The merest hint of a showdown excites Sarasotans, almost as much as the threat of a hurricane or the promise of free food. With this in mind we entered the film noir-like bar at Michael’s on East this week to try the innocuously-named Green Tea Martini. The drink in question is at the center of a debate between Brad Coburn, owner and resident mixologist at the innovative and chic Pangea Lounge, and Michael Klauber, proprietor of the locally-revered Michael’s On East.
Coburn is credited with the original recipe of the cocktail he named the "The Chi Tea Martini," which was entered into a St. Germain liquor contest and showcased last September at The Polo Grill in Lakewood Ranch for the Can-Can Cocktail Classic. In an article in the Ticket, Coburn was surprised to see what appeared to him to be a plagiarized version of his drink featured as a creation by Michelle O’Keefe and Kelly Taylor. Coburn commented below the article in a direct message to his fellow bartenders appealing to their sense of honor, and asked that the drink be removed from the menu or credited to its inventor. Klauber responded to this missive with one of his own, explaining that while his bartenders had indeed been inspired by Coburn's cocktail, they did "add their own twist to the drink."
Coburn countered this claim by changing the name of his cocktail to "Not Michael’s Twist (The Original)," and he is quick to explain that, contrary to appearances, he does not want a fight. He contends that he is offended by the perceived plagiarism and not by the alleged homage, stating, “I feel honored that they were inspired by the immensely popular Chi Tea Martini at Pangea Lounge. The concept of the lounge is exactly that, to inspire all ‘liquid chefs’ in our industry to push the envelope by creating a plethora of original concoctions seasonally.” Coburn goes on to point out that he does not see the difference in the two drink recipes. Both list their ingredients as "London Dry Gin, St. Germain, Green Tea, and Grapefruit Juice." Klauber has offered to remove the cocktail from his martini list at the next menu change, and says that he understands how Coburn feels.
“I do appreciate your concern as I had the original recipe for the first Espresso Martini published in the 1998 Summer Cocktails book," he said. "As we all know, now there are hundreds of variations of it all over the world.”
Both Pangea Lounge and Michael’s on East are personal favorites. We love to sit around the piano at Michael’s and drink a cocktail while listening to Joe Micals croon Billy Joel; and we love to pore over the drink menu at Pangea, sitting at one the most visually arresting bars in Sarasota and sampling the audacious concoctions. We’ve tried both versions of the martini, and while we do have a favorite we’re not going to tell you which it is---rather, we invite you to go to both establishments and try this unique and controversial libation and tell us which YOU prefer …