Tag Archives: mixology

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.

Booze-Fueled Bacchanal: Manhattan Cocktail Classic takes over NYC once again

6 May

Kicking off May 11 with an extravagant Gala at the New York Public Library, the third annual Manhattan Cocktail Classic hits New York City for a five-day celebration focused on the joys of drinking. While many MCC events are sold out, including the aforementioned Gala, there are still tickets available for plenty of exciting educational seminars, tastings, dinners and parties. New York Drinkie has rounded up 16 top picks from the remaining program schedule.

SATURDAY, MAY 12

Women Behind Bars: A History of Women in the Spirits Industry
1:00 p.m. at Pegu Club in Manhattan, $50

Lynnette Marrero, Meaghan Dorman, Kitty Amann and Misty Kalkofen of The Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails discuss the impact that women have had on alcoholic beverage consumption throughout the years, from the Temperance Movement and Prohibition to the current classic cocktail resurgence. Pernod Ricard supplies the libations.

Hands-On Distilling Workshop: The Art & Science of Distilling
1:30 p.m. at Cacao Prieto Distillery in Brooklyn, $75

Learn the ins and outs of small-batch distilling during this three-hour seminar led by Cacao Prieto’s Daniel Preston, Randal Murphy, Jan Chelminski and Alex Clark. Afterwards, enjoy a tasting of the company’s cacao rum and cacao liqueur at nearby bar Botanica.

Gentleman’s Cocktail Crawl
1:30 p.m. at various locations in Manhattan, $55

Sponsored by men’s clothing store Bonobos, this cocktail crawl includes six complimentary cocktails at bars like The Living Room at the W Downtown, Bar Seven Five at the Andaz Wall Street and The Empire Room in Midtown. Women are welcome, and the drink tickets also serve as raffle tickets, which make crawlers eligible for upscale prizes, such as Bonobos clothing, iPhone cases, hotel stays and round-trip tickets to London.

Fortify Yourself: Unlock the Secrets and Wield the Power of Port, Sherry and Madeira
2:00 p.m. at Terroir Murray Hill in Manhattan, $56

Fortified wines aren’t just for dessert or old ladies anymore, and this event offers a crash course in the three main regions: Spain’s Jerez and Portugal’s Douro Valley and Madeira. Guests receive four tastes of each style, for a total of 12 different wines, providing an overview of the category’s history, range and characteristics.

Behind the Bar: Boutique and Craft Spirits With Brooklyn Gin, Fidencio Mezcal and Bittermans Spirits
4:00 p.m. at Whitehall Kitchen & Bar in Manhattan, $60

Emily Cavalier, founder of culinary and cocktail-pairing pop-up series Midnight Brunch, hosts this event, which brings together three craft spirits producers to discuss the business of boutique distilling. Drinks and dishes are courtesy of “New British” restaurant and gin haven Whitehall.

Esquire’s Summer Music Issue Launch Party featuring Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and Tanqueray
6:00 p.m. at The Lamb’s Club in Manhattan, $50

The latest “Next Iron Chef” winner Geoffrey Zakarian serves up summer hors d’oeuvres, and Tanqueray gin provides seasonal concoctions for this party celebrating the launch of Esquire’s music issue. Proceeds from the iTunes downloads of five songs created specifically for the magazine by artists like Rhett Miller and Chris Daughtry will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

SUNDAY, MAY 13

Pork Out Punch Party
11:00 a.m. at Union Pool in Brooklyn, $30 entry fee includes a free T-shirt (RSVP to poppmcc@gmail.com)

This all-day soirée and fundraiser, hosted by The Bon Vivants, features pig and punch-style libations, courtesy of Crown Royal Black Canadian whisky, George Dickel Tennessee whiskey, Ketel One vodka, Pimm’s No. 1, Don Julio Tequila and Zacapa rum. Proceeds from the T-shirt sales will be donated to KIPP NYC, which gives urban students the tools to graduate high school and attend college, and music will be provided by brass band The Stumblebums, along with DJ Eleven and DJ Ayres of The Rub.

A Taste of Contemporary Scotland in New York
1:00 p.m. at Highlands Gastropub in Manhattan, $60

Highlands beverage director John McCarthy and principal Donal Brophy lead a brunch paired with anCnoc single malt Scotch and Caorunn Scottish gin. Drink handcrafted cocktails and enjoy Scottish cuisine while learning about the country’s culture.

