Lefty’s Grill now serves cocktails to go with its imaginative dinner menu

On Valentine’s Day, Lefty’s Grill in Nevada City began serving cocktails to go with its imaginative dinner menu, another milestone in its eight-year history. This week we visited with Chef John Cammack, a co-owner and one of the “left handed chefs,” at the popular Nevada City restaurant to discuss the cocktail program, as well as tour a new 1,200-square-foot street-level dining room, which is a major addition. It was an informal, friendly gathering in a comfortable nook: We were joined by our son and John’s mom, who is a Nevada City resident.

My wife and I sampled some of the cocktails — an Old-Fashioned; Darjeeling Gin on the rocks, an award-winning gin from an Auburn distillery that we have written about; and a Moscow Mule. We also ate dinner, enjoying the “blue plate special” of homemade lamb stew with vegetables and a new Butternut, Broccolini and Goat Cheese pizza made with fresh ingredients. Our son ate the “El Paso” burger (avocado, habanero jack, and chipolte aioli).

John and co-owner Chris Duncan have wanted to acquire a liquor license for years, so they were glad when one became available. “We’ve always wanted one, and our regular guests often have asked for a Margarita or other cocktail before dinner.”

John and Chris (AKA “the two lefty’s”) have hired an experienced and personable bartender named Paul Sorensen to manage the bar program and work as the bartender. Paul also is on his way to becoming a certified sommelier. He has worked in places such as Harry Denton’s Starlight Room in San Francisco, the Eno wine bar at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, and Gar Woods in Lake Tahoe. At the Ritz Carlton, he learned the bar and wine trade under Ian Cauble, well known and one of the world’s youngest master sommeliers. “I learned the nuances of mixing different liquors, as well as what to look for in wines,” says Paul.

We enjoyed the drinks. Paul is a creative “mixologist,” using fresh fruits and herbs and syrups that are made from scratch. John makes the Bloody Mary mix, which includes fresh tomato juice, lime, lemon, carrot, celery, fennel seed, celery seed, horseradish and fresh ground jalapeños.

The bar includes “well” drinks (typically $7) and top-shelf liquors, such as Kettle One vodka, High West bourbon, Camarena Gold tequila, or Darjeeling gin, for $2 more. A dirty martini goes for $7. The cocktail menu is still being finalized.

We also enjoyed touring the new street-level dining room. It is imaginatively decorated and has views of Deer Creek and the historic downtown. John also told us he plans to enter the Butternut, Broccolini and Goat cheese pizza that we tried at the World Pizza Challenge in Las Vegas next month. Lefty’s Napa-style pizza (with olive oil, mozzarella cheese, sliced pear, gorgonzola, balsamic and fresh herbs) was a winner in 2009.

You can read more about Lefty’s expansion in our upcoming spring issue.

(Photo: Lefty’s bar program manager Paul Sorensen with Cosmos)

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