Posts Tagged Cocktails

New York Cocktail Roundup

4 April 2012

While in New York City last week, I found time in between my meetings to dip my toe into the city’s thriving cocktail scene. It’s easy enough to find fine cocktails in Chicago — one of my favorite bars, In Fine Spirits, completely geeked out and declared February “Fernet-bruary” with a menu of Fernet-Branca-based cocktails, for example — but in Manhattan it seems almost impossible to avoid creative mixology.

I drank a goodly number of tasty things during my stay, and here are some of my favorites:

MOUNTAINSIDE (Japanese whiskey, fennel-infused simple syrup and orange bitters — $14)

Consumed at Momofuku Ssäm Bar, a casual restaurant with seriously delicious contemporary Korean cuisine. An oversized, slow-melting cube of ice chilled this cocktail, and though I enjoyed its orangey aroma, fresh Manhattan-like flavor, smooth texture and long finish of cherries, the ice cube stole the show. Nary a bubble polluted its interior, and its edges were perfectly sharp. How could this be? I asked the bartender about it, and she explained that their ice maker freezes the ice in thin layers, to prevent bubbles from forming. Lasers then dissect this bubble-free block of ice into perfect cubes.

SPICE TRADE (Bols Genever, Dolin Blanc, star anise, galangal syrup and persimmon water — $14)

Consumed at Madam Geneva, an atmospheric bar just off The Bowery devoted to gin- and genever-based cocktails. First, let’s figure out this crazy list of ingredients. Genever (also spelled “Jenever”) is distilled from corn, wheat and rye and flavored with juniper berries, and according to European Union rules, it can only be made in the Netherlands and Belgium. Essentially, it’s Dutch gin. Dolin makes high-quality vermouth, and Dolin Blanc is their sweeter, white version. Ginger-like galangal appears most frequently in southeast Asian cooking. It has an aromatic woody quality, not unlike pine or cedar, as opposed to the spicy, warm heat of ginger. You have a fighting chance of finding the licorice-flavored star anise and fruity persimmons in the grocery store, though what exactly persimmon water is, I cannot say.

In short, this is a cocktail worth ordering at a bar, because goodness knows none of us will be making it at home. The floating star anise garnish provided an aromatic introduction, and I loved its orange, anise and juniper flavors. It would have been easy to make this cocktail too sweet, but it tasted well-balanced and finished dry.


SIAM MOJITO (Coconut rum, Thai chili-infused simple syrup, one chopped lime, fresh mint, lemongrass garnish — $21)

Consumed at Bar Seine, the exotic and very plush cocktail lounge in the Plaza Athénée Hotel. A number of the cocktails in the ostrich leather-bound menu caught my eye, but this goosed-up mojito sounded like a fun twist. I asked the bartender if he recommended it, and he cautioned, “Do you like spicy? It’s very spicy. I just want to warn you.” That clinched it — any cocktail that comes with a warning is a cocktail I must try. He was right. It took about 10 sips before my tongue finally became accustomed to the blast of spiciness. This is certainly not a cocktail one can gulp! I enjoyed the novelty of a spicy drink, but the heat did tend to overpower the other flavors. If it were dialed back just a bit, allowing more of the mint and coconut rum to poke through, this could be a brilliant cocktail. (I also wouldn’t have minded experiencing the promised lemongrass garnish, instead of the lime wheel I received.) Even so, I enjoyed the novelty of a rip-roaringly spicy cocktail, and the setting — with its leather floor, onyx-shaded sconces and accent pieces seemingly selected by Seinfeld‘s Peterman — is ripe for a romantic and discreet tete-a-tete.

Simple, Fresh, And Bloody

25 February 2012
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Eating seasonally has come back into fashion, and there’s no reason we can’t drink seasonally as well. Certain cocktails are simply impossible to make at certain times of the year, making them taste all the sweeter when we can.

Right now, we’ve reached the peak season of blood oranges, also known as moros. These wonderful winter citrus fruits have some orange-colored cells as well as many deeply red cells, and their juice has a surprisingly bright magenta tinge. The peel may or may not also have a blush of red (don’t shy away from blood oranges with no hint of “blood” on their exterior).

Fresh-squeezed blood orange juice makes for a marvelous cocktail mixer, with a beautiful magenta color and a tart flavor that can substitute well for a number of other more common citrus fruits. Blood orange mimosas look gorgeous and taste great — add three parts Prosecco (my favorite), Cava or Champagne to a champagne flute, top with one part fresh-squeezed blood orange juice, and you’ve got a deep-pink (but deliciously dry and adult) drink sure to delight your brunch guests.