Suntory Japanese BBQ and Cocktails… Celebration of Spring!
4:00 p.m. at The Summit Bar in Manhattan, $25

Discover the art of Japanese whisky with Yamazaki, Hibiki and the newly introduced Hakushu. This indoor “tako matsuri,” or kite festival, features a blending station where attendees can create their own bottle of Hakushu 12-year-old, cocktails from mixologist Greg Seider, Japanese ice cut using chainsaws and knives, yakitori-style barbecue from BondSt chef Marc Spitzer and DJ Kimiko Masuda.

Pisco Portón and Dans Le Noir Present Dining in the Dark
5:00 p.m. at Dans Le Noir in Manhattan, $50

Pisco Portón is partnering with Dans Le Noir’s New York City location for a lights-out evening of eating and drinking. With the sense of sight eliminated, guests can experience the heightened aromas, tastes and textures of the Peruvian grape-based spirit paired with and incorporated into various cuisines.

Handcrafted Cocktails: Create Homemade Ingredients, Syrups, Cordials, Infusions and Accompaniments
5:00 at Macao Trading Co. in Manhattan, $35

Renowned mixologist Dushan Zaric demonstrates techniques for creating an array of homemade cocktail ingredients, including syrups, cordials and infusion. Learn how to make your own grenadine and never rely on store-bought mixes again. Plus, all proceeds from ticket sales will benefit City Harvest.

Sunday Soulloon with G. Love
6:00 p.m. at The Tippler in Manhattan, $60

Drink some “Cold Beverages” courtesy of The Tippling Bros. while listening to live tunes from ’90s alt-funk favorite G. Love and Miami roots rocker Brendan O’Hara. Pickled eggs, pretzels and other bar snacks will also be served to soak up some of that special sauce.

MONDAY, MAY 14

You Choose the Next Iron Bartender
12:00 p.m. at Huckleberry Bar in Brooklyn, $50

Team up with one of four mixologists for a chance to win prizes. Each bartender will prepare a cocktail using White Pike whiskey and Finger Lakes Distilling’s spirits and ingredients selected by his or her audience participants, who enjoy complimentary drinks and small bites while they watch.

Urban Tiki, Redefined
1:00 p.m. at PKNY in Manhattan, $25

Step into a Polynesian paradise in the East Village and indulge in super strong tiki cocktails, courtesy of Sailor Jerry spiced rum. As you partake, PKNY’s Richard Boccato, Valentin Gonzalez and Kigan Joseph will relay the history of Don The Beachcomber, Trader Vic and Sailor Jerry.

The Darkest Night: Bowmore’s Evening at The McKittrick Hotel With a Performance of Sleep No More
7:15 p.m., 7:45 p.m., 8:00 p.m. at The McKittrick Hotel in Manhattan, $125

Experience the site-specific theatrical performance “Sleep No More” with a dram of Bowmore 15-year-old Darkest single malt Scotch in hand. Described as an interactive Kubrickian “Macbeth,” the dark, voyeuristic, choose-your-own-adventure-style show allows masked viewers to be both observers and participants. Once you’ve gotten your fill of the strange spectacle, make your way to the hotel’s bar and lobby for more Scotch libations—created by cocktail historian David Wondrich and Fred Sarkis of Sable Bar & Kitchen in Chicago—paired with chocolate and oysters.

TUESDAY, MAY 15

The Indy Spirits Expo
5:00 p.m. at Crimson Club in Manhattan, $50

This year’s closing night party is the Indy Spirits Expo, which features scores of small-batch spirits and boutique brands from all over the country. Sample all the artisanal gins, whiskies, rums, vodkas and liqueurs you can handle during the three-hour event.

© 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.

A New York Drinkie–Style New Year’s Eve

29 Dec

Are you looking for a place to ring in 2012, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars for a crappy open bar, cheap “Champagne” and lukewarm nibbles?  Don’t fret—some of my favorite bars in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens are hosting parties that are either free or worth that $100+ cover. Here’s New York Drinkie’s NYE round-up.

Masquerade New Year’s Eve at Huckleberry Bar

This costumed bash in East Williamsburg features free admission and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. The cozy outdoor garden will be dotted with heat lamps, and DJ Benny B is slated to spin classic soul and funk, reggae, rock, pop, ’80s, house and dance music all night. Masks are not required, but wearing one certainly makes everything more fun.

