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Europe Drinkie: Tippling my way through England, Scotland and France

22 Jun

My husband and I just returned from a whirlwind trip to France and the United Kingdom, where we visited countless cocktail bars and two distilleries. Here are some highlights:

LONDON

69 Colebrook Row

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a reservation for 10:00 p.m., but got there a little early and our table wasn’t ready. The space is quite small, so the hostess asked us to wait on the stairs that lead to the bathroom, and a server took our first drink order. When the drinks came, we sipped them while standing awkwardly on the steps. Fortunately, we were seated a couple minutes later.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy husband chose the Bloody Mary — which we noticed is common on London cocktail menus — and my friend Danielle selected the Serafin, mixing Calle 23 Tequila, pear liqueur, lime juice and Fever Tree ginger beer. I got the Vintage El Presidente, a blend of Havana Barrel Proof rum, Martini Rosso vermouth, Merlet triple sec and homemade grenadine that’s aged for six months.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the next round, I ordered the Sirocco, made with flint-and-pink peppercorn vodka, sugar and grapefruit oils, and I really enjoyed the taste of clay complemented by sweetness, citrus and spice, with a dry finish. I finished off the night with an off-menu offering: the Orange Grove Fizz, blending gin, vanilla-orange blossom syrup, egg white and soda. My husband also tried the Prairie Oyster, a shooter comprising horseradish vodka, Oloroso Sherry, shallots, pepper sauce, celery salt and micro herbs, with a tomato “yolk.”

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Mark’s Bar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped by Mark’s Bar, located below Hix restaurant, for a few drinks before catching comedian Stewart Lee at nearby Soho Theatre. The extensive menu features sections like Brit Pop (“Most modern cocktail bars want to replicate [the speakeasies of Prohibition]. We’d prefer to focus on the success of British cocktail culture in the 20th century…”) and Pomp & Circumstance (“The pomp and ceremony of time-old concoctions is tempered by the circumstance of modern values”). From the former category, I selected the Celebration, a blend of Havana Club Añejo 3-year-old rum, Beefeater London Dry gin, housemade redcurrant syrup and grapefruit juice, and the Hanky Panky, mixing Beefeater London Dry gin, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, Fernet Branca amaro and orange zest. The second drink was served in a small cocktail glass, with a sidecar containing containing the remainder.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy husband ordered the Hix Oyster Ale, brewed by Palmers in Southwest England, and the Stiff Upper Lip (from the Pomp & Circumstance section), comprising green pea-infused Beefeater London Dry gin, Kamm & Sons ginseng spirit, Somerset cider vinegar, housemade quinine cordial and mint. A dispenser containing the infusion of gin and “Yorkshire caviar” stood on the back bar in all its glory.

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Experimental Cocktail Club

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the show, we headed to this Chinatown speakeasy, which is hidden behind a door with neither street number nor handle. Luckily, two nice gentlemen stood outside the entrance smoking cigarettes and showed us how to get inside. My husband again got a Bloody Mary, and I ordered the That’s What She Said, mixing lavender-infused Beefeater gin, lemon juice, jasmine syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, egg white and Perrier, but they were no longer serving it. So I instead selected the Loose Lips Sink Ships, made with pineapple-and-chipotle-infused Plantation 3 Star rum, Wray & Nephew rum, lime juice, cane syrup and saline solution.

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Artesian

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On our last night in London, we got a nightcap at this upscale hotel bar, which offered a menu of inventive cocktails in the form of a painter’s palette. I chose the “Adventurous” Above & Beyond, comprising Zacapa 23-year-old rum, 30-year-old Pedro Ximénez Sherry, fernet, banana and coffee. To my surprise, it came with a eucalyptus vapor-filled plastic pillow, which the server broke open and held to my face to inhale.

IMG_7135cropThe pillow also contained Guatemalan worry dolls, which should be placed beneath your pillow at night to take away your worries while you sleep. I’ve yet to try it, but will post an update if they work!

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Beefeater Distillery

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We also took a tour of the brand new Beefeater Distillery visitors center in London’s Kennington district, where the gin has been produced since 1958. We spent the first 30 minutes perusing an exhibit that highlights the history of gin and the Beefeater brand. Comprising informative videos, photographs, displays and reproductions of historical items, such as the the 18th century Old Tom gin dispenser. There were also areas showcasing different types of cocktail glasses and the evolution of Beefeater’s bottles since 1947.

