When approaching a cocktail menu from Nic Taylor, don’t scan for a familiar favorite. Instead, let your eyes linger on the unfamiliar ingredients, like makgeolli and Calpico—both of which you’ll find in just one drink at Kobi-Q Sushi in Westport.
“I do abstract painting, and when you’re painting in an abstract style, you let the paint speak for itself and come together on its own,” Taylor says. “When I start to design a menu, I start similarly: I have a general theme, I think about what the customers need, and I let ingredients guide me.”
Negroni lovers will leap at the Itameshi-ni, a balancing act of Roku Japanese gin, soju and Taylor’s own Italian amaro blend. The K-Pop Lover is as fun as it sounds: Haku (Japanese vodka made from white rice) meets Korean makgeolli, a rice-based alcohol with a wild streak of effervescence and funk. Calpico—a sweet and tangy yogurt-based drink popular in Japan—also makes an appearance alongside fresh lime juice and electric blue curaçao.
“A lot of cocktail bars are very pretentious when it comes to vodka,” Taylor says. “I think vodka is actually the best ingredient to work with because it lets everything else shine.”
The Kobi-Q restaurants are Taylor’s first as a consultant. For the last four years, he was the lead bartender at SoT in the Crossroads. In April, Taylor left SoT to take up residence behind the bar at Westport’s Julep, where he is refreshing the cocktail list. Taylor is leaning on soju, a clear Korean spirit distilled from rice, as the inspiration for Kobi-Q Sushi’s summer menu. He plans to stock it in several flavors—green grape, grapefruit, plum, strawberry—and offer a flight of soju spritzes.
“Soju is the bestselling spirit on the planet, more so than Budweiser,” he says. “It’s not super popular here yet, but people that know about it really love it.”