Prix-Fixe Dinner and Dance Party at Manhattan Inn

Greenpoint’s classic cocktail haven presents a $40 four-course food menu between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. that includes such items as pan-seared scallops, basil pesto agnolotti pasta, molten chocolate cake and a glass of Champagne. Smokin’ Billy Slater provides piano tunes during dinner service, followed by a DJ set by Romantically Uninvolved, which comprises members of Neon Indian, Ego Puppets and Pretty Good Dance Moves.

New Year’s Eve at Night Of Joy

Serving simple yet delicious drinks in a colorful and kitschy setting that recalls the early 20th century, Williamsburg’s Night of Joy is celebrating the new year with the musical stylings of DJ Sadguitarius, aka Ben Goldwasser of MGMT. The free fête also features complimentary Reyka vodka from 11:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

A Punchy New Year’s Eve at 1534

Jacques restaurant’s underground cocktail lair is offering a five-hour open bar of French Colonial­–themed concoctions and an unlimited supply of its special New Year’s Punch, along with hot hors d’oeuvres from the upstairs kitchen.  With handcrafted drinks and a prime Nolita location, this soirée is the priciest, starting at $125 per person. There’s also an option sans open bar for $50 per person, including a complimentary Champagne toast and chocolate-covered strawberries at midnight. DJ Cazual (aka Fame Jenkins) brings the jams.

New Year’s Eve at Louis 649

This Alphabet City drinks den has a killer deal for NYE: a five-hour open bar with passed hors d’oeuvres from 9:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. and a Champagne toast at midnight—all for $75 in advance ($95 at the door, which is still a steal). Plus, the Evan Schwam Quartet plays live swing jazz ’til closing.

Moulin Rouge New Year’s Eve at Apotheke

Chinatown’s cocktail mecca pays homage to 19th century French decadence with burlesque performances and free-flowing absinthe, as well as an open bar from 9:00 p.m. to midnight and a Champagne toast. Tickets are $100 in advance or $125 at the door.

New Year’s Eve at Dutch Kills

For revelers partying in Queens, this Long Island City mixology lounge is your best bet. Enjoy the bar’s $8 happy hour menu of classic-style cocktails, including the Whiskey Fix, the Daiquiri No. 1 and the Moscow Mule, and $4 beers. The free celebration also features a Champagne toast at midnight.

Cheers to more cocktail adventures in 2012!

© 2011 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.

Chicago Drinkie: Achatz’s Aviary and Cantu’s iNG offer experimental experiences in the Windy City

10 Nov

Since the last time I was in Chicago, two cutting-edge venues opened right around the corner from each other in the West Loop area: The Aviary from Grant Achatz of Alinea—next to his aptly named Next restaurant—and iNG Restaurant from Homaro Cantu of Moto, which is also nearby. I scored a reservation for The Aviary at 8:00 and showed up early to try one of the famed “flavor changing cocktails” at iNG. I sat at a long red counter in the stark minimalist space and selected a Smoked Manhattan, made with Bulleit Bourbon, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters, with a rinse of Arbeg single malt Scotch, which is the “peatiest and smokiest of all the Islay malts,” according to the whisky’s website. The cocktail was indeed smoky.


My husband Jeb and my friend Kenan arrived, and we were handed the list of flavor changing cocktails, along with a bowl of cranberry cheddar popcorn. Head bartender Mario Catayong explained the concept behind this special menu: First, we sip our drinks to experience the original flavor, then we pop the “miracle berry” pill and let it dissolve, coating our mouths with the protein miraculin, which comes from a small African fruit.


The pill suppresses the tongue’s sour and bitter taste receptors, making the flavor of the cocktails change. To provide a sharp contrast, Mario gave us some lemon wedges, which tasted like hard lemon candy after taking the miracle berry pill. We ordered our cocktails, and Mario prepared the drinks in a laboratory-like room with a red porthole window.


I couldn’t decide between the Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie or the PB&J, but eventually opted for the latter. The cocktail featured Frangelico, rum, crème de cassis and vertjus (a tart green grape juice), served in a Martini glass with a rim of caramel and crushed peanuts. It was nutty and salty-sweet, but the flavor didn’t really change much after taking the miracle berry.


Kenan had the Skinny Margarita Under a Tequila Sunrise, which mixed Tequila, lime and orange juices—sans sugar—served with a “pipette” dropper. The sourness was definitely subdued, allowing the sweetness to come through.


