The Art of Cocktail Pairing

In the Kitchen with Munch at Apartment3 and Mixologist Joey Gottesman

Text by Bridget Mullen


Images by John Hook

I have to admit, when I heard the next Munch was celebrating the food of France, I was a little concerned. Especially since the closest I have ever been to this European cuisine is le french fry. Of course, I had nothing to worry about. Munch did to me what it has done to the vast majority of its past patrons: It left my mind intrigued and educated, my body satisfied and (a little) tipsy, and my taste buds blown away and yearning for more.

Munch – an Apartment3 culinary adventure that pairs gourmet 3-course meals with flavor-complementing cocktails for a taste-tantalizing experience – is a product of the combined efforts of Apartment3 executive chef James Lewis, who creates the set menus using his culinary expertise, and Better Brands master mixologist Joey Gottesman, who tailors each cocktail to complement its corresponding dish. The result is a thrill ride of innovative pairings that manipulate the flavor profiles of each food and drink.

French Munch was no exception. Mmmm …The way the sweet and sugary ginger Bordeaux cocktail toned down the rich and creamy curry mussel mouclade … Or how the invisible dark-chocolate martini joined the tart raspberry sorbet to recall the world’s love affair with this fruit-and-candy combination. Everything came together for a meal that was, as the French say, “Really fucking good!”

After filling up on French fare (not to mention a few memorable cocktails), FLUX caught up with the mix man of Munch to discuss tequila suicides, Apartment3, and the art of the perfect drink.


So Joey, what exactly is a mixologist?

A fancy term for a very experienced bartender. The person who creates the signature or specialized cocktails for the bar. Or maybe another word for a kick-ass DJ?

How do you develop a new drink?

There are no new drinks! Yikes, bold statement! But, there are variations and techniques that take existing drinks to the next level. I always start off with the base of a drink, like a Bloody Mary, and then I slot in and out different flavor profiles to create a tasty base. So instead of Tabasco for heat, I’d use Sriracha, and in the case of horseradish, I’d use wasabi. Then to fortify the drink, I could switch to TY KU soju, Bombay Sapphire or even a great tequila instead of the usual vodka. It’s not a new drink. It’s just a twist that delivers a completely different flavor profile, mouth-feel and finish.

How do you name your cocktail creations?

I’m really bad at naming drinks, so I usually stick to the components. Like if I don’t want to say, “mojito,” it would be an “herbaceous citrus and rum sparkler.”

Describe the art of pairing cocktails with food.

The pairing comes in the flexibility of manipulating flavor profiles, acidity and balance to work with the protein or sauce. Sometimes the cocktails are great on their own, but their brilliance comes out when they are drank with the food they are paired with. It’s like how a good table wine is OK on its own, but eat some cheese and fruit with it, and it moves to a whole new level.



Why does something like Munch work well at a place like Apartment3?

Apartment3 continues to be pioneering and innovative for the nightclub and restaurant scene in Honolulu. The venue itself is intimate and cozy, fun and unpretentious. Munch has created a cult following of diehard foodies and cocktail aficionados.

How do you come up with a Munch menu?

In a nutshell, the chef comes up with the menu, and then I create interesting drinks that complement or contrast the flavors in the dishes.

What has been your favorite Munch so far?

Tequila Munch was my favorite. It really crushed the paradigms that most people think tequila cocktails are all about.

And your favorite drink?

The Tennessee mai tai, a complicated cocktail that contains Jack Daniels poured over the rocks.

Since you get so creative with your cocktails, do you find simple drinks boring?

The brilliance of a simple cocktail comes from making it properly. A beautiful manhattan, the cosmopolitan, or a properly made margarita are absolutely delicious when made perfectly. That’s not boring at all.

What are some common flavors that go well together?

Jack Daniels and Cheerios, Grey Goose and everything. Oh! And of course loco moco with a large fruit punch.

What is the craziest cocktail you’ve ever made?

Squid-ink martini, clarified quail-fat cocktail and, of course, the smoked mai tai.

What’s the craziest drink you’ve ever had?

On my 21st birthday, I had a Tequila Suicide: Sniff the salt, shoot the tequila, squeeze the lime in your eye.

Get you Munch on every fourth Thursday. Call Apartment3 to reserve your spot at 808-955-9300 or visit

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