If, for some reason, you prefer to drink only in the evening, consider instead one of these simple, fresh and bloody recipes:


–1 part fresh-squeezed blood orange juice

–1 part tequila (I used gold, but silver could also be tasty)

–1/2 part triple sec

To get the proportions right, squeeze the blood orange first. Whatever amount of juice you recover from the blood orange can be your standard “part”. Usually one blood orange provides enough juice for about one cocktail.

Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini or margarita glass. Garnish with a twist if you like.

This light cocktail tastes tart, but the sweetness from the triple sec balanced it enough for my palate. The telltale flavor of the tequila still came through, and there was just a touch of bite from the blood orange.


–1 part fresh-squeezed blood orange juice

–1 part Cognac

–1/4 to 1/3 part crème de cassis, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a twist if you like. Easy!

I liked this cocktail even a little better, though its color wasn’t quite as brilliant as the margarita’s. Again, it tasted sweet and tart, but the Cognac added an intriguing woodsy note, a little bite and a satisfying caramel finish. The crème de cassis, a French blackcurrant liqueur, adds additional sweetness and roundness to the drink.



Cocktails For Ladies

7 January 2012

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be heading to Congac, France, to participate in this year’s International Cognac Summit, hosted by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC). Each summit has a theme, and this year the focus is Women and Cognac.

One of the objectives of the summit, I’m told, is to “gather cocktails that appeal to women, identify key ingredients and possibly develop new cocktails geared towards the female audience.”

Certain cocktails, such as Cosmopolitans and chocolate martinis, would seem to have a stereotypically female following, and I suppose certain drinks tend to appeal to men (like Cognac, apparently). But why? Are our palates so different? Do delicate lady tongues really prefer sweet, frilly drinks? I don’t buy it.

But as a man, I don’t presume to know what women really truly want in their cocktails. So ladies, I’m asking: What do you want? When you’re presented with a cocktail menu, what makes you say, “Yes! That is the drink for me.” If you have a husband or boyfriend, do you think  your palate is different from his in any way?


Some Odd Resolutions

31 December 2011
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Many of us use the beginning of the new year to take stock, examining our lives and bodies and, finding faults, we resolve to correct them. For the next month or two, we flail around the gym in sweaty desperation, lay siege to armies of dust soldiers in their well-defended closet fortresses, or simply try to “be more positive.” Worthy pursuits, all.

But surely you deserve a fun (and easy) resolution or two as well. Consider adding one of the following to your list:

1. Drink more sparkling wine. Many people indulge in elegant Champagnes tonight, but for most, it’s the only time of year they break out the bubbly. Cava, Prosecco, Crémant and, yes, Champagne, are wonderful at any time of year, and pair well with all sorts of foods. The pop of a cork makes any gathering feel more festive.

2. Drink some dessert wine. I’ve attended very few parties where one has been served, and I can’t think of the last time a dining companion ordered one in a restaurant. Any dessert wine worth its salt isn’t just candy in a bottle; it will exhibit a delicious balance of sweetness, acid and perhaps even some minerals, wood or other flavors. Ask for a recommendation in your price range at your local wine shop, and I am 100% certain you’ll delight your guests. Or heck, just drink it yourself.

3. Drink some rosé. Sweet, boring White Zinfandel ruined the reputation of rosé in this country, therefore any American winemaker who produces a proper dry rosé probably really puts his or her heart into it. But dry rosés from anywhere can be a delight, particularly in warmer weather. I can think of few finer ways to lunch than sitting outside in the sun, dining on simple picnic fare with friends, a glass of rosé in hand.

4. Get out of your cocktail rut. Type “Classic Cocktails” into a search engine, and you’ll find all sorts of fun, time-tested ideas (or, of course, you can click on one of the spirits listed just to the right). If you’re feeling more adventurous, make your own cocktail recipe. A good rule of thumb is to use a base liquor (like vodka, gin, brandy, etc.), a smaller amount of a liqueur (like triple sec, crème de cassis, maraschino) and a mixer (fresh lime juice, pineapple juice, cranberry juice). If it feels like it’s missing something, add a dash of bitters.

5. Go into your favorite wine shop and ask for something weird. Sometimes for my birthday, I request that party guests do this for my gift. I’ve received everything from root beer schnapps to a wine from Santorini that tasted like stone and sunshine. If the wine store employee looks at you like you’re crazy, resolve to find another wine store.

Happy New Year!

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