Tag Archives: beer

Kiuchi No Shizuku: A gin-like spirit from Japan

16 Mar
Photo by Kevin Chan (http://flickr.com/crumbs)

Photo by Kevin Chan (http://flickr.com/crumbs)

Last night I dined at EN Japanese Brasserie, which serves some of the most authentic cuisine this side of the Pacific Ocean. In addition to the sweet and spicy Local Honey cocktail ($18), made with Yamazaki 12-year-old single malt whisky, Beefeater gin, honey, wasabi and bee pollen, I sampled a small pour of Kiuchi No Shizuku ($15) from Japan’s Kiuchi Brewery, the producer of the Hitachino Nest beer line. As a gin fan, I thoroughly enjoyed this 43-percent abv spirit, which is distilled from Hitachino Nest White Ale, a Belgian-style brew that features coriander, nutmeg, orange juice and orange peel. Additional coriander, hops and orange peel are incorporated during the distillation process, after which the spirit is aged in oak barrels for six months. The finished product is a pale golden color with a refreshing botanical flavor that’s reminiscent of gin minus the juniper. I sipped it over ice and loved the crisp taste of citrus and herbs, with a slight sweetness that mellows into a dry finish. I would also recommend drinking the spirit mixed with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and soda. Kiuchi No Shizuku is imported to the United States by specialty beer and spirits purveyor B. United International and can be found at Drink Up NY for $17.99 a 200-ml. bottle.

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Brief Relief: A place to relax in Midtown Manhattan

19 Mar

After a long week in the office, I treated myself to some stiff drinks and tasty bites at Respite, a restaurant and bar that opened on East 50th Street last fall. It’s hard to find a classy yet cozy lounge that’s not overrun with businessmen and frat-boy types in bustling Midtown. On a Friday night, the crowd comprised a good mix of regulars from the neighborhood and couples on dates.

I started with a WhistlePig Manhattan, mixing WhistlePig Straight Rye whiskey from Vermont, Barbadillo dry oloroso Sherry, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and simple syrup. The smooth rye mixed the nutty Sherry made for a very easy-drinking cocktail.

For an appetizer, I tried a duo of raw seafood. The chilled oyster floated in Sriracha mignonette and basil caviar, topped with a tiny scoop of mango sorbet. It was briny, sweet and spicy all at once. The scallop ceviche, served in a spoon with papaya-ginger purée, pickled butternut squash, jicama and macadamia nuts, was bright and crunchy.

The bar at Respite focuses on boutique spirits, with a heavy emphasis on gin and rums—don’t expect to find any flavored vodkas here—and the cocktail list features both classic and contemporary concoctions, with a daily special using seasonal ingredients like blood orange.

New head bartender Sam Davis has recently added a slew of spring cocktails to the menu to complement signature mainstays like the Scurvy Bastard, created by man-of-all-trades Edward Kennelly. It’s a tangy blend of gin, hibiscus lemonade and St-Germain elderflower liqueur. They’re also experimenting with spherical ice containing orchids and other garnishes.

My next course comprised butternut squash soup with a chesnut-ricotta agnolotti, pepitas, golden raisins and shallots, paired with Sly Fox 113 IPA, which is brewed in Pennsylvania. The spicy, savory soup, with bursts of sweetness from the raisins, evoked the Middle East, and the floral bitterness of the beer contrasted the soup’s richness.

I followed that up with a Thyme Out off the new spring cocktail list. The drink mixes Bootlegger vodka from New York’s Prohibition Distillery, St-Germain, muddled thyme and mint, and fresh lime and grapefruit juices, garnished with a lime wheel and thyme sprig. It was nicely balanced and aromatic.