Beefeater bottles

The second 30 minutes is a guided tour that includes a hands-on exploration of the botanicals used in the gin and an explanation of the production process. The actual distillery isn’t open to the public, but you can see the stills through windows built into the visitors center.

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After the tour, we enjoyed a complimentary gin and tonic (with lemon — the way I like it!) at the bar, followed by the opportunity to pick up some souvenirs in the gift shop. I took home a Beefeater tote bag and a bottle of Beefeater Summer gin, which is only available at the distillery.

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EDINBURGH

The Queens Arms

Before our dinner reservation at Cafe St. Honore — the best meal we had during the entire trip — we had a quick drink at this New Town dive, which features a whisky of the day and fun cocktails like the I Like Sherry Butts and I Cannot Lie. I ordered the Rum & Raisin Old Fashioned, comprising Pampero Aniversario rum and Pedro Ximénez Sherry, with a shot glass containing chocolate-covered raisins.

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Whiski Rooms 

We managed to catch last call at this Old Town bar, which serves more than 500 whiskies and has a retail component. I told the Canadian ex-pat bartender that I like Sherried whiskies, and he recommended that I try the Glendronach 18-year-old and the Aberlour 16-year-old. Both drams were delicious.

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Tullibardine Distillery

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Located in Blackford, about an hour drive from Edinburgh, the Tullibardine Distillery has been around in some form since 1488, when it was a brewery. The building was converted into a distillery in 1947 and is now owned by French wine and spirits group Picard Vins & Spiritueux, which also markets the Highland Queen brand. We chose the Connoisseur Tour, which features an in-depth guided tour of the distillery and warehouse, as well as tastings of four whiskies, paired with chocolate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur gracious guide Gavin explained every part of the distilling process, from the milling of the barley to the mashing and fermentation to the distilling, barreling and aging. We got to see each stage for ourselves, nose whisky straight from the barrels and taste the Sovereign, the 225 (finished in Sauternes casks), the 228 (finished in Burgundy casks) and the 25-year-old expressions. The experience was well worth the one-hour train ride to Bridge of Allan, followed by a 20-minute bus ride to Blackford.

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PARIS

Red House

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We only spent one night in Paris and ended up at this American-run cocktail bar in the the 11th Arrondissement on the Right Bank. It was surprisingly low-key for a Friday, but the drinks were top-notch. First I ordered the Red House Old Fashioned, mixing rye whiskey, pimento dram, Drambuie and cardamom.

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Then I capped off the night with the Sherry Cherie, comprising Amontillado Sherry, eau de tamarind, Prosecco and dry curaçao.

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Both drinks were amazing and made me feel right at home in a foreign country.

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The New Black: NOIR NYC exudes a 1930s supper club vibe with modern touches

28 Jul

NOIR, the upscale restaurant and nightclub that opened in the old Nikki Beach space in June, hearkens back to its early 20th-century origins, first as an opera house and later as a speakeasy. The design attempts to recreate the old-school glamour of Sinatra’s hey day with tile flooring, marble staircase, dark wood banisters and leather banquettes. The elegant dining room takes up the first floor, while the glitzy lounge area comprises the second story.

The bar program features $220-to-$300 punch bowls that contain 20 servings and a premium spirits cart offering top-shelf Cognac and whiskies, including Scotch, which can be pour over a signature Macallan ice sphere.

The drinks menu highlights handcrafted cocktails ($15) developed by award-winning mixologist and beverage director Adam DelGiudice, who previously worked at the Florida Room in Miami’s South Beach. The list features twists on classics and original concoctions, including the Manhattan En Noir, made with rye whiskey, vermouth, Port, Grand Marnier and bitters, and the Five Point Sour, mixing Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, applejack, lemon juice and a float of red wine. NOIR also offers an extensive wine list.

I started with the Garden Variety, which blends vodka, muddled strawberries and basil, balsamic vinegar, lime juice and white pepper. The cocktail perfectly balances the fresh fruitiness of the strawberries with the acidic tang of the lime juice and vinegar. Plus, the basil and pepper exude herbal and spicy aromas.

I also tried the sweet and floral Lavender Aviation, made with gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and house-made lavender syrup, as well as the tart and refreshing Ghost of Mary Pickford, comprising light rum, lime and pineapple juices, and house-made grenadine.

