You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘New York City bars’ category.
Once again, I joined the masses, the cocktail masses, that is, in New York City for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. And once again, I had a fabulous weekend. There were familiar friends and new faces, the laughs seemed endless, and of course, there were more cocktails than I can (or care to) count. This year my adventures took me all over NYC from the Gala at the NY Public Library to the Lower East Side then to Queens and Brooklyn and then back to the upper West Side. Here are some moments and cocktails that stand out amongst the rest:
My MCC experience began Friday evening at Napoleon House—a penthouse suite party at the Andaz Hotel hosted by Mandarine Napoleon. With the bar manned by the fabulous San Francisco bar trio known as The Bon Vivants, the party was the perfect way to kick off the weekend. I mean, who doesn’t want to hang out on an 11th floor balcony sipping delicious cocktails? Look at the view:
Josh, Steve and Alex, The Bon Vivants, are super nice and mixed up some great drinks. Mandarine Napoleon, is new to me. Although I recently got a bottle, I haven’t experimented much with it. Well, now I know what to do. The Leroi Crusta, my first official cocktail of MCC 2012, with its combination of sweet, tart, spicy ginger, and bitter Fernet, stands out.
Leroi Crusta (created by The Bon Vivants, San Francisco)
1 ½ oz Mandarine Napoleon
½ oz Fernet Branca
1 oz lemon juice
½ oz ginger syrup
Shake and serve over crushed ice with a sugar rimmed glass.
Yes, Angostura is a classic that can be found on just about every bar, even the home bar of a cocktail neophyte, but sometimes we need a little reminding of the wonders of something right in front of our eyes. As sponsors of the “Official Bar” at the Andaz, home base for industry folks (a new feature to this year’s festivities), Angostura showcased the versatility of this venerable bar staple in both cocktails and food. I took the taste test and agreed that a gin and tonic is improved by Angostura. And it is also good in brunch classics, hello, biscuits and Hollandaise. One of my favorite drinks of the weekend was the Angostura Eye Opener, the perfect cocktail to get us going after Friday night’s gala.
Angostura Eye Opener
1 ½ oz white peach puree
½ oz Aperol
¼ oz St. Germain
2 dashes Angostura orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters
Mix over ice. Strain into a flute and top with 4 oz sparkling wine.
Experimental Cocktail Club
We took a break from MCC events Saturday night and made our way down to the Lower East Side to the newly opened Experimental Cocktail Club. Inspired by its European counterparts, the vibe is comfortable, sophisticated, cool. The hospitality is fantastic—and I’m not just saying that because my friend CoCo took excellent care of us.
One of the best and most interesting things I drank all weekend was the Mancora that I had at ECC. [The entire menu looks amazing, we sampled five drinks, but I wish we had more stamina and could have tried the entire lot. Next visit to NYC, I will definitely make another visit.] The Mancora was made with Chai Roiboos-infused La Diablada Pisco, Malbec wine syrup, lime juice, Dolin Rouge sweet vermouth, and a Fernet rinse. I admit on the menu this drink looked to be a bit much—how would all those flavors work together? But CoCo suggested I get it and I was not at all disappointed. It was earthly and rich, slightly tart and herbally. Really unique. Really delicious.
Hendrick’s Gin at Dutch Kills
Our Sunday began in Queens at Dutch Kills for a Behind the Bar event. We were greeted by owner Richard Boccato, grabbed seats at the back bar and were quickly shaken a delicious Harvard Veritas, a yummy Sidecar variation with Hendrick’s (the event’s sponsor), Combier, lemon and a barspoon of Cassis. We then heard a bit about the story of how Dutch Kills came to be, an overview with tastings of the components that make up Hendrick’s gin from Jim Ryan (who I should note has been nominated for a Spirit Award at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail for Best International Spirits Rep), and quite a bit about ice from Zac Gelnaw-Rubin of Hundred Weight Ice, whose shop is next door to Dutch Kills.
1 ½ oz Hendrick’s gin
1 oz Combier
½ oz lemon
Barspoon of Cassis
Shake over ice. Strain into coupe.
