2020 Q1 Spirited VA - 64

BEHIND THE BAR

Jean-Paul Charbonneau, Café Europa Bistro & Wine Bar, Portsmouth

S

ince 1986 Café Europa has been
bringing a Mediterranean menu to
Portsmouth diners, thanks to owner and
head chef Michael Simko, who originally
hails from Czechoslovakia. Café Europa has
since expanded, now offering a wine bar
alongside the regular dining room, featuring
rotating wine and food specials. Jean-Paul
Charbonneau has been at the restaurant
for more than 20 years, ensuring that the
beverages nicely complement the cuisine.
Tell us a little bit about your bar program.
We're a fine dining restaurant, so we don't
have a huge bar. The servers make most of
their own drinks, and I make most of the
specialty drinks-like a gin version of an
Old Fashioned for one of our Jazz Nights.
We have a small area in front that is like an
old-style wine lounge, where people can just
come in for drinks and a small bite to eat.
Can you give me an example of how the
bar program complements the cuisine?
Our desserts are all made in house. We
usually run about 13 to 15 desserts, so I
do a lot of dessert martinis. The different
variations of the martinis go with certain
desserts. Like we do a white-chocolate
raspberry bread pudding that's been pretty

64 VIRGINIA ABC | ABC.VIRGINIA.GOV

much a staple there since we opened, and I
do a chocolate raspberry martini with Godiva
White Chocolate Liqueur, and at just the right
temperature, to match up with it.

Fashioned, Gin for Dessert, The European and
Olde Towne Appletini. [For the Olde Towne
Appletini, just add Silk Jacket gin and an
apple wedge to apple cider - easy!]

What changes have you seen at the
restaurant over the years?
The one thing that drives me nuts is the
people that want to come in and out-you
know, just dine and dash. [We're] a fine dining
restaurant, so people should just relax and
enjoy themselves. We do different versions of
Manhattans, Boulevardiers, so you can just
relax and enjoy yourselves before the food
comes. We want people to relax.

Is there a customer favorite spirit and or
cocktail at Café Europa?
That's tough, because we have so many
regulars-more than 50 percent of customers
are regulars that come in at least once a
month. Lately, Woodford has been really
kicking it off. I've been working on a Spiced
Walnut Manhattan with Woodford, Vya sweet
vermouth that's a little bit spiced and black
walnut bitters. We've started getting more
into the Rye Old Fashioneds, and I've been
using Bulleit for those. I think Woodford, out
of the bourbons, is our most popular. Then
it just varies depending on who comes in.

Have you created cocktails that include
Virginia spirits?
For two of our Jazz Nights we featured Three
Bros. Distillery. One night, I used Three
Bros. Kablam corn whiskey in four drinks:
Blackberry Whiskey Smash, Bitter Sweet,
Boulevardier and Smooth Criminal. [The
Smooth Criminal, for example, was made
with Kablam corn whiskey, muddled fresh
basil, balsamic vinegar and shaved black
garlic, topped with ginger beer and a fresh
basil garnish.]
Another night, I used Three Bros. Silk
Jacket gin in an Olde Towne Negroni, Gin Old

What's your personal favorite drink?
I'm more of a straight-up drinker. I'd just sit
and sip on some green chartreuse.
What's your favorite cocktail to make?
I'd have to say Old Fashioneds, because it
takes so many steps, to make sure it's stirred,
that everything's just right. And with the Gin
Old Fashioned, I've done some variations
and extra ingredients.
-Annie Tobey


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