CdM Mixologist Ravin Buzzell Unlocks Secret of Smoke in Old-Fashioned Cocktail

Frisky tendrils of cherrywood smoke swirl above the glass. The gray curls hint of rye and cardamom, conjuring up an enticing mystery. There’s nothing old-fashioned about Ravin Buzzell’s Old-Fashioned.

He took a cocktail that originated in the 1800s and improved it, switching it up with components that added palate and visual excitement.

An award-winning mixologist, Buzzell is CdM’s amicable bar manager; most nights, he holds court behind the bar at Under CdM, a staircase below the dining room in a 600-square-foot speakeasy-style room.

No stranger to the vibrant environment behind the bar, he strives to bring people together and offer them an extraordinary experience. Born in Singapore but raised in Orlando, Florida, he is a man of many talents. He holds a second-degree black belt in taekwondo and has a knack for stand-up comedy.

He made a name for himself in Orange County when he launched a new concept at the Irvine Marriott Hotel known as “YNK,” or “You Never Know.” The program brought international influences, expertise, and innovation with twists on classic cocktails. A unique cocktail culture was created where it hadn’t existed before.

With culinary curiosity and thirst-driven motivation, I asked him to videotape the steps required to create his unique Old-Fashioned. He consented to work his magic with spirits and smoke for the camera.

The cocktail? Absolutely irresistible. Now I need to learn how to make his Gin Blossom. More lessons are needed.

Collector: He says he has a “thrifting problem,” always on the lookout for vintage glassware, both decanters and glasses at thrift stores. When making classic cocktails, he loves to use his vintage finds.

Favorite Cookbook: “The Flavor Bible” by Karen A. Page and Andrew Dornenburg is his go-to resource for discovering flavor pairings. He says that it is a great reference point. Often, he picks a classic cocktail, then uses the book to see what pairs with it.

Mother Mentor: His mother is from Singapore, and her delicious cooking helped him understand flavor profiles. Nothing is written down; she cooks from the heart. Her lamb or goat gold-hued curries are his favorites. It was her dishes that made him fall in love with cardamom and inspired its use in his Old-Fashioned.

Blanket Artist: He does amazing blanket art. He covers his bed with a fuzzy blanket, then smooths it out pushing all the fibers in one direction. Artwork is created atop the blanket with his finger, pushing the fibers in the opposite direction. A great way to start the day in his opinion. Check out the artwork on beddiaries, his Instagram page.

At-Home Choice: His cocktail at home? Whiskey, neat. But he seldom drinks at home. For at-home entertaining, he prepares his Old-Fashioned and says he prefers rye to bourbon for its spiciness.

CdM is at 2325 E. Coast Highway, Corona del Mar.

Cathy Thomas is an award-winning food writer and has authored three cookbooks: “50 Best Plants on the Planet,” “Melissa’s Great Book of Produce,” and “Melissa’s Everyday Cooking with Organic Produce.”

Ravin’s Old-Fashioned

Yield: one cocktail

Rocks glass with large ice cube

Lemon swath (wide strip of lemon zest)

Small ice cubes for chilling

2 ounces Bulleit 95 Rye

1/2 ounce simple syrup

2 to 3 dashes Scrappy’s Cardamom Bitters

Portable smoking gun loaded with cherrywood chips

  1. Express lemon swath over large ice cube in rocks glass (pressing opposite ends together); set aside.
  2. In a mixing jar, add small cubes of ice. Add rye, simple syrup, and bitters. Stir well to chill. Strain into decanter. Fill decanter with smoke using a portable smoking gun. Cap decanter and roll it over (hold it upright and move it in the circular motion away from your body and back – see video). Slowly pour over large ice cube so that the smoke bellows out over the glass. Add lemon swath and serve.

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