These highlights just scratch the surface of the many delicious cocktails and good times had—wait, I just remembered our cab ride up the West Side Highway singing “And She Was” by Talking Heads. Best cab driver ever! Until next year MCC, Cheers!
While in New York City last week for a museum education conference, I managed to find some time to view a few fantastic museum exhibits and sip quite a few delicious cocktails. The most interesting bar visit of the week was to Booker and Dax. Opened just two months, this bar-meets-science lab is the latest addition to David Chang’s empire. Located in the space formerly occupied by Milk Bar (which is now across the street) behind Momofuko Ssam Bar, Booker and Dax is the result of Chang partnering with David Arnold, the French Culinary Institute’s director of culinary technology. Here traditional bartending is taken to a new level using innovative techniques that not only dazzle but that also have real purpose.
The menu is organized into the following categories: Bubbles, Red Hot Poker, Stirred, Shaken, and On the Rock. Starting with Bubbles– these are not your typical sparkling cocktails. Instead, these bubbly libations are made with juices and spirits that have been clarified in a centrifuge and then carbonated with Co2. Like with all the chilled drinks, the champagne flute is first chilled with liquid nitrogen, yes, liquid nitrogen. Since I am in love with Chartreuse, I had to have the Chartruth which combines the herbal French liqueur with lime juice.
It is not just technique that makes the drinks at Booker and Dax stand-out. The menu features many unique and intriguing ingredients. For example, using a rotary vaporator, the staff are able to distill just about anything. I sampled the distilled horseradish—the tiny, intense drop brought tears to my eyes upon it touching my tongue. This potent liquid is a key ingredient in the Lady of the Night, a Blood Mary-inspired cocktail made with reposado tequila, clarified tomato water, distilled horseradish, sriracha, and Worcestershire sauce. The pistachio syrup also blew my mind. Made in a process similar to orgeat, this sweet intense pistachio flavor, features prominently in the Mustachi-Ode where it is combined with Nardini amaro, Becherovka, Wild Turkey and an egg white. Our bartender Dana got creative with it– my friend Brian fell in love with a Trinidad Sour variation made with this deliciously nutty-sweet syrup.
So, what about these Red Hot Pokers? Following in the tradition of colonial American barkeeps, these drinks are made by sticking a rod with a built-in 1,500-degree heater that was created by David Arnold into the cocktail. This not only heats the drink, but it also serves to caramelize the sugars in the spirits while burning off some of the alcohol vapors, thus changing the flavor of the ingredients. I went off menu for my red hot poker with a delicious creation of bar manager Tristan Willey that combined Rittenhouse Rye, Fernet Branca, ginger syrup and lime juice.
Last but not least, its worth mentioning that the bar snacks, though a limited menu, are pretty good. I mean, you can’t go wrong with David Chang’s pork buns, and even though I’m not quite sure what they are exactly, the ham chips are incredible.
So, if you want to see how unique techniques can be used not just for showmanship, but to enhance the cocktail experience, Booker and Dax is the place to be. Cheers!
I have been spending the last few weeks making my way through the recipes in the NYTimes summer drinks section which has meant sipping some wonderfully delicious drinks that are refreshing, citrusy and herbally—ideal qualities for a summer cocktail, in my opinion. My favorite so far is Italia Libera, created by Chaim Dauermann of ‘inoteca e liquori bar in New York City.
An adaption of the Cuba Libre (take out the lime juice and you have the ever-popular Rum and Coke), this highball combines an amaro, Ramazzotti to be specific, with the 150 proof Wray and Nephew rum for an Italian-inspired variation. Chaim explained his inspiration to me, “I was trying to emulate the flavors of a ‘rum and Coke’ while classing it up a bit.” He added that a friend’s reference to Ramazzotti as “the Coca-Cola of amari” factored into his Italian version the classic Cuba Libre. Although I cannot quite remember the last time I had a rum and Coke (I vaguely remember a Halloween party about 10 years ago in which I fear one too many were consumed), I can attest to the fact that while the general flavor may be familiar this is something entirely different. It is the perfect drink to sip lakeside (which I did the last two weekends) or even to enjoy while suffering through household chores (which I did yesterday).
