Tag Archives: rum

Rum Shaker: A tour of rums from Puerto Rico hits East Coast

8 Nov

Rum Shaker: A tour of rums from Puerto Rico hits East Coast

No longer just for fruity blended drinks to be enjoyed while on vacation, rum is the main ingredient in some of my favorite classic cocktails, including the Hemingway Daiquiri, the Mai Tai and the Dark & Stormy. And many aged rums are great for sipping like you would a good Scotch or Bourbon. The versatility of this spirit is a reflection of its various origins, which span the world, though most distilleries are concentrated in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. With so many rums to choose from, where does one begin?

Considering that Puerto Rico produces 77% of the rum consumed in the United States, the home of Ricky Martin is the perfect place to start. Fortunately, Rums of Puerto Rico is bringing a taste of the island stateside this month as part of a four-city East Coast tour that’s stopping in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston. The NYC event takes place on Friday, November 22, at SOB’s (200 Varick St.) in the West Village, starting at 7 p.m. For a cover charge of $10, you can sample a slew of Puerto Rican rums, including Ron del Barrilito, Ron Palo Viejo, Ron Llave, Ron Caliche, Black Roberts, Pitorro and several other brands. Plus, sip signature cocktails while dancing to tunes by DJ DNGR GRDN (download a free Taste of Rum mix!), then test your flexibility with a limbo contest and salsa dancing. There will also be a chance to win a trip for two to the Taste of Rum Festival in San Juan in the spring of 2014, courtesy of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co.!

© 2013 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.

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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.

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.

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.