Al Fresco Biancaniello

  Apricot Manhattan (Blenheim apricot bourbon, vermouth, bitters) and #11 (tequila, lovage, concord grapes, shallot flower, scorpion salt).

Apricot Manhattan (Blenheim apricot bourbon, vermouth, bitters) and #11 (tequila, lovage, concord grapes, shallot flower, scorpion salt).

Last summer, the bar at Cliff's Edge was my Cheers. Each Wednesday, after shimmying across the street at the Sweat Spot, my amiga, Shanna, and I would gather fellow dancers for post-class rehydration. Some athletes choose Gatorade. Others opt for coconut water; we came to witness the wizardry of Matthew Biancaniello.

  Lost in Laos (gin, kaffir lime, almond milk, green chartreuse, ginger) and #7 (papalo gin, lemon cucumber huacatay, ginger, blueberry juice.) 

Lost in Laos (gin, kaffir lime, almond milk, green chartreuse, ginger) and #7 (papalo gin, lemon cucumber huacatay, ginger, blueberry juice.) 

Having fallen for the botanical bartender at Library Bar, I was tickled to find his pop-up in my Eastside 'hood.  What Matt creates--artistic concoctions bursting with fruit, flowers, and herbs--aren't just drinks. They are lessons in produce vocabulary: mouse melons, lovage, purslane. They are mutli-sensory beverages, like the scallion flower that tickles your nose each time you sip his tequila & grape combo.   Unlike some of the mixology maestros out there, Matt's cocktails aren't fussy. They are plucked-from-the-garden pure: candy cap mushroom bourbon, smoked tomato gin, bamboo shoot rum. You can understand why Biancaniello's Instagram handle is @eatyourdrink. Matt's bar became my cocktail classroom; each visit an education of the new, from the alcoholic (Chareau aloe liquor) to the edible (the Mexican herb, papalo). Like the passionfruit in his Westside garden, our friendship blossomed. Then, September came, and Matt left to have twins while I moved to Seattle to be close to mine. 

  Clover Club (cold pressed Clover juice, lime, agave, tequila, olive oil) and foraged currant cocktail.

Clover Club (cold pressed Clover juice, lime, agave, tequila, olive oil) and foraged currant cocktail.

Tomorrow, school is IN for the summer with Matt's return to Cliff's Edge. This time, it is Biancaniello, Al Fresco. The enigmatic mixmaster will hold court on the idyllic back patio, a fitting setting for his garden-fresh drinks. Bring your best buds or come solo. At Matt's bar, conversation is encouraged and all are friends, connected by the common language of cocktails. Save a seat for me...