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Last week I was in DC visiting my sister and her family.  In addition to some fabulous family time, I was happy to have the chance to spend time with my friend Paula who has recently moved to the Capitol.

Our first stop was PS7 where we quickly became fans of the daily happy hour punch made with gin, allspice dram, grapefruit juice and Peychauds bitters.  It was light and refreshing while also providing a rich mouthful of flavor.  It was the perfect way to relax after a long afternoon of wandering the hall of the National Gallery looking at fabulous works of art.

Under the direction of Gina Chersevani, PS7’s cocktail program takes inspiration from the farm.  The menu features drinks with ingredients like coriander, cilantro, rhubarb and pickled asparagus.  I was immediately drawn to the B&B (&b)—Maker’s Mark bourbon, beet syrup and bitters.  Before I say anything about the taste, check out the gorgeous deep red color.

I loved this drink. It didn’t taste as “beety” as I imagined it would. Instead the beet syrup functioned to bring an earthiness that mellowed the boozy taste of the bourbon, while producing a slightly viscous quality.  Vanilla used in the creation of the syrup adds a sweetness that rounds out the flavor.  Earthy, sweet, and rich—this was a uniquely delicious drink.

We then moved on to Proof.  The first drink on the cocktail menu caught my eye—the Root Cocktail with Partilda Blanco Tequila, Ramos Pinto White Port and Chartreuse.  I was intrigued by the combination of three ingredients that each have quite a bit going on on their own, but they all played nicely together sharing the class as cleverly and collegially.  It went down quite easily as I chatted the night away with Paula and nibbled on amazing sweet potato gnocchi.

Cheers to DC and its cocktails! See you again soon.

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“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.

Chaim pouring our first drink, Ausano's Punch

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.

Will pouring the Ramazzotti Flip

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.

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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