Cocktail Diary: White Guava

Every winter at Range we get these amazing white guavas. They come from Brokaw Ranch, down in Monterrey County, and they’re pretty special. They give off the most intoxicating aroma – floral, heady and seductive. You can smell them from outside in the alley when they’re downstairs ripening on the speed rack. Pretty crazy.

Where do these magical little flavor grenades come from? How do they ripen into tropical flavor bombs in the midst of deepest darkest winter? The world may never know. All I know is that they are fucking delicious, and they make a killer cocktail ingredient. Here’s how it works.


Step one. Get guavas. Not sure how hard this is. But it’s worth tracking them down. Believe me. After you’ve procured your delicate delectables, set them out to ripen. When ready they should be soft to the squeeze, like an avocado. There will probably be some brown spots, signs of over-ripening, like on a banana. That’s just fine. Some may develop a lovely red blush, as in the photo above. This is desirable. So sexy.

Step two. Peel guavas.

Just peel those fragrant skins right off of there. But save the skins, and the little stemmy bits too! Put these aside in a separate container for later. In addition to the main attraction, which is a silky guava puree, we’ll also make an equally delicious guava syrup from the skins.


Step three. Mash that guava up. I use a food mill with a fine filter. A food mill is basically a sieve with a little scraper doodad on it. As you turn the crank, the scraper doodad forces whatever you’ve put into the mill through the sieve. The guavas have a bunch of little yellow seeds nestled within their creamy, succulent interiors. Don’t break these! They’ll turn your puree all bitter and shit. Gentle. Be gentle.



Step four. After you’ve mashed that guava up in your food mill, Take it out and put it in some containers. Guava freezes like a dream, so you can enjoy its tropical aroma all year long. Ohhh yeaaaaah.




Step five. Take the reserved skins and bits and throw them in a pot with an appropriate amount of simple syrup. This amount is up to you. If you only skinned and mashed four guavas, then you might only need about 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. If you mashed 10 pounds of guavas, like I did, then you can use 2 quarts of sugar and 2 quarts of water. Just depends. Simmer your syrup/guava mixture for about 20 minutes. Strain out them solids, and voila, guava syrup. Taste that shit, it’s delicious!

At this point you are done with the boring, tedious part, and can now embark on the fun, exciting part, which is where you add the booze!


The guavas really lend themselves to neo-tiki preparations, what with their serious tropical vibrations. This year we’re doing something with 209 gin, Yellow Chartreuse, Allspice Dram, lime, and IPA. It’s all about highlighting the floral notes in the guava, and grounding the thing with some deep, spicy base notes. One of the great things about guava is that you really can’t go wrong. It’s that goddamned delicious.

So if you can track down some white guavas for yourself, now you know what to do with them!

Guava Puree

Anywhere from 2 – 10 pounds ripe white guavas

Food Mill
Big container
Little freezer-proof containers

1. Peel and trim guavas, being sure to remove stems and flower remnants. Save peels and remnants in separate container.
2. Cut guavas into small chunks.
3. Place food mill over large container. In batches, process guavas in food mill until left with gross-looking clumps of yellow seeds in the mill, and creamy delicious puree in the container.
4. Discard seeds and junk from mill. Pour creamy delicious puree into small freezer-proof containers. Freeze, or use puree within 4 days.
5. Shake that shit up into a tasty beverage.

Guava Syrup

Any amount of white guava skins


1. Heat water in pan until hot. Stir in sugar and dissolve to make a 1:1 simple syrup. Bring to simmer.
2. Stir in guava peels. Simmer for 20 minutes. Let cool and strain out solids.
3. Shake that shit up into a tasty beverage, or refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Neptune’s Garden

1.5 oz 209 Gin
.75 oz white guava puree
.75 oz guava syrup
.5 oz Yellow Chartreuse
.5 oz Lime juice
.25 oz Allspice Dram
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 oz IPA

1. Combine all ingredients except beer in cocktail shaker.
2. Add ice and shake for 20 seconds.
3. Single strain into a large rocks glass.
4. Top with beer. Garnish with purple flower (or lime wheel).



Complexity vs. Simplicity

I worry about complexity a lot. As in, is such-and-such cocktail too complex? Does it have too many ingredients, is it too ‘culinary’, is it fussy and pretentious? We serve a sort of baroque style of cocktail at Range, a style that celebrates seasonality and richness and complexity. Sometimes I get jealous when I go to other bars and see their cocktail lists; oftentimes they’re so clean, simple,  and direct. ABV is a great example of this, as is Box & Bells in Oakland. Few of the cocktails have more than four ingredients, and there are few, if any, outlandish ingredients.

But I like outlandish. And I think we do it pretty well, all things considered. We have fun with things, and we’re always exploring new techniques and flavor profiles. Our style is big, brash, and maximalist; we definitely aren’t going for a stripped-down, classic approach. Plenty of bars are doing that. But I think there’s a balance to be struck. Sometimes bars seem to be going for weird for weird’s sake. Unless you’re absolutely brilliant, like they are at Trick Dog, this approach can, and often does, fail spectacularly.

