucro, “an emulsifying agent that traps air bubbles and has aerating properties.” All of those ingredients, and water, enter an immersion blender. The resulting drink balances historical references with modern technique, and ultimately, winning flavor.