Perfect pairings: Local chefs and mixologists create unique food and drink pairings together

By Kara Pound



A St. Augustine institution since the mid-1990s, A1A Ale Works serves up craft cocktails, local brews and a variety of Caribbean, Cuban and Florida-influenced cuisine on the scenic bayfront.

“Everything we do is handmade and fresh,” says bartender Nicole Bartek, who has been at the restaurant for more than 11 years. “It’s the direction we’ve been going in forever – even before it became the popular thing to do.”

Inspired by the city she’s lived in for most of her life, Bartek has created a Minorcan Mary. A play on the classic Sunday brunch cocktail using local ingredients like St. Augustine Distillery’s Florida Cane Vodka and a datil pepper-infused Bloody Mary mix, the Minorcan Mary has a sweet kick to it.

“Every restaurant needs a ‘Wow!’ Bloody Mary,” says Bartek. “They aren’t just for Sunday morning, although it’s the first thing people want when they come in on the weekends. We serve our new Minorcan Mary all day and night. It’s a great way to introduce guests to the local datil pepper.”

The Minorcan Mary pairs perfectly with A1A Ale Works’ Caprese &Pesto Risotto Tots for a weekend snack or pre-meal starter.

“The mozzarella cheese risotto showcases how well the balsamic vinegar and tomatoes go together as well as the nice balance of the arugula and pesto,” says Chef Anthony Hagans, who came to the restaurant a little over a year ago.

“I’ve worked all over the country from Key West to Washington State to Boston and have a background in sustainability,” he explains. “A1A is focusing on local produce and working with area purveyors for the freshest ingredients we can get.”

Minorcan Mary

1.5 oz. St. Augustine Distillery Florida Cane Vodka

4.25 oz. Bloody Mary mix infused with datil peppers

DIRECTIONS: Combine the vodka and Bloody Mary mix and shake in a tin with ice. Pour into a large glass filled with ice. Splash datil sauce over the top and garnish with shrimp, olives, celery, and a lime wedge. Sprinkle datil rub over the garnish.

Caprese &Pesto Risotto Tots


To make the Fresh Mozzarella Risotto:

4.5 cups chicken stock

¼ cup butter, unsalted

½ cup minced yellow onions

1.5 cup Arborio rice

1 cup white wine

½ cup fresh mozzarella, diced ¼-inch

2 Tbsp. minced green onions

½ cup chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS: In medium saucepot, on medium heat, add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. In a large saucepot, on medium heat, add butter and melt. Add onions and cook until they become translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add Arborio rice and stir until rice is completely coated. Increase to medium high heat and add white wine. Cook, stirring continuously until wine is absorbed. Add approximately one cup of chicken stock, stirring until absorbed. Continue adding stock, one cup at a time until all stock has been added, stirring constantly. Remove risotto from heat and add mozzarella, green onions and basil. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet tray. Using a spatula, spread risotto across tray, ensuring an even cool. Cool using two-stage cooling process. Cool risotto for two hours before using.

To form Risotto Tots:

DIRECTIONS: On a parchment-lined sheet tray, evenly spray with pan spray. Evenly spray Matfer 1-inch plastic circle cutter with pan spray. Using gloved hands, place 1 ounce of fresh mozzarella risotto in circle cutter. Press down, making sure risotto is evenly formed into a cake. Place evenly on sheet trays. Cover with plastic sheet tray lid. Place covered sheet trays into the freezer.

To make Arugula-Basil Pesto:

½ cup chopped basil

1.5 cups Arugula

1.5 oz. toasted walnuts

¼ cup chopped fresh garlic

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

¾ cup olive oil

salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS: Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. In a small saucepot, add all ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Reduce by 3/4. Use a bamboo skewer to mark start level and 3/4 level. Remove from heat and strain through strainer. Cool using two-stage cooling process. Transfer to squeeze bottle.

Caprese &Pesto Risotto Tots:

5 Caprese Risotto Tots

1.5 oz. Arugula-Basil Pesto

1 Tbsp. Balsamic Wine Reductions

15 cherry tomatoes, halved

DIRECTIONS: Place caprese risotto tots in fryer basket. Fry at 350 degrees until golden and crisp, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from fryer and drain, approximately 10 seconds. Spread arugula-basil pesto in a teardrop pattern. Zig-zag balsamic wine reduction across plate. Evenly place caprese risotto tots across plate. Randomly place cherry tomatoes halves on plate.

NOTE: The two-stage cooling method is an FDA Food Code recommended procedure for cooling food in restaurants and foodservice establishments. In the two-stage cooling method, food must be cooled from 140° F to 70° F within two hours and to 41° F or lower within four hours. Use of this cooling method ensures that food is cooled quickly and safely.