So I suppose our challenge is to remain true to our style without getting carried away; to focus on balance and make sure that any zany ingredients that we throw in there actually serve the cocktail. At the end of the day, our cocktails are just cocktails: boozy concoctions that provide entertainment for the palate and pleasure for the brain. Our cocktails are, to rip off a great cocktail name from NYC bar Isa, simply brain hammocks. They aren’t works of art or something to be put on a pedestal. They’re fun, they’re delicious, they’re complex. What more do you need?


True Lies

True Lies is a delicious cocktail I came up with for a buyout at Range. The client wanted something in the realm of an Old Fashioned, so we came up with a spiritous, seasonal sipper. It’s a pretty grown-up cocktail. My fellow bartenders and I were trying to come up with a name for a while, but we kept getting stumped. Sometimes the hardest part is the name. We didn’t want to use something cheesy or seasonal, or go with something basic like ‘Black Walnut Old Fashioned’. Finally I landed on ‘True Lies’, which is the first R-rated movie I ever saw. Grown up, indeed.

True Lies

1.5 oz Rittenhouse rye
.5 oz Hidalgo ‘Napoleon’ amontillado Sherry
.5 oz Nonino Amaro
.5 oz Nocino della Cristina
.25 oz maple syrup syrup (1:1)
3 dashes Regan’s orange bitters

Stir and serve in a tumbler over the biggest piece of ice you got. Garnish with a lemon peel or the like. One sip of this bad boy and you’ll be ready to tango like Arnold.


Varieties Of Salads

Maybe you’re with me here. You walk into a buzzy ‘it’ restaurant. Maybe it’s in Oakland, in a quickly gentrifying neighborhood, or in San Francisco in a trendy locale. You know the chef’s name, and know their other hit restaurants. You’re ready to be impressed by all sorts of farm-to-table deliciousness.

You sit down and take a look over the menu. Maybe theres lots of good looking options, or maybe there’s only like five things. But invariably, there’s some sort of salad. Now, you think, I love salad. I fucking love a fun, well executed, exciting salad with a diverse array of flavors and components, and this chef, at this buzzy trendy restaurant, will surely do some amazing things with fresh, raw, crunchy vegetables and maybe some awesome cheese or nuts or fruit or something that you never even thought would be good on a salad. But as you scan the menu, you get a little worried. Just slightly. There, in the place where your super awesome life changing salad plate should be listed, is a short line that says: ‘mixed lettuces with vinaigrette’.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you order this item, hoping against hope that the chef is one of those under-promise over-deliver people. But then the ‘salad’ hits the table. And it’s as you feared. A pile. Of fucking lettuce. With vinaigrette. For 12 big ones. 12 bones. 12 clams. But there are no clams or bones here. Just lettuce. I don’t care if the chef pulled these crunchy little fuckers out of the ground two minutes ago. I don’t care if the olive oil in the vinaigrette is made from the fruit of Zeus’ personal fucking olive trees. This is not a salad! This is an abomination!

It’s a confirmation of every critique of dining in this region as precious, overpriced, and overhyped. A confirmation of every snide New York chef saying that in California they ain’t got shit for technique. It’s also deeply, totally and entirely a first world problem. So I eat the overpriced lettuces. And then I write a blog post to get it out there, and then I move on. That’s all I’ll say about lettuces.


Sherry is the greatest beverage in the world. It is complex, compelling, and eminently quaffable. It pairs perfectly with all sorts of food, and is light enough that you may consume massive quantities of the stuff without going off the rails. Sherry is contradictory; it is vast, it contains multitudes. It can be both cloyingly sweet and dry as a snake’s skin. Salty like the sea or toasty like a roasted nut.

In addition, it makes a fine cocktail ingredient. Whether serving duty as the main ingredient, as in that most venerable of classic mixed delights, the Sherry Cobbler, or riding posse for whiskey, brandy, tequila, gin or rum, Sherry straight kills it.

So who doesn’t love Sherry? I’ll tell you who: everybody. Everybody doesn’t love Sherry. Bunch of goddamn Sherry haters out here.You don’t love Sherry, your kids don’t love Sherry; only your grandma (maybe) loves Sherry. So get out of your Riesling or whatever-the-hell-the-cool-kids-are-drinking-these-days box, put a little Oloroso in your Old Fashioned, and get with the fucking Sherry program. You’ll be glad you did.


Sometimes I curse the seasons. Always changing, never letting us get a moments rest. Whenever we come up with a delicious seasonal cocktail, I barely get the hang of making the purees, timing the infusions, cooking the fruit or just shaking the bloody cocktail in an efficient manner before, oops, there goes the white guava season or whatever the hell type of hyper-of-the-moment ingredient we’re using this month.

I’m jealous, in a way, of bars like Beretta. They have the same cocktails. Every day. Every month. Every year. No trying to figure out what to do with Asian Pears this year, or how to put a new spin on the strawberry cocktail we do every summer. No miserable, failed experiments that end in corroded pans and burnt layers of inedible sludge. No goddamned persimmons!

But then I take a step back and realize, hey, it would be real fucking boring to make the same cocktails, day in, day out. Like, monotonous, would be the word. Because without change, you’re just a dusty museum exhibit of a younger you. You’re stagnant. So yeah, it takes a lot of work to come up with new cocktails all the time. But that’s part of why Range is so special.