Rachel Ford

Text by Eileen Chiang

It is rumored that Graydon Carter used to spend his late afternoons in the offices of Vanity Fair carefully curating the private-line only reservations and seating arrangements of his A-list guests at his Midtown power lounge, Monkey Bar. The storied bar and restaurant has since allowed its exclusivity to ebb, though someone famous may still be found in the rear banquette surveying the more plebeian crowds of today.

The shift is largely due to a ‘personnel remodeling’ of sorts that included the recruitment of managing partner Ken Friedman of The Breslin and The Spotted Pig, cocktail director Julie Reiner, of Clover Club and Lani Kai, and chef Damon Wise, the former executive chef of Craft. Mr. Friedman’s guidance has “turned [Monkey Bar] into a refined but relaxed dining room,” according to a review by The New York Times’ Eric Asimov last December. With the help of the new team, Mr. Carter’s Monkey Bar—and bartender Rachel Ford’s impeccably executed classic cocktails—can be enjoyed by all. Wonderful shrimp cocktails and steak tartares aside, Mrs. Ford’s cocktails are the true reason to venture into the monkey’s den.

The Sacramento native rules from behind the dark wooden bar and among Edward Sorel’s sprawling Jazz Age mural—and a few brass monkeys—with refreshing and inspiring twists on America’s favorite cocktails of yore. Mrs. Ford honors the past (Mr. Sorel’s mural depicts no less than 60 human idols such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and George Gershwin) with savvy nuance and sublime technique. And while she originally set out in real estate, a few fortuitous turns soon found her true calling to be behind the bar, the innately talented mixologist honing her skills at some of San Francisco’s most respected cocktail establishments, such as The Rickhouse, where she quickly took to integrating fresh produce and herbs into heritage recipes and developed her signature style.

Together with her husband, fellow mixologist Kyle Ford, she founded Ford Mixology Lab, a cocktail consultancy firm serving the New York’s finest restaurants and bars, providing entertaining and instructive videos on their website, fordmixologylab.com. Most recently, Mrs. Ford beat out hundreds of top competitors at the North American Cocktail Challenge, and went on to compete in the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge in Trinidad.

As a Brand Ambassador for Tanqueray Gin, Rachel shared her personal creation, Strawberry Fields, currently featured on Monkey Bar’s Spring 2012 cocktail menu.

Strawberry Fields
Recipe by Rachel Ford

1.5 oz Tanqueray Gin
1.5 oz Carpano Antica Formula
.75 oz fresh lemon juice
.25 oz Demerara syrup
1 bar spoon Luxardo Maraschino cherry liqueur
1 strawberry, halved
Club Soda

Muddle strawberry and Demerara syrup in shaker tin. Add spirits and ice, shake. Double strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice. Top with Club Soda and garnish with a lemon wheel and strawberry slice.

“This cocktail was inspired by the classic Martinez cocktail and the Tom Collins. I combined elements of the Martinez with those of a Collins and added fresh fruit.” – Rachel Ford