The cuisine—from Michelin-starred chef Jean-Yves Schillinger—combines American and French elements. Items include salmon and arugula flatbread pizza, Kobe beef sliders, red snapper with Asian sauce, and salmon, tuna and steak tartares, the last of which is topped with raw quail yolk.

NOIR is definitely the place to take a date, meet colleagues for drinks or host an extravagant birthday party in Midtown. Whatever the occasion, it’s sure to impress.

© 2012 Amber Drea and New York Drinkie. Unauthorized use or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be quoted, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.

Vegas Drinkie: Reviving vintage cocktails and class in the Nevada desert

8 Jan

Sin City is certainly known for its decadence and debauchery, but all I care about are its drinks. On a recent trip, I decided to check out some places off the beaten path, aka The Strip. A new restaurant called The Barrymore had opened inside the Royal Resort, a small hotel on Convention Center Drive, just north of many of the large casinos. With a combination of 1950s supper club classiness and modern elegance, The Barrymore offers an eclectic menu of American cuisine, alongside an extensive wine list (with 50 selections priced less than $50 a bottle) and delicious signature cocktails ($10.50).

I started off with the Basil2, made with Basil Hayden Bourbon, Dolin Dry vermouth, fresh sour, lemon syrup and Thai basil, served in a Martini glass. It was a balanced blend of rich whiskey, sweet citrus and herbal notes.

I followed up with the Funny Guy, comprising Zaya rum, Cointreau, orange juice and Old Fashioned bitters. The drink was tasty and refreshing.

After dinner, my friend Candice and I headed downtown. Local mixologist Tobin Ellis of Bar Magic had recommended Downtown Cocktail Room (DCR), a dark lounge located on Las Vegas Boulevard at Fremont Street. DCR reminded me of New York’s speakeasy-style spots, with mustachioed or vested bartenders, intimate booths and tables, and hand-crafted drinks ($8 to $11).

The cocktails are rated according to their level of approachability, ranging from
1 (easy) to 5 (advanced palate). I ordered the Leeki My Tiki, a Level 1 concoction featuring Pisco, tiki bitters, cranberry juice and egg white. The warming spices, winter fruit and velvety texture made for a satisfying drink.

Candice tried the Funky Pear Medina, which at Level 2.5 (somewhere between approachable and mildly complex) was a bit too much for her. However, I enjoyed its mix of rum, amaro, pear purée, sparkling wine and nutmeg—sweet and slightly minty, with a brightness from the fresh fruit and bubbly.

I wish I’d had more time to explore Las Vegas, but I was happy with what I did experience there. On my list for next time: The Chandelier and Vesper Bar at The Cosmopolitan and Herbs & Rye on Sahara Avenue. Viva Las Vegas!

 © 2012 Amber Drea and New York Drinkie. Unauthorized use or duplication of images and text without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts may be quoted, provided that clear credit is given to Amber Drea and New York Drinkie with links directing to the original content.

Exotic Experimentation: Ember Room’s cocktail menu gets an overhaul

18 Sep

Ember Room, the Asian-inspired barbecue restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen from chefs Todd English and Ian Chalermkittichai, has brought on “mixsultant” Joseph Boroski to inject some excitement into the previously unremarkable cocktail menu, which featured drinks like Sakejitos and Thai basil Juleps. Boroski picked up some local mixology techniques while consulting for Starwood hotels in Asia and has incorporated many of these ideas into 10 new cocktails ($12 to $14) for Ember Room.

On a recent visit, bartender Leigha served a slew of drinks from the updated menu. First up: the Korea Cosmo, which was by far the best Cosmopolitan I’ve ever had. It blends ginseng-infused Karlsson’s Gold potato vodka, orange peel–infused soju, fresh grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, pasteurized dried egg white and honey syrup. The cocktail was bright, balanced and not too sweet, with an added depth of flavor from the soju.

Next, I tried the Emotional Well-Being, featuring vodka that’s been infused with ginger, hot pepper, basil, star anise, and other herbs and spices. The spirit is stirred with lime juice and palm sugar syrup in a Japanese mixing glass, then poured over an ice sphere that contains julienned cucumber and pomegranate seeds. Garnished with smacked basil leaves, the aromatic concoction warms from the inside with a bite of heat in the back of the throat—perfect for fall.