1 oz Wray and Nephew white rum
1 oz Ramazzotti amaro
¼ oz lemon juice
¾ oz simple syrup
Combine the rum, Ramazzotti, lemon juice and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a highball glass over fresh ice, top with seltzer and garnish with the lime wedge.
“We’re not serving you drinks. We’re serving you an experience.” This is how owner Tony Abou-Ganim introduced us to the premise behind the small, bright, Italian-inspired ‘inoteca e liqouri bar. When Jeff and I selected this as one of our Stories from Behind the Bar events for this year’s Manhattan Cocktail Classic, we had no idea what to expect. We didn’t know anything about the place, but were drawn by the focus on amaro, those delicious Italian bitter liqueurs I’ve been slightly obsessed since my fall trip to Milano. We made a very good choice! In the able hands of bar manager Chaim Dauermann and his staff, the amaro of the day—Ramazzotti– was shaken, stirred, and even combined with an egg to produce some wonderfully delicious cocktails.
The event was sponsored by Ramazzotti—surprisingly, an amaro that I had yet tried. The charming Konstantin Prochorowski (of The Experimental Bar in London) better known as Coco, shared a bit about the brand history and formula. Developed in 1815 in Milano by a pharmacist, Ramazzotti combines 33 different ingredients including bitter orange peel, cinnamon, cardamom, mint, vanilla, ginger, and cloves. I found it to be a bit less bitter and an easier flavor than other amaro like Zucca or Fernet Branca. It was good sipped on its own, with soda over ice, and in a variety of cocktail styles ranging from a punch with black tea to a flip.
Of the many cocktails we imbibed, my favorite was Howick Hall, which is a regular on the ‘inoteca menu. I loved the combination of the herbals of both the Ramazzotti and the gin, the nutty Maraschino and the brightness the lemon juice added. Really delicious!
Howick Hall (created by Chaim Dauermann)
1 oz Ramazzotti
1 oz gin (Breuckelen)
2/3 oz lemon juice
1/3 simple syrup
¼ oz Luxardo Maraschino
dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters
Our final drink of the event was the Ramazzotti Flip, created by bartender Will. (Sorry, I didn’t catch his last name. I may have been distracted by his cuteness and all that cocktail shaking he was doing.) I have come to appreciate flips as a decadent, rich ending to a flight of cocktails. The Ramazzotti and a strong citrus grappa Nardini Acqua di Cedro held up quite nicely with the egg.
In my opinion, these Stories from Behind the Bar events are the best part of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. As with the other such events I went to the gracious hospitality of the people hosting these equals the quality of the cocktails and is what really make them memorable. As Tony started off the event by saying, “We’re not serving you drinks. We’re serving you an experience.”
And our afternoon at ‘inoteca e liquori bar was a fabulous experience. Cheers!
After a slow morning of recovering from the Manhattan Cocktail Classic’s Gala, Brian, Jeff and I made our way to our first Stories from Behind the Bar event at Flatiron Lounge. We walked in and were graciously greeted by the one and only Julie Reiner. While we sipped a Champagne cocktail Reiner explained that when she opened Flatiron in 2003 she was looking to make good cocktails accessible to all New Yorkers, not just those who had access to the secret speakeasies of the time. This short video captures her introduction. (Watch closely– you may catch a glimpse of my profile.)
Once Flatiron was established, she would go on to open Clover Club in Brooklyn (a personal favorite) and Lani Kai (which I have not been to yet) and to foster the careers of some of New York’s most popular bartenders and establishment owners. Put simply to explain her goals, Reiner said, “I wanted to give people something interesting in a glass.” And that she does.
The foundation of the cocktail program at Flatiron, a menu that changes four times a year, is both classic recipes and the inspiration that flows from that liquid history. The bar itself dates to 1927 and once graced The Ballroom, a popular Rat Pack hang-out in Brooklyn. Along with the striking mirror from the Algonquin Hotel that greets you when you enter, the bar adds an authentic vintage setting for the delicious cocktails.
