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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:

Napoleon House

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.

Angostura Bitters

The miniature army of Angostura bottles that came home with me

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.

Harvard Veritas

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!


I have found a new favorite place in Boston—the comfy, cozy leather bench-seat at the end of the bar at The Citizen.  Just a 10 minute walk from my office, for two weeks in a row I have retreated to The Citizen with friends to relax from the stress of work.  And that fabulous seat at the end of the bar has awaited and welcomed me with open arms—is it possible to fall in love with a chair? As a short woman who has issues with bar stools, this is a perfect perch for me—no chance of falling off this thing (yes, I did fall off a bar stool once and no, I was not drunk when it happened), it is pretty comfortable, and I get a great view of the entire bar from this end.

But a bar is of course about more than seating.  John satisfied my request for something bitter and rich (it was quite a damp day here in Boston today, so I wanted something with intense flavors) with a cocktail called Johan goes to Mexico (a creation by Drink bartender Josey Packard).  Paying homage to Dr. Johan Siegert, the 19th century doctor who created Angostura bitters, this drink includes a half ounce of Angostura (yum!) alongside Mezcal Vida (hello, Mexico!), lemon juice and demerara syrup.  Wow, what a fabulous drink!

Your whiskey club card is like an adult library card

And then I took the leap and joined The Citizen’s Whiskey Club.  The concept is simple: explore the wonders and variety of whiskey by trying about 100 options on the bar’s list. And when you’ve made your way through the list, you get a special single barrel Four Roses bourbon and an engraved glass to use on each visit.  Its important to have goals, right?  I started off with Black Maple Hill.  Made in Bardston, Kentucky, this small batch bourbon is aged for an average of 8 years in oak casks.  The result is a butterscotchy sweetnesss which makes this go down pretty easy.

If in the months to come you are looking for me, check the leather bench-seat at The Citizen and most likely I’ll have a whiskey in hand–I do have about 90 more to try.  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.

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!

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