November 4, 2008

Drinks on the Road: New York Drinks

Cause I’m a busy little boozer (wait, can I get away with a phrase like that? Or does it imply a cutesy-drunky combo that should never be descended toward? Ah, well, you know how I am), I’m going to have to make my recap of New York drinking a little shorter than the Boston one (which rambled in usual style). But I do want to hit a couple key spots that I stopped at, cocktail’d at, and dug hanging out within. The first was at Tailor, where I meet up for sadly only one drink with HCP stalwart Howard Stelzer and Onion AV Club scribe Andy Battaglia. The drink list there (created by Eben Freeman) is a drinking-adventurer’s earthy dreamscape, as it really is pushing some of the boundaries. The line up was thus: Howard, Butternut & Falernum (rum, butternut squash, falernum); Andy Battaglia: The Waylon (bourbon, smoked Coke); A.J., Nutty Monk (walnut Cognac, Benedictine, bitters). While I loved the inventiveness of the other’s drinks, I thought mine, with just a nutty trace socializing with herbs and Cognac, was the tops.


My second NY drink extravaganza was at Albert Trummer’s Apotheke, where he says “We look at a bargoer almost as if he’s coming to a doctor’s office.” It’s a twisty-turn-y kind of office, as it’s on Doyers Street, a vaguely backalleyish snaking street in lower Chinatown. The old-time-y pharmacist set up, with lots of beakers, and coils, and bartenders in white smocks, and the fact that our amazingly friendly waitress brought us a liquid amuse bouche right after we sat down (it was a cilantro vodka prescription), made me love the atmosphere right away. Well, that and the fact that I was drinking with NY pals Kristine and Andrew. The line up: Kristine, Strawberry Fennel (fennel-infused vodka, strawberries soaked in orange liqueur, fennel oil essence); Andrew, Five Points (House elixir #4 with hibiscus, Italian bitters, grape juice, and sugar-cane infused rum); A.J., Vanilla-Rum Julep (Madagascar infused rum, Israeli mint, house-pressed sugar-cane juice). As you can see, it was an around-the-world hospital visit. Though we were all pretty well stoked about our drinks, they did fall into the florid-fruity-in-a-field-of-flowers side of the taste spectrum, and so I really wanted to hit something a touch umph-ier. But, sadly, they were out of the ingredients for what I thought would be the ticket, the bourbon-based Autumn Harvest–however (this was luck incarnate), they did have the Saigon cinnamon-infused bourbon from it, so Mr. Trummer himself stirred me up a drink with that as a base (not sure exactly what else was in it, but a trace of lime and bitters seemed in play). Now this was a drink I could sink my cocktailing teeth into–a drink that instantly became the favorite of that night’s drinking team. Then, we got to see Mr. Trummer line up a dozen glasses with absinthe and sugar, and light them all on fire (and throw a lot of fire around). The fact that we ended up with a glass of warm and slightly sweet absinthe makes the experience that much finer.



The last (but so far, far from least) place I hit up for cocktails in NY was in Brooklyn, and is called the Weather Up. If anyone reading this is anywhere near Brooklyn right now, I suggest leaving poste haste (or right after you finish reading this) to run, speed, or skip to the Weather Up. You will not, I repeat, not, be sorry. Unless it’s like 4 am, in which case it may be closed. If that’s the teary-eyed state of affairs, just hang out on the block until it opens again. It’ll be worth it, cause the Weather Up is a lovely, tiled, intimate affair (no sign naturally–this seems to be de rigueur), with the real feel of a neighborhood bar that the folks living in the neighborhood want to keep close to their own vests. I can’t blame them. If Weather Up was in my ‘hood (yay! Loyal Heights), I would go there every night and not tell a soul outside of Nat and Sookie. I was drinking there with Michael, Miguel, Mark (whoa, a lot of M’s), and later Leslie and the girl of the future. Since the party got large, I’m not going to go through every drink, but just hit a few select hits. Oh, the whole range of cocktails and highballs and punches (oh my) were hits though (in case you were wondering), and made by bartender Gabe Harrelson, who, for my money, is one of the best bar slingers around. That guy can shake a drink folks. I started with a classic, the Pisco Sour, cause I was feeling like a standby (sometimes you want the refrains you know best, to see how well someone sings them out). It was spot on, with the frothy egg froth not overwhelming, but serious, and the Pisco itself rising and harmonizing with the lemon, egg, and simple syrup. Balanced, engaged, and great. I also had the house-monikered drink, the Weather Up, which I’ve been day-dreaming of ever since, with it’s Michelangeloesque simplicity of purpose and perfect lines: Cognac, amaretto, and lemon–it had a wide twist, interestingly draped over the glass’ rim, so you get a sniff every sip. An inspired, and inspiring, touch. I could have stayed there until dawn folks, if only I didn’t have to get up to catch a flight at 4 am. I sure can’t wait to get back to get back to NY.



PS: Don’t forget to vote. And then have a political drink, like the Ward Eight.

Andrew said:

What a lovely evening we spent at Apotheke! And I can’t believe you went to Weather Up–I found that place a year ago while waiting for a table at Franny’s. Unbelievable. Tiled everywhere, and ice cut to fit your glass. May I also recommend the Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan, where the bartender made me a Pisco Sour with his own bitters? And made my friend something with gin, vodka and peach eau de vie? Bitter and golden, just like I like it. Come back soon, AJ!

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