The event was sponsored by Angostura bitters, so all of our drinks would feature the cocktail staple (and we’d go home with many a mini-bottle of the stuff). Following our Champagne Cocktail, I was delighted by the Trinidad Especial, a variation on the Trinidad Sour. Featuring a full ounce of Angostura, combined with orgeat, lemon and in this variation Pisco (instead of rye), this drink leans heavily toward flavors I find comforting—cinnamon, clove, almond, and citrus.
1 oz Angostura bitters
1 oz orgeat
2/3 oz lemon juice
1/3 oz Pisco Mistral
Shake over ice. Strain and serve with lemon twist.
Our palettes continued to be delighted as the afternoon went on. While discussing the various curative properties of Angostura and bitters in general, KJ mixed us a classic Manhattan, both with and without bitters to illustrate the importance of their presence. We then sampled a Manhattan variation created by Reiner called The Slope which adds a bit of apricot liqueur and is named for her Brooklyn neighborhood.
Finally Ryan McGrail (a native Bostonian, so of course I have a soft spot for him) got behind the stick and mixed up a Head South, a delicious rum swizzle created by Tonia Guffey (one of the other fabulous Flatiron bartenders that we met). A variation of a Bermuda Swizzle, this drinks combines Bacardi rum, grapefruit, lemon, pineapple, and orgeat and is topped with an Angostura float. I love swizzles!
I really enjoy these Stories from Behind the Bar events. It is a great opportunity to learn from the creative minds of familiar and unfamiliar (stay tuned for my account of my other such event) bars and to sip delicious cocktails. We learned how new cocktail recipes are developed, what its like to tend bar at a crazy popular bar, all sorts of medicinal uses of Angostura (I’ve always know cocktails are in fact good for your health), and that Flatiron is a pretty great bar.
Thank you to Julie, Ryan, KJ, Tonia, and Angostura for a fabulously delicious afternoon. Cheers!
After a day of post-Thankgiving art viewing and shopping, Brian, Jeff and I escaped the hubbub of Manhattan and ventured out to Long Island City in Queens to Dutch Kills. The minute I walked in the door, I knew this was my kind of place.
The spacious bar has deep, dark wooden booths, with a menu attached to the wall reminding me of those individual juke boxes in your booth at family friendly restaurants of a couple decades ago. We went in past the booths to discover the fabulous little bar complete with vintage phone and cash register—I definitely felt like I was in another time, in a good way. It was nostalgic without being specific, although supposedly 1890s saloon is what I should be thinking.
Before we get to the drinks, let me answer the name question—what does Dutch Kills mean? The bar takes its name from the neighborhood in which it resides. The native inhabitants called it Canapaukah (“bear’s watering hole”) after the Newton Creek, a distinguishing feature of the area. Dutch settlers arrived in the early 1640s; their word for creek, was, you guessed it, kill. The area would become known as Dutch Kills–the perfect place for a fabulous watering hole.
We enjoyed quite a few menu options, and our bartender, Matt, also graciously and skillfully indulged our requests to go off menu. He even convinced me that it was time to cross the Stinger off my list of 100 must drink cocktails. I fully admit I was a bit hesitant—cognac and crème de menthe, can you blame me? But Matt was right, it’s a nice combination of warm and cool. Something great to sip during the holidays.
The creation of bartending masterminds Richard Boccato and Sasha Petraske, this place’s drink menu and bartenders’ attention to quality and detail, and their ability to execute delicious cocktails is outstanding. Here’s one of the many deliciously unique creations Matt stirred for us.
1 ¾ oz gin
1 oz Cocchi Americano
¼ oz apricot liquer
couple dashes Dandelion & Burdock bitters (by Adam Elmegirab, Scotland)
If I lived in NYC, I think I would quickly be on a first name basis at this place. Cheers!