After my friend Leah showed up, we sucked down our drinks and headed to The Aviary. Thankfully, the host was able to accommodate a last-minute addition to the party of three. I recognized the space from its old days as a bottle service-style nightclub called The Office. The current décor is a vast improvement, though it’s a little more “luxe hotel lobby” than “contemporary cocktail lounge” due to the high-backed booth seating, pewter upholstery and crystal chandeliers. No matter—we were there for the drinks, not the design. Instead of a bartender manning a bar, chefs prepare the cocktails in a kitchen that’s sectioned off by a steel fence.



The libation list is divided into two parts—à la carte cocktails and a three-course tasting menu. Since most of the drinks cost around $18, I went for the $45 prix-fixe (I’m always looking for a deal). The server delivered a complimentary round of amuse-bouche and glasses of water, each containing a single large ice shard—one of the more than 20 different types of ice used to cool and flavor the drinks. Our cocktails came out almost immediately. For my appetizer course, I chose the Quince, a light carbonated concoction of Pisco, quince juice and ginger syrup, served in a soda bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. Leah selected the Chartreuse, which comprised three small servings of Green and Yellow Chartreuses mixed with blueberry, honeydew and pineapple juices and chilled with mint ice cubes, presented in a Chartreuse V.E.P. box on a bed of fresh herbs.


Kenan ordered the Oolong, which is a mixture of gin and pear brandy that’s heated in a two-tiered glass beaker over an open flame at the table, then steeped with tea, herbs, nuts and dried fruit. Science!


Jeb got the infamous In the Rocks, which is an Old Fashioned inside a sphere of ice that must be broken using a mini slingshot. (I would have taken a photo, but The Aviary doesn’t allow flash photography, so I had to sneak shots when the staff wasn’t looking.) My main course was the Peach, a bold blend of wheat whiskey, white Port, peach purée, maple syrup and sweet annie, served in a highball glass filled with tiny frozen Angostura balls.


For his second drink, Jeb opted for the Cranberry, made with 12-year-old Bourbon and cranberry ice cubes, topped with chervil foam. It was very pretty.


And finally, my dessert course was the sweet, fizzy Cream Soda, a “distilled” combo of aged rum, Licor 43, vanilla and vanilla ice—Ice Baby!


The bill totaled $136 (tip included)—well worth it, in my opinion. In fact, I’m going again in December!

© 2011 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.

Halloween Happenings: Five places to celebrate the spooky holiday with themed cocktails

31 Oct

Just because it’s Halloween doesn’t mean you should drink any scary concoction that’s handed to you. Plenty of mixology-focused venues around the city are highlighting holiday libations and other tasty treats for tonight’s troublemakers.

The first three come from Richard Sandoval Restaurants. Don your costume and head to the bar at Zengo (622 Third Avenue, New York, NY) for a complimentary Witch’s Eye Cocktail, which comprises sparkling sake and Pisco, garnished with a frozen grape. Stop by the dining room for a game of Trick or Treat in which you choose a guaranteed treat or pick from a bag of tricks—take a chance with the latter and you could get a free Margarita voucher, a $100 or $200 gift card, or nada.

Two other Sandoval venues, Maya (1191 First Avenue, New York, NY) and Pampano (209 East 49th Street, New York, NY), are serving up a special Dia de los Muertos menu through November 1st. Both restaurants offer three creepy cocktails for the occasion: the Medianoche, mixing Riazul Añejo Tequila, sweet vermouth, lemon zest, hibiscus purée and hibiscus foam, garnished with a lemon twist; La Ofrenda, made with Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila, Patrón Citrónge liqueur, mandarin purée and a marigold; and the Margarita del Diablo, blending Riazul Reposado, blood orange purée and sour mix in a glass with a mole negro rim. If you’re hungry, order the Trio de Tamales ($10 each or $26 for a sampler plate) at Maya or opt for the five-course prix-fixe meal at Pampano ($50 a person).

In Soho, Lani Kai (525 Broome Street, New York, NY) is hosting a Hawaiian-themed soirée called “Mahaloween.” The party includes a costume contest and $8 Mai Tais and $6 Tequila drinks from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. for those who dress up.

And lastly, Louis 649 (649 East 9th Street, New York, NY) in the East Village shows some skin with “Francine’s Pink Room,” a burlesque bash featuring jazz and mixology. Sets start at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. with performances from Bettina May, Tansy Tan and Franny Fluffer. The event is free, but make sure to shoot an email to rsvp@louis649.com before sauntering over.

© Amber Drea and New York Drinkie, 2011. Photo courtesy of Richard Sandoval Restaurants. 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.