Leigha followed up with a drink called A Thousand and One Nights, comprising Hendrick’s gin, muddled blueberries, oolong tea leaves, ground Sichuan pepper, curry powder, fresh lemon juice and palm sugar syrup. The cocktail is served in a glass rimmed with a blend of sugar and the same Eastern spices found in the drink, then topped with Fragoli strawberry liqueur. It’s a delicious combination of savory and sweet.

Continuing the oriental theme, the Chrysanthemum Gin Fizz incorporates the Asian flower and Bulldog gin, which contains Eastern botanicals like dragon eye, poppy and lotus leaves. The cocktail mixes the gin, house-made chrysanthemum syrup, fresh lemon juice and dried pasteurized egg white, topped with The Bitter Truth Creole bitters and a couple of dried chrysanthemums that have been soaked in plum wine.

I ended the evening with a caffeine kick. The Café Tarik features freshly brewed coffee and condensed coconut milk that’s “pulled” via a Malaysian method used in tea preparation (“tarik” means “pull” in Malay). The mixture is then poured over a blend of vodka and date honey in a traditional mug and topped with a coffee/coconut milk foam. The drink tasted like a boozy iced latte made with strong gourmet espresso and had just a touch of sweetness from the honey and the creamy coconut milk. If I only I could start my mornings with one of these every day!

The cocktail menu also includes a number of additional exotic cocktails that I didn’t get a chance to try this time around. Utilizing ingredients found in the food stalls of Bangkok, the Thai Streetside Ladyboy Daiquiri mixes light rum that’s been infused with pandanus fruit—which is native to the Pacific Islands and eastern Australia—with fresh pineapple and lime juices, palm sugar syrup, basil seeds and orange bitters. The Shake Me Make Me features kaffir lime leaf–infused Tequila, fresh cantaloupe, apple cider, lime juice and palm sugar syrup, topped with balsamic vinegar. And the Yao/Dao/Heu, comprising Sichuan pepper/oolong tea–infused sake, orange-infused soju, date honey, plum syrup and fresh lemon juice, is prepared in a custom-made cocktail shaker that’s modeled after a long-spouted Chinese teapot. I definitely plan to return to Ember Room soon so I can see it in action, though I doubt it will look anything like this video.

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

Boston Drinkie: Two Beantown establishments offer top-notch cocktails in classy settings

26 Aug

While Boston isn’t the first place that comes to mind when discussing cutting-edge cocktails, the New England city certainly has its fair share of venues that deliver delicious drinks. Last weekend, I visited some friends there and took the opportunity to check out the cocktail scene on Saturday night. We started the evening at Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks, a Kenmore Square mainstay that serves an array of upscale meat and seafood dishes and has extensive cocktail and wine lists. At the bar, I tried the Colony Cocktail ($10), a Martini-style concoction made with Plymouth gin, maraschino liqueur and fresh grapefruit juice. It was sufficiently strong yet pleasantly refreshing — the perfect aperitif.

Eastern Standard’s cocktail menu features a variety of libations in such categories as Standards, Heritage, Infusion and Tikisms, many of which fall into the $10-to-$12 price range. The restaurant also offers “Table Sized” pitchers ($25 to $70) and a Vic’s 1940s Scorpion Bowl ($22 to $65) that serve two or more people. We ordered a bottle of 2009 Pascal Granger “Le Bouteau” Beajolais ($30) to pair with our meal of grilled flat iron steak, pan-seared foie gras, roasted bone marrow, jumbo prawns and halibut ceviche. The red wine was earthy and complex with a spicy zing.

After dinner, we headed to the Waterfront and attempted to gain entry at Drink, a sleek nightspot from the Barbara Lynch Gruppo that serves bespoke cocktails. As expected, the line to the lower-level drinks den filled the stairwell and almost spilled out the door at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night. The fact that there were six of us didn’t help. Fortunately, the extremely accommodating hostess allowed me to put our name in and grab a round at Lucky’s across the street, rather than stand on the steps for 45 minutes. The rambunctious college bar was crowded with baseball cap-wearing fraternity types, but I enjoyed an Absolut Wild Tea and ginger ale — my go-to drink at more mainstream establishments — as my friends and I engaged in loud conversation.

Once back in line at Drink, we only had to wait another 15 minutes or so before we were finally seated at one of the three U-shaped bars. The place has a minimal design with modern lighting fixtures, exposed brick walls, an industrial ceiling and street-level windows.

Our bartender, Brin, asked us what we’d like to drink, and while a letter board listed a few cocktails, we decided to go for the whole bespoke experience. I requested a classic-style drink with dark rum and bitters. The result was a lemony, slightly sweet concoction served up in a coupe glass.

