A new legend has been stirred and a winner has emerged in DiningOut Events’ annual tableside cocktail competition sponsored by Rémy Martin: Welton Room’s “The Dark Side,” an enigmatic concoction masterminded by Sash Nguyen, has clinched the crown in The Ritual 2023, and the winning designer cocktail leaves ordinary craft beverages lost in a cloud of applewood smoke.
Anyone who’s been to Welton Room (or follows its Insta) already knows that every cocktail shaken, stirred, or poured at the swanky cocktail lounge is elevated to ritual status. Here, drinks are not just served; they’re crafted with a blend of science and spectacle. Using molecular mixology tricks learned under Spanish-American celebrity chef and humanitarian José Andrés at The Bazaar in Beverly Hills, Welton Room leaders Chokedee Buabucha and Jorgé Ortega lead the alchemical journey. Using an approach that marries techniques of molecular gastronomy with mixology, they’ve taught their behind-the-bar team how dry ice, smoking wood chips, whipped foam, and even cotton candy can be used to create new flavors, textures, and presentations of libations that are as much a treat to see as they are to taste.
The Dark Side creator Sash’s journey into the cosmos of craft cocktails began four years ago at Welton Room “My whole life I’ve always tried to surround myself with beautiful and innovative creations whether it be art, music, and fashion,” says Sash. “But it wasn’t until I started bartending here that I learned the art of craft cocktails. It’s opened my eyes to a whole different world. It fascinates me how different smoking techniques or the usage of liquid nitrogen can elevate a simple drink.”
For Sash and the Welton Room team, great customer service means offering the unexpected. “We don’t want our clientele missing out on something that we can provide when it can heighten a traditional drink,” says Sash. This philosophy is at the heart of “The Dark Side,” a cocktail that infuses the essence of Colorado’s campfires into a Manhattan.
The making of The Dark Side is a ritual in itself. It starts with a blend of Bruichladdich, Bruto Americano, Aperol, sweet vermouth, and PX Sherry, stirred over ice for balance. The mixture is then transferred to a decanter where it is infused with applewood smoke, creating complex layers of warming flavors.
Served over a large ice sphere in a Spanish wine-style glass, the presentation of The Dark Side is as important as its flavor. The stemmed Bordeaux-style glass not only enhances the visual appeal but also helps contain the smoke, so, Sash says, “you enjoy a little bit with every sip.”
“It represents the warmth of a fireplace, a campfire—the whole experience of having your friends and family around on a cold, winter day,” she says. “What better way to showcase a smoked cocktail than using a wine decanter to infuse the smoke all while encapsulating a dramatic and sexy pour into the wine glass in which the smoke hits the glass first?”
THE DARK SIDE
Created by Sash Nguyen
- 1 oz. Bruichladdich
- ½ oz. St. George Spirits’ Bruto Americano
- ½ oz. Aperol
- ½ oz. sweet vermouth
- ½ oz. PX (Pedro Ximénez) Sherry
- Gold Leaf Garnish
Learn more about The Welton Room and all of the contenders in The Ritual tableside cocktail competition. And then get yourself over to Five Points to experience it yourself. While you’re there, raise a glass to the winning concoction.