by: Amanda Savage
Fox Restaurant Concept, Little Cleo’s Seafood Legend, opened earlier this month in north central Phoenix at The Yard. The restaurant is reminiscent of a contemporary west coast hidden gem, like something you would find along a boardwalk in a foodie town, that parallels the Pacific coastline.
Although positive rants regarding its seafood flood review sites — and rightfully so, its seafood follows the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Program, which promotes healthy ocean eco-systems — food only accounts for half the menu at Cleo’s. Wine on tap, spirits, good beer and royales create a unique and exciting alcohol selection.
The champagne based cocktail, the royale, is something unique that Mat Snapp, mixologist for Fox Restaurant Concepts, wanted to bring to the Little Cleo’s menu. This light, refreshing, low-alcohol drink is perfect for summer, so AFM thought to learn more about it.
AFM: What’s the history and origins of the beverage?
Mat: The French aristocracy took an easy to drink and affordable peasant beverage, Kir, and swapped out white wine from Burgundy for champagne. The new combination was named Kir Royal. Since then, royal or royale has become synonymous with replacing an ingredient with sparkling wine. For example, an Americano is comprised of Campari, vermouth and soda water, while an Americano Royal uses champagne in place of soda water. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that a mimosa is an OJ Royale, but an amusing argument could be made for it.
AFM: How should a person order it? What are some tips and tricks of what makes a good vs. a bad royale?
Mat: The best way to go is with a Kir Royale. The key to a good royale is matching the flavors and keeping everything balanced. Blackberry and cinnamon go well together. Pineapple and blood orange go well together. The crisper the wine, the less acid you’ll need from your citrus. The sweetness of your liqueurs dictates how much additional sweetness you’ll need from sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.
AFM: What are the key ingredients that make it different from other, similar beverages?
Mat: When I built the six royales for Little Cleo’s, the idea was to take iconic aperitifs and use them for their intended purpose – to arouse the guest’s palate – something that says, “Well, hello there. Aren’t you delightful”?
Aperitifs are meant to be refreshing and relaxing – a gentle type of flavor calisthenics, if you will. The difference between these and other cocktails with sparkling wine is that there are lower alcohol levels. These are meant to celebrate the start of a dining event, not gear up for a night of clubbing or skinny-dipping.
AFM: Why is this a great summer drink?
Mat: There are so many reasons. First, it’s not too boozy, so you can have a couple without revealing any embarrassing secrets or body parts. Second, cold sparkling cocktails were made for hot days – they’re crisp, refreshing, and easy to make. Lastly, this is a great cocktail for entertaining. Make the equal parts recipe for the lime, sage, and honey ahead of time and let your guests pour their own mix and champagne in a 1:2 ratio. Easy.
AFM: What’s a great royale recipe to make at home?
Mat: I can’t seem to get enough of the Sage & Honeysuckle Royale from Little Cleo’s. Sage is such an interesting flavor sensation and the folks at Art in the Age really nailed it. If you’re making it at home, use equal parts fresh lime juice, Sage Liqueur, and honey syrup (5:1 honey:water). Mix it all together, give it all a quick shake, and top it with ice-cold sparkling wine. Garnish with a fresh cut lime peel.
Little Cleo’s Seafood Legend
5632 N. 7th St. Suite 120
Follow Amanda on Twitter @Amanda_Savage