In communities around the country, bar chefs are the newest rock stars. Creative cocktails can make bar profits soar, and if you want patrons to say, “I’ll have another,” offer a savory accompaniment.
“Salty, spicy foods get people to drink more,” says Aaron Brown, chef-instructor at the Culinary Institute of America.
“That’s the reason we have bar snacks.”
An ambitious bar program calls for more than stale pretzels. Spiced California pistachios can add class to your bar menu, and you can alter the seasoning to fit your culinary style or to complement a featured drink.
Chef Brown uses in-shell pistachios tossed with beaten egg white to help the seasonings adhere. Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, there’s nowhere these spiced nuts can’t go.
Play around with the popular smoked salts, Maldon flaked salt, and truffle salt. Sugar works, too, so consider some sweet-and-spicy combinations. Chef Brown suggests date sugar and Aleppo pepper. “Sugar sticks to the egg white and gets the other spices to stick,” says Chef Brown. “And you can feel comfortable upping the heat because the sugar offsets it.”
Housemade charcuterie—aka salumi—is also raising the bar at the bar these days. Count on bright green pistachios to enhance your charcuterie’s eye appeal. Incorporate whole nuts in pâtés and terrines, in mortadella and duck sausage. Sprinkle crunchy chopped nuts on creamy chicken liver mousse or pork rillettes.
Even if your bar scene is limited to wine and beer, pistachios can still boost the tab. Nothing surpasses the elegant simplicity of in-shell pistachios and sparkling wine. And with buttery Chardonnay, pistachios are as compatible as bread with jam. Spread pistachio butter on crostini for an easy Chardonnay-friendly bar snack. Grassy herbs like tarragon and dill make the link to Sauvignon Blanc—or make stuffed dolmas with dill and pistachios. Scent pistachios with woody herbs like rosemary and thyme to complement red wines such as Syrah and Zinfandel. And when pistachios get spicy, look to craft beer. Chef Robert Del Grande’s Pistachio Guacamole calls for a crisp, refreshing Pilsner. With sweet-and-spicy coated nuts, pour a sweet and spicy Belgian dubbel.