Albert Trummer prefers being called a pharmacist to a mixologist. And, he's correct, in a fashion.
Long before there were pills to be popped to assist your sleep, give you energy, or help you "get it up," pharmacists prescribed tinctures, elixirs, and potables that "cured what ailed you." Some of them were backed in the centuries-old science of herbal medicine. Others were purely snake oil. And most of them were alcohol-based. In fact, Peychaud's bitters were invented by a local New Orleans pharmacist named Antione Amedie Peychaud. His bitters were the roots of the Sazerac cocktail, which was used as a cure-all for everything from nerves to insomnia.
Trummer is a modern-day version of these pharmacist/bartenders, only his laboratory is behind the bar of the Drawing Room, which recently opened at the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach. The bar is decorated in warm sepia tones, so when you arrive you actually feel like you're walked into an old movie.
Trummer is behind the bar, busily pouring liquids from bottles marked only by numbers. These are the bartender's magical elixirs, made from European and Asian herbs and florals like vanilla, elderflower, and wormwood. Yes. The very same wormwood that was banned for decades because of hallucination scares. Trummer explains that while at some castle in the South of France with David Bouley, he met "a very old man who looked like a wizard. He called himself the absinthe doctor and he made his own from wormwood. I never tasted anything like it. It wasn't like the fake absinthe most people sell. I was inspired."
In fact, Trummer has a story to pair with every cocktail, every bitter, every garnish. When doling out a rum-soaked cherry for his Hemingway Special, made with Zacapa rum, his elixir #5, fresh lime juice, and Israeli mint, he recalls when, growing up, he watched his aunt make fruit brandies at her distillery. "She made these wonderful pear and apple brandies from fresh fruit. Then, she would soak cherries in rum to preserve them. As children, we would get a little drunk from these cherries."
Trummer insists that his cocktails be made only with fresh fruits, his house-made elixirs and bitters, and just a bit of sugarcane juice to sweeten his creations. Indeed, his strawberry fennel cocktail is filled with what seems to be a bushel-full of fresh berries, paired with vodka and dill andf fennel essences.
Other interesting drinks include a saffron sazerac and a cocktail made with starfruit and champagne. Or, Trummer will "prescribe" a special cocktail for you -- just tell him what ails you.
If you think this is all South Beach smoke-and-mirrors, you're partially right. Trummer says that he wants to put on a show. "I want to entertain people while they're here. To make their evening memorable." His cocktails have the goods to back up the party-like atmosphere he creates as he "performs" his fire and ice cocktail, which involves flames, dry ice smoke, and a pyramid of champagne flutes.
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As the crowd chants, "Albert, Albert," Trummer relishes his part as supporting actor in the performance, but the cocktails are the true stars.