Tag Archives: East Village

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.

Advertisements

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.