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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.

 

right to left: Maiden's Prayer (No. 2), The Other Word, The Pharaoh Cooler, Reconciliation

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!

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There’s nothing like the first sip of a favorite cocktail to melt away the stress of a long, exhausting week.  I met Maura at Green Street tonight and felt that magic happen as I took a sip of the Last Word. This Prohibition-era drink developed at the Detroit Athletic Club always hits the spot.  How is it that I have yet to write about this fantastic cocktail? It’s a perfect combination of sweet, tart, and herbal—it’s just brilliant.  And this formula of equal parts of gin, maraschino liqueur, green Chartreuse and lime, can also be used to make some equally delicious variations.  Two particularly good ones are the Final Ward and the Monte Cassino.

On paper the Last Word is a battle of flavors.  In reality, however, there is no fist fighting amongst these four ingredients for top billing.  They blend together perfectly, while each still holds its own.  You taste the botanicals of the gin, the tart maraschino, the amazing herbals of the Chartreuse and the sharp freshness of the lime.

One of my favorite liqueurs is Chartreuse.  In this cocktail it shines.  I first drank this wonderful stuff as I watched, Into the Great Silence, a documentary about Carthusian monks who in addition to living a solitary existence have also have been making Chartreuse at the Grande Chartreuse monastery, France since the 18th century.  Legend has it that no one monk knows the entire recipe; instead its distributed amongst three different monks.  Originally made for medicinal purposes, over 130 herbs and plants give this liqueur layers upon layers of flavor.  It adds herbal complexity to the Last Word, but is also delicious with a little sparkling water and fresh citrus.

Here’s the recipe: (I enjoyed one at Green Street and then came home and made myself one.)

¾ oz Plymouth gin

¾ oz Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

¾ oz green Chartreuse

¾ oz fresh lime juice

Shake over ice. Strain. Enjoy!

The Last Word is well, the last word in cocktail complexity.  Cheers!

Rye whiskey is not a spirit that I have much experience with, especially not mixing myself.  But it has crossed my path a number of times over the last week , so I thought I should take a hint and try out a couple whiskey recipes.  This also gave me an excuse to use some of the new cocktail “toys” (new juicers and strainers) that I got for Christmas.  The two drinks I made both came from the New York Times (I’ve included the article links below).

For the last few months, I have been slowly making my way through The History of the World in Six Glasses (Tom Standage, 2005) and I just finished the section on whiskey.  Here are the highlights of what I learned. As our nation expanded westward in the late 18th century, Scottish and Irish settlers started making spirits from cereal grains like rye, wheat, corn or barley.  Whiskey quickly overtook rum which had dominated as the most popular booze in the colonial period.  Whiskey became such an important part of American life that it even caused a military skirmish in 1794.  Problems started when Alexander Hamilton thought it would be a good idea to tax whiskey production, even for private consumption, to raise money to pay off the debt from the American Revolution.  A small band of farmers in Pennsylvania fought against the whiskey tax collectors sparking the Whiskey Rebellion.  President George Washington brought together federal troops to handle the situation, but not before deaths on both sides.  The rebels were weakened and eventually the excise was repealed.  Interesting this moment in American history also contributed to the development of another spirit—as rebels moved farther west into Kentucky, in particular Bourbon County, where they took advantage of corn, an indigenous group, making a drink we now call bourbon.

Now that we’ve had our history lesson, onto the drinks…

The Red Hook

My first cocktail, the Red Hook, was inspired by an article in today’s New York Times (Thanks for the article, Jeff!).  The drink features rye whiskey (2 oz), Punt de Mes, or sweet vermouth (½ oz) and maraschino liqueur (½ oz).  It’s pretty heavy on the whiskey, so if I make this again, I might amp up the maraschino a bit to try and mellow out the whiskey.  I guess I need a little something to cut my whiskey.

The Monte Cassino

For my second drink, I made a Monte Cassino, another drink recipe I found in the NY Times in an article about the 500th anniversary of Benedictine.  This cocktail is spectacular!  Developed by Damon Dyer of Louis 649 in NYC, it follows the formula of The Last Word (and I have yet to meet a variation of this drink that I did not like)—equal parts of 4 ingredients that combine bitter, herbal, sweet and sour.  The Monte Cassino is ¾ ounce each of rye (the recipe called for Rittenhouse 100-proof, but I used Old Overholt), yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, and lemon juice.  The Chartreuse and Benedictine both add a fabulous herbaliness and spiciness (between these two liqueurs there are almost 160 herbs and spices in this cocktail!), while the rye brings in a slight bitterness and the tart lemon rounds the whole thing out.  I love the complexity of the disparate flavors, and the way they come surprising come together in perfect harmony.  Spectacular!

Salute!

Welcome to Nightcapped! I look forward to sharing my stories about all things cocktail.

My first  post has to be about the JDP–How many people can say they have a cocktail named after them? The honor was bestowed on me by Sam Treadway at Drink. For months, I have been enjoying this fabulous drink known only as the “no name” until the JDP was born…

Enjoying the first official JDP with Sam

It all started when I asked Sam what he could do with Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, my summer obsession. I am totally in love with this bittersweet liqueur. Forget what you think you know about maraschino cherry flavor from those neon red cherries of childhood. This stuff has been made from the Marasca sour cherries since the 16th century. First produced by religious orders in Zara– this is present day Croatian, but back in the day it was closely aligned with the Republic of Venice, hence its present Italian connection. Since 1821 the Luxardo family has been creating this delicious product that features the sourness of the cherries, but also suggestion of almond from the crushed pits.  It is just absolutely delicious!

My request was met with a cocktail that featured not only Luxardo Maraschino, and so much more. The tart cherry flavor and the sweet apricot is tempered by the lime juice and bitters. Totally yum! I guess ordering the “no name” for months paid off, I now have a cocktail named after me.  Next time you are in Drink, order a JDP. Or make one for yourself at home (I’ve included the recipe).  You won’t be sorry. Salute!

The JDP

1 oz gin (Junipero or Bombay Sapphire)
3/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz apricot liqueur
2 dashes angostura bitters

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