Even though I was in NYC for less than 10 hours, I had to carve out a little time for a cocktail. So after exploring kitchen design and a Jackson Pollock painting that took my breath away at MOMA, I decided to end my day at Forty Four. The recently reincarnated lobby bar at the Royalton Hotel boasts a great menu that is the brain child of the Cocktail Collective—Eric Alperin (Varnish, LA), Richard Boccato (Dutch Kills, NYC), Simon Ford (global cocktail ambassador for Pernod Ricard USA), Misty Kalkofen (Drink, Boston) , John Lermayer (Florida Room, Miami Beach, and Woodward in Boston), and Willy Shine (Contemporary Cocktails). On their own, each of these people are rockstars; put them all together and whoa!
The bar space is something else. From the exterior you might think the Royalton is a bank—a heavy granite façade with large columns flanking the entry way. As you walk through the large black doors, a second set of doors slowly glide open revealing the dimly lit length of the lobby, complete with dark furniture, wooden screened walls and two large fireplaces that look like walls of flames (a bit unnecessary on our visit since the temp was in the 60s). There is something ceremonial about the whole thing—I imagined this is what entering an ancient Egyptian temple might have been like.
The cocktail menu is fabulous—classics, new creations, and even bowls of punch (we would have a needed a few more people in our posse to justify the $250 bowl of punch). There were so many interesting options, I wished I had time for more than one drink, but alas a bus full of museum volunteers awaited my arrival. Since I have yet to meet a Last Word variation that I didn’t like, I chose The Other Word made with single village mezcal, lime juice, agave nectar, Yellow Chartreuse and maraschino liqueur. Once my palette got used to the smoky mezcal, the other flavors–herbaliness, nuttiness, tart, and earthly– emerge. Really delicious. Brian’s Reconciliation was also quite memorable. An homage to the Old Fashioned, this drink features rye, Amaro Lucano, orgeat and a Sambucca rinse and its like nothing I’ve ever drank before. Warm and rich, and slightly sweet.
The seating –modern, comfortable couches, benches, and chairs– create many seating nooks. Perfect, as Jeff commented, as a place to rest after a long day in the city or for a rapper’s entourage to hang out late night. Since we had been exploring the city since 10 am and at various times have referred to our little posse as Swizzle and the Bone Crushers or Yani Kohani and the Mulyatz (Don’t ask. I don’t even think I can explain.), we fit right in. Cheers!
I ventured to New York City this weekend for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic—five days of events celebrating all the wonder that is the cocktail. Even though I was only there for three days, if I write about everything we drank this would be the world’s longest blog post. So, instead I will stick to sharing some highlights.
Brian, Jeff and I began our weekend of imbibing at Friday night’s Gala at the New York Public Library. Almost fifty bars each featuring a different spirit filled four floors of the historic building– seriously, it was amazingly insane! A bit overwhelming at first, we quickly got into the spirit—just try as many drinks as possible and only finish the ones I really liked. The possibilities were endless, and our glasses were full all night. Early in the evening I was drawn to the Aperol bar—it may have been the table full of gorgeously pink-orange hued liqueur or the three very cute Italian bartenders mixing the drinks. Either way I was not disappointed. I was served an Italian Job. The drink was slightly sweet, perfectly bitter and herbally all at once. A really fabulous start to the evening.
1 oz limoncello
3/4 oz Aperol
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz simple syrup
4 basil leaves
5 drops orange bitter
Muddle basil with sugar and lime juice, add remaining ingredients. Shake. Strain. Top with Prosecco.
Some other highlights were our Hendricks drink. Not only were the drinks yum, but it was a fun spot. The presence of the Hendricks “Queen” atop of the bar generated quite a buzz. I loved my Floradora—gin, lime juice, raspberry liqueur topped with gingerbeer! We also really liked our Mary Pickfords with Zacapa Rum—yum!
Saturday we attended a workshop on Champagne cocktails with Dale DeGroff and Doug Frost. After tasting five different sparkling wines, we had four different classic Champagne cocktails. I cannot believe I am admitting this, but I am not so fond of Champagne. I know that sounds crazy, but I prefer California sparkling wines and Prosecco There, I said it!
