Thursday, July 18, 2024

Long Beach’s Wrigley gem, Wicked Wolf, unveils summer cocktail menu

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The Wicked Wolf, continually home to Wrigley’s most impressive cocktail program, has become a neighborhood staple. And that development has been in a way that is desperately needed for the neighborhood itself. Perpetually supported by and supportive of surrounding businesses, the waltz-into-the-woods space has been a stalwart figure for a part of Long Beach often insular in itself and ignored by outsiders.

The thing with Wicked Wolf is that it goes beyond the cocktails

In the world of cocktails, Long Beach lacks not—particularly as of recently.

You have Gianna Johns over at Baby Gee Bar—they’ve been recognized not just once but twice by the coveted and prestigious Spirited Awards—with their team releasing their own summer cocktail menu for 2024. David Castillo over at Marlena and Jocelyn Jolley at Michael’s on Naples, both in Naples, serving up some of the best in the game. There’s Erick Rios-Wentzky at both Lola’s and The Social List. You have Mike Borowski at Selva. You got Kayla Bohner holdin’ down the fort at The Ordinarie. You’ve got Tiquio Serratos at Viaje. This certainly includes The Wicked Wolf, which has seen everything from supporting National Parks to returning to classic cocktails.

But beyond this, the space has become truly communal. And actually, that very tense—”become”—is false because it’s been there since day one. Thea Mercouffer—who co-owns the space with her husband George Wolfe—has been incredibly idea driven when it comes to community. Constant collaborations. Regularly reaching out. Persistent planning. And the result has been awesome: Themed parties and industry-specific gatherings are paired with cultural niche nights and a seemingly constant array of specials.

But about that summer menu from The Wicked Wolf

And like any good culinary craft concoctioneer, Isaak is not afraid to mess around with ingredients. Harkening to the bar’s longtime tradition of doing things in house, he is infusing liquors, making tinctures, creating syrups, and taking over a space that he has, for the most part, recently graduated to. And when it came to his summer cocktail menu, he wanted to keep it succinct and summer.

“Sounded summery, sounded seasonal to be honest,” Isaak said. “We started off small—we only have a set of five for now—but when falls comes in, hopefully we’ll do more of that.”

Isaak does his usual run-down when making a menu—what spirits are there and, even if I have five spirits, did I just make five variations of a similar drink?—but also thinks about patronage.

“The people who come in are important—and I want the details to be important,” Isaak said. “And that’s the biggest jigsaw: Creating things that are different enough for people. I think of different glassware. Different interests. Different feelings toward things. The longest phase is the research and development and the brainstorming because I want to make sure all those niches are filled.”

Let’s explore that summer cocktail menu…


Cloud Nine

What kind of cocktail? An ode to Thailand’s tom kha gai soup, this wonderfully savory-with-a-hint-of-sweet is a greatly balanced drink that oozes of something someone loves. And in this case, it is Isaak’s love of said soup. It is a concoction that wouldn’t have been made otherwise. Given that, explore your food outside, well, your food; incorporate it into your passion, dammit.

Cloud Nine: Lemongrass-infused gin | Coconut syrup | Lime juice | Serrano chile tincture | Cilantro


Over the Moon

What kind of cocktail? Like a booster shot of supposedly healthy things—but, like, in Big Gulp, mimosa-on-steroids form. And I’m sorry, but if you’re not behind that then… We can drink after 11AM.

Over the Moon: White rum | Ginger-turmeric syrup | Pineapple juice | Lime juice | Black peppercorn tincture | Sparkling wine


Shooting Star

What kind of cocktail? I love anise, fennel, licorice—but fear not: That this cocktail is not. Surely, star of anise is a feature but ironically not the star in the way most would think it is. Isaak uses its subtle vanilla-without-sugar vibe as a pathway for the brightness of passionfruit. And it works. Rather wonderfully.

Shooting Star: Star anise-vanilla-infused vodka | Passionfruit liqueur | Lime Juice | Simple syrup


Wishing Well

What kind of cocktail? A pleasantly garden-y porch pounder, this concoction is pretty’n’pink—which means it is perfect for summer. Approachable, using the bright profile of tequila with the earthy sweetness of watermelon, it’s a happily Summertime in the LBC cocktail.

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Wishing Well: Tequila | Watermelon syrup | Lime juice | Serrano chile tincture | Soda Water | Cilantro


Pegasus

What kind of cocktail? A play on a Girls Scouts’ thin mint, this beautifully, thinly layered hint of cacao on top of a classically made, masterfully concocted mint julep is wonderfully boozy.

Pegasus Cacao-infused bourbon | Mint cane syrup | Mint


Tepache

What kind of cocktail? Trying to avoid relying on premade syrups and, well, premade anything, their house-made play on the Mexican staple has the weight and feel of a cocktail without the booze. And if you’re feeling boozy, have no fear: You can get a shot of whatever your buzzy heart desires. Suggestion? A nice tequila or mezcal—but that’s just me.

Tepache: Fermented pineapple juice | Chinese 5 Spice | Lemon Juice | Soda water | Cinnamon sugar


Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

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