Juniper Journey: Bulldog gin takes a tour of the East Side

29 Jul

On a sweltering Saturday in July, nothing soothes the soul better a cool gin cocktail. So why not six of them for $25? That deal sounded good to me, so I signed myself and my husband up for Thrillist’s gin-fueled pub crawl, which included six different hotspots on the Lower East Side and in the East Village last weekend. Each venue served a drink made with Bulldog gin and a appetizer of some sort, and we had four hours to hit all six.

We picked up our passes at Tammany Hall, where there was a line out the door and a mob scene at the bar, so we decided to skip it and go back later. The next stop was APL, a new restaurant/lounge in a brightly colored, contemporary space located a couple doors down from Tammany Hall. The bartender immediately served up a batch of the featured cocktail, called the South Hound, which mixed Bulldog with St-Germain and grapefruit and lime juices. The bright, slightly spicy gin and sweet elderflower liqueur were somewhat overpowered by the canned grapefruit flavor. The appetizer—a single bite of tuna tartare with diced English cucumber and microgreens, served on a spoon—seemed more like an amuse-bouche, but it was fresh and delicious.

After downing our drinks, we headed over to Hotel Chantelle a few blocks away. The exterior of the building looks like that of an abandoned, rat-infested dump, but inside, the downstairs bar has a classy, early 20th century feel, and the rooftop dining area evokes a greenhouse garden. Unfortunately, the gin revelers were relegated to the upstairs space, which felt like a steaming sauna. My husband and I sat at a table and enjoyed our Blackberry Brambles—made with Bulldog, crème de framboise, lime and lemon juices, simple syrup and a blackberry garnish—in the heat. We accepted kabobs of watermelon, cucumber, feta cheese and mint, then moved on to the next venue on the map.

Mulberry Project is actually in Little Italy, so it was sort of far from the other places on the tour. Located in an underground lair, the bar at least offered a reprieve from the stifling humidity. The healthy crowd seemed to indicate that most people came here after APL instead of going to Hotel Chantelle. There were also a few people who weren’t with the tour at all, and a DJ spun disco tunes on the cute back patio.

The bartender served our drinks, which he described as a Gin Gimlet with fresh mulberry/blueberry/blackberry syrup, poured over crushed ice. It was sweet and refreshing. The appetizer took a little while to come, but it was worth the wait: a plate of fluke crudo with fresh peas, basil, olive oil and salt. If this dish is on Mulberry Project’s regular menu, I’m definitely ordering it again.

We made our way back to Tammany Hall, which was a hike in the heat, especially after three gin cocktails. Since Tammany is more of a live music venue than a cocktail bar, I was pretty impressed with the drink. Created specifically for the event, the Cucumber Cooler comprised Bulldog, St-Germain, cucumber and lemon juices, and club soda. It was tall and tasty. Apparently, the chef was “out sick,” so there was no appetizer, but the bartender offered us another Cucumber Cooler instead. We declined, as we still had two more places to visit.

The next venue was Idle Hands, a basement dive that seems more like someone’s rundown rec room than a cocktail bar. The low caliber of this place compared to the others became even more obvious when we received our French 75s—made with Bulldog, lime juice and Barefoot Bubbly—in plastic cups. And while the previous appetizers seemed to pair well with the cocktails, Idle Hands delivered meatballs doused in Tabasco sauce, each skewered by a plastic drink straw that was too thin to hold the meatball. Sadly, this dish wasn’t even the worst one.

The tour ended at Common Ground, which was located way up on 13th Street, 11 blocks away from all the other venues. The place was crowded with drunken fraternity types and had sports blaring from multiple televisions. After finally flagging down a bartender, we ordered our drinks and waited in trepidation. Again, we received plastic cups, this time containing “cucumber- and mint-infused gin” with a splash of ginger ale. It had a fake mint flavor and the ginger ale was flat. Despite my better judgment, I tried the appetizer—a chicken quesadilla served on a paper plate—and immediately regretted that decision. The chicken was dry, and the green substance that I assumed to be “guacamole” didn’t help. We abandoned our drinks and food without finishing them and crossed the street to Destination Bar & Grille, where we washed down the bad taste with half-priced beer and Bloody Marys.

© Amber Drea and New York Drinkie, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be used, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.

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