St. Louis Bartender Phil Ingram Of Vicia, + Cocktail Recipe: The Ginger

At Vicia in St. Louis, bartender Phil Ingram utilizes a no-waste approach, often using the kitchen’s leftover produce to create infusions and syrups from local, seasonal produce. As part of Vicia, which emphasizes vegetable-forward cuisine, he focuses on creating cocktails that pair well with head chef Michael Gallina’s creations.

How did you get started in the St. Louis bar scene?
I grew up in Chicago, came to St. Louis for school and started working at a farm-to-table cafe during my last semester. I quickly became the general manager and put together my first cocktail list. I became really excited to learn about local sourcing and where food comes from.

How do you utilize a no-waste approach behind the bar?
My first love is the kitchen, so using leftovers from the kitchen and repurposing them behind the bar makes a lot of sense. It’s as simple as using all the peel and juice from fruit, extra produce from the kitchen, and making a special ingredient last longer by preserving it. For example, ginger is very potent. Using just one piece, I can make a syrup and save the candied peels for a garnish.

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Photo of Phil Ingram courtesy of Cynthia Hule.

Where do you start when designing a new drink for the menu?
A majority of people are coming here to eat, so the food is really the star of the show. The drinks need to be intricate and exciting without taking away from the food. I try to almost approach the drink menu as a group of palate cleansers, where guests can pick and chose different ones throughout the meal without overwhelming the food.

How do you test your recipes?
I’m lucky to work with people who want to know what I’m working on, so I let them in on what I’m creating and ask for feedback. I want to get their perspective, particularly if I know that their tastes are different than mine.

Do you mix drinks at home?
I get the most satisfaction out of blending, so at home I will blend several spirits into a unique spirit. It’s about anticipating how things will change flavor as they sit together, and how it will change over time.

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Photo courtesy of Cynthia Hule.

The ginger we use is from Bohlen farms, grown in Perryville, MO, and I want to make sure we use every scrap of it. The cocktail is similar to an Old Fashioned, but with more depth and a bright ginger kick. It uses citrus as more of a supporting note, and highlights sweet spiced fall flavors with the St. George spiced pear liqueur and the Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur.

The Ginger:
.75 oz Russell’s 6 year Reserve Rye
.75 oz Plantation Pineapple Rum
.50 oz Domaine de Canton
.25 oz St. George Spiced Pear Liqueur
.25 oz Amaro Nonino
.50 oz Housemade Bohlen Farms Ginger Syrup
1 expressed lemon peel
3 dashes Angostura bitters

Fill a large glass with ice, add the spirits and stir. Strain into a stemless cocktail glass. Rub an orange twist around the rim of the glass, and drop it into the glass.

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