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.

Trinidad Especial

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.

KJ stirring a Manhattan

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!

Ryan putting the finishing touch on a swizzle

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!