Tag Archives: whiskey

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.

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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.

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.

Hidden History: The Rum House brings class from the past to Times Square

18 Apr

I rarely find myself trekking to Times Square for anything other than to fight the Christmas crowds at Toys R Us. However, my husband and I decided to head uptown to The Rum House at the Hotel Edison for a couple drinks after a dinner of shellfish and Champagne at The John Dory in Flatiron. Newly reopened by the gentlemen behind Ward III in Tribeca—a sultry den of bespoke cocktails that are created according to the customer’s tastes—the revamped lounge puts a strong emphasis on the spirit distilled from molasses or sugarcane.

The cocktail menu is divided into three sections: “Rum,” “Classics” and “House Originals.” The first category includes rum-based beverages like the Mojito and the Rum Old Fashioned. I started off with a refreshing drink called the Tortuga, which mixes Pampero aged rum, citrus, fresh ginger and cinnamon ($12), garnished with candied ginger.

My husband’s usual Manhattan fell under the “Classics” heading, which also lists standards like a traditional Bourbon Old Fashioned and a French 75/76 made with gin or vodka. The Rum House’s take on the Manhattan uses spicy Templeton rye whiskey ($14) for an extra kick.

The “House Originals” features more adventurous libations with names that evoke famous figures from old Hollywood and early-20th century artists. The Barrymore comprises Bruichladdich Scotch, Ramazzotti amaro and Yellow Chartreuse ($15), and the Diego Rivera combines Corazón Tequila, Meletti amaro, Bonal Gentiane-Quina aperitif, citrus and egg white ($11). For my second drink, I instead opted for one of my favorites—the Dark & Stormy—from the “Rum” section. The rich, gingery concoction offered an effervescent zing.

On a Saturday evening between 7 and 8 p.m., The Rum House was surprisingly quiet. There were a few other patrons, who seemed to be out-of-towners staying at the Hotel Edison. The vintage décor, including an upright piano, leather banquettes and a wagon wheel chandelier, enhanced the vintage vibe, and the quality of the drinks far outweighed the relatively low prices—especially for a tourist trap like Time Square. It’s a perfect pocket of solace surrounded by chaos, and you’d be hard-pressed to find better drinks in even the hippest New York City neighborhood.