Since a traditional Champagne Cocktail, the French 75 and Bellini were all things I have enjoyed before, I was particularly interested in The Ritz. This version was developed by DeGroff in the late 1980s while he was working at the Rainbow Room as a tribute to the traditional Champagne cocktails of the Ritz hotels in London, Paris and Madrid. Apparently, this recipe gained DeGroff his first in print props—in Playboy magazine! The cognac makes this sparkler richer than the others we tried. The Cointreau adds a warm orange flavor, balanced by the nuttiness of the Luxardo Maraschino.
The Ritz (Dale DeGroff’s recipe)
¾ oz cognac
½ oz Cointreau
¼ oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
¼ oz lemon juice
Shake over ice. Strain. Top with Champagne and serve with a burnt orange peel.
On Sunday, we went to a “Behind the Bar” event at Employees Only. This was an opportunity to spend time with two of the creators of EO, Jay Kosmas and Dushan Zaric. We heard the story of how Employees Only began, why the bar is shaped the way it is, how they developed their menu, and of course sampled some of their amazing drinks. We also learned a lot about Plymouth gin from master distiller Sean Harrison—and I was reminded how much I love a British accent! One of the highlights was the Provencal made with house-made gin infused with lavendar and vermouth infused with herbs de provence. My favorite of our cocktails here was the Nerina—a variation on the Negroni (which is one of my favorite cocktails). In this version, the gin remains, Punt de Mes is the vermouth and Meletti Amaro (that delicious carmelly-cinnamon bitter that I have recently fallen in love with) replaces the Campari. So good! This is the way to experience a bar—a couple hours with the owners and bartenders, hearing their stories, tasting their drinks, and laughing along with their jokes.
Three days in Manhattan, countless cocktails and lots of fun with my two best guys! Cheers!
After the four hour ride to NYC and a cheese shopping adventure, we were thirsty for some good cocktails. So, my very good friends and fellow cocktail enthusiasts Brian and Jeff took my sister Allie and I to the fabulous Pegu Club to begin our Thanksgiving festivities. I was impressed by more than just the amazing drinks.
The dark, moody (but not creepy), Asian-influenced atmosphere is inspired by the 19th century British Colonial Officers club in Burma of the same name. And the bar snacks are really good. The highlight was chicken lollipops, which totally deserve their name as they are covered in a sweet scotch-syrup that made me wish I had a spoon in my purse to get every last drop off the plate.
For my first drink, I ordered the Kill-Devil. How could I resist a cocktail with that name? I was also enticed by the combination of rum and Chartreuse. The waitress warned me that it was a “serious” drink—who do you think you’re talking to? She was right that it was a serious cocktail, but I am no amateur, I could handle it and really enjoyed the complex, potent flavor.
The Kill-Devil features Rum Agricole, green Chartreuse, demerara simple syrup and Angostura bitters. The drink gets its name from rum’s early nickname. In the 17th century, rum production was just beginning as sugar producers in Barbados realized they could make a very potent drink from the by-product of the sugar-making process. This new drink, what we now call rum, caused a nasty hangover and was affectionately called “kill-devil.” My Kill-Devil didn’t cause a hangover. Instead it offered an interesting combination of sweet and herbal flavors. The dark rich color hinted at the carmel fragrance. The drink began with a sweet start—the rum is matched nicely with the demerara syrup—and is quickly followed by the herballyness of the Chartreuse and bitters. Really good.
For my second cocktail, I ordered a Brandy Crusta. I am working my way through a list of 100 Cocktails to Drink Before You Die (from a bar in Houston; more on the list later) and this is one on the list that I have yet to try. Invented in the early 19th century by a New Orleans bartender, the recipe was first published in 1862 in Jerry Thomas’ Bar-Tenders Guide. Featuring cognac, Cointreau, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and Peychaud’s bitters, this is a very drinkable cocktail. All of the flavors meld together and are complimented by the crust of sugar on the rim of the glass, which gives the drink its name. Nothing overly complex, but really tasty. The most impressive part of this drink was the full lemon peel garnish that filled the glass—imagine the Guggenheim as a lemon peel!
Another great night of cocktails in New York. Salute!