The cuisine at Respite draws from all parts of the world, fusing a variety of Asian, Mexican and Mediterranean flavors. House specials include the Berkshire pork belly with seared foie gras, caramelized pickled ramps and macadamia rice crepe and the rice-encrusted snapper with peekytoe crab, kalonji-stuffed Poblano pepper and yellow curry. I opted for the lamb pita slider with caramelized onions, pickled carrots and tzatziki, a Greek cucumber-yogurt sauce. The soft pita, crunchy carrots and juicy lamb burger worked perfectly together, and the accompanying house-made taro root chips were crispy and lightly salted.

I finished my meal with another new drink, the Blueberry Hill, made with Cold River vodka from Maine Distilleries, bruised blueberries and mint, and fresh lemon juice, garnished with a skewer of sugar-coated blueberries.

The refreshing and fragrant cocktail paired nicely with the coconut marscapone panna cotta served atop a Champagne-poached Asian pear medallion, swimming a saffron-lemongrass broth speckled with basil caviar. The sweet and creamy dessert was a delicious denouement.

With an eclectic array of drinks and dishes and a soothing atmosphere, escaping to Respite could definitely become a habit.

© 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.

Ahoy, Mateys: A new bar sails into Brooklyn to deliver punch bowls and Belgian brews

9 Feb

On a frigid Friday night in February, my husband and I dared to venture south of Grand Street to a new bar aptly dubbed The Drink on Manhattan Avenue in East Williamsburg. We came in out of the cold and were greeted by a blast of warm, humid air filled with the aroma of hot, cinnamony apple cider. Mismatched furniture, nautical knickknacks lining the off-white walls and the still-standing Christmas tree in the corner added to the homey vibe.

Flea market finds evoked Grandpa’s dusty library.

The well-lit place housed a healthy crowd huddled near the bar and scattered among the five or six tables. Luckily there was an open stool at the end of the counter, and I took a seat. I asked for a cocktail menu, which listed only punch bowls for $43 a pop that contain roughly 10 drinks. The venue does serve one punch by the glass—The Old Gunwhale ($6)—comprising Maker’s Mark Bourbon, fresh grapefruit juice, chamomile tea syrup and spiced cranberry bitters. The mug full of fragrant pink liquid, though iced, warmed my tummy.

The Drink’s hand-crafted cocktails feature fresh juices and herbs, as well as house-made tinctures and syrups. Other punch bowl include the Perfect Storm, mixing Coruba dark Jamaican rum, lime juice, green tea syrup, ginger syrup, Angostura bitters and soda, and the Resolution, blending Juvé y Camps Cava, Pierre Ferrand Cognac, apricot nectar, lemon juice and cinnamon syrup. A few patrons had opted for the super-sized portion, and a lovely fellow named Lee offered me a cup from his punch bowl, which he was sharing with a friend. They’d chosen the Charter, a concoction of Espolón Blanco Tequila, lime juice, ginger syrup, salt tincture, cassis syrup and soda, which was quite tasty—sweet and refreshing and you could barely taste the Tequila. Dangerous!

In addition to the punch bowls, The Drink offers three different Hot Toddies ($7), made with Scotch, orange and clove; Bourbon, lemon and cranberry; or Jameson Irish whiskey and smoked green tea. The delicious odor permeating the room came from the mulled Wassail Cider ($5), featuring apple cider, tart cherry, apricot and either Barbancourt rhum or Bourbon. Of course, The Drink also serves any cocktail upon request. The beer list comprises mostly Belgian labels (each $10 a bottle), such as La Botteresse Brune, a strong brown ale brewed with sage. There is also a variety of German, Australian, Japanese and American beers. The bar was out of Schlenkerla ($9), a smoked light lager from Germany, so my husband chose Full Sail Brewing’s Session Black lager ($5) from Hood River, Oregon. The Drink pours beer on draft as well.

With the quality of the cocktails and the beer selection, it’s not surprising that this place involves Brooklyn heavyweights like Frank Cisneros of Dram lounge, Will Jones of Spuyten Duyvil tavern and Matt Lang of Fette Sau BBQ. I’m not sure what they keep in this barrel, but I bet it’s something good.

© 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.