Josie asked for something “minty and milkshaky,” and that’s exactly what she got. We deduced that it was probably a Grasshopper, which comprises cream, green crème de menthe and white crème de cacao. The drink tasted just like melted mint chocolate chip ice cream and looked like it too.

Adam wanted a citrusy vodka cocktail, but failed to mention that he doesn’t like gin. Bartenders are notorious for tricking vodka drinkers into trying gin, and true to form, Brin served him a combination of gin and lemon juice. It actually worked — Adam said he didn’t mind the taste. So maybe he’s not a full on convert yet, but at least he drank the cocktail. Meanwhile, Genie ordered a Pimm’s Cup and received a beautiful work of art featuring layers of sliced cucumber like a Pimm’s parfait.

For my second cocktail, I asked for something rum-based, but stronger than my previous drink. Brin obliged with a mix of rum, whiskey, lemon juice and simple syrup, though it definitely had more of the first two ingredients and less of the latter two. Let’s just say I was done for the night after that.

All the cocktails cost $11.50 — a steal for the amount a craftsmanship that goes into them. And our bartender was a hard worker. At one point, she carried out the largest cube of ice I’d ever seen.

Between drinks, Brin procured a dangerous-looking tool and sawed away at the solid surface. I’m assuming she made smaller ice cubes out of the gigantic one, but we didn’t stick around long enough to find out. There’s always next time!

© 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.

Bittersweet Refreshment: Amor y Amargo showcases Brooklyn-made bitters

13 Aug

Bitters are the secret ingredient that make any cocktail better. These potent tinctures serve the same purpose in drinks that spices do in cuisine. Likewise, any bar worth its salt (pun intended) will have at least Angostura aromatic bitters on hand, if not a few selections from bitters makers like Fee Brothers, The Bitter Truth and Buffalo Trace Distillery, which produces the essential Sazerac ingredient Peychaud’s bitters and mixologist Gary Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6.

Amor y Amargo in the East Village is dedicated to the stuff. With a name that means “love and bitterness” in Spanish, the venue is owned by Bittermens—which produces small-batch bitters in Red Hook, Brooklyn—in partnership with the folks behind Death + Co., Mayahuel , Cienfuegos, et al. Naturally, Amor y Amargo serves cocktails (mostly $12) that feature an array of the Bittermens products, including Hellfire Shrub, Boston Bittahs and Spiced Cranberry Citrate, in addition to classic and signature drinks like the Negroni and The Redemption, the latter of which the menu declares “could be the drink that redeems Jägermeister in the eyes of the cocktail world.” The bar also offers amaro flights, such as the $16 Francofile that comprises tastes of Yellow, Green and V.E.P. Chartreuses, and two libations on tap: house-made, Spanish-style sweet vermouth and the Americano cocktail—which was popular with American tourists visiting Italy in the early 1900s—made with Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda.

Last week, I met my friend Carly, a food photographer and blogger who can be found at Eye for Style, at Amor y Amargo for a couple cocktails. We decided to try two selections from the “Fizzy Drinks” category. Carly chose the Bittermens House Gin and Tonic, comprising gin, tonic water, maraschino liqueur and Bittermens Hopped Grapefruit Bitters. I took a sip, and it was one of the tastiest G&Ts I’ve ever had—light and refreshing, with a good balance of citrus and sweetness.

I went for the Orchard Street Cel’ry Soda, despite the bartender’s warning that it’s on the dry side. The drink mixes applejack, genever, club soda and two types of cocktail extracts: Bittermens Orchard Street Celery Shrub—named for the Lower East Side street and featuring the tastes of apple, celery and vinegar—and Bittermens Peppercake Gingerbread Bitters, which evokes the flavors of the Norwegian Christmas cookie. While it was indeed dry, the blend of spices and vegetal notes combined with the subtle fruit of the applejack and the earthy genever for a refreshing beverage.

Since I’m a gin lover, the bartender recommended that I try a classic Martinez as well. The deliciously boozy concoction of gin, maraschino liqueur, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters went down nice and easy.

The intimate atmosphere, vintage décor and friendly staff at Amor y Amargo definitely won me over. The tasting room also serves Spanish tapas that pair well with the bitter drinks. And while you’re there, you can pick up a few tools from the general store for your home bar.

© 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.

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.