“Ours is absolutely the only bar in Rancho Mirage to handcraft its syrups and use fresh juices in all of its cocktails,” head bartender Neil Goetz of State Fare Bar + Kitchen at The Ritz-Carlton tells me. Just some of the indispensable sweet liquids that Goetz and his team fashion daily include rosemary lemon, date vanilla, ginger hibiscus, and lemongrass mint. “Once our new menu rolls out we’ll be adding lavender violet and jalapeño orange bitters. We’ll also be macerating raspberries and strawberries for some new cocktails. None of our syrups have alcohol, so they’re used for both our specialty cocktails as well and our designated non-alcoholic drinks.”
At the base of each syrup—sometimes called “simple syrup”—is sugar and water. To that mixture are added the elements necessary to impart a particular flavor. For example, says Goetz, “the rosemary lemon syrup is fresh lemon juice, sugar, and rosemary. The lemon juice is heated to just before a boil, the sugar is added to blend in, then the rosemary is allowed to steep.” Some, like the ginger hibiscus syrup—which contains microplane ginger root—are double-strained to remove any residual solid particles. Others, such as the jalapeño orange bitters variety, are placed in anaerobic vacuum-sealed bags for two weeks so that the liquid can be sufficiently infused with, in this case, the fresh diced jalapeño and oranges at its core.
Neil, 40, is the only bartender at State Fare’s bar who has been at the resort since its opening on May 15, 2014. A former small town Kansas boy, he joined the U.S. Navy after high school, eventually settling in San Diego, where he graduated from SD State University with a marketing degree. He’s lived in Palm Springs for almost 14 years. “Being the head bartender here, I coordinate the making and tailoring of all our syrups,” he says. “I’m passionate about the craft of bartending. I’m passionate about the Ritz-Carlton brand. Making handcrafted syrups and using nothing but fresh juices is definitely not the inexpensive way to approach the craft of bartending, but it’s the right way to do it. A cocktail made with a handcrafted syrup and fresh juice will always be more flavorful than a cocktail made from an infused spirit of a synthetic nature combined with store-bought mixers.”
I don’t know about you, but Neil’s made me thirsty! What do you say we belly up to his bar soon and sample his wares? I can hear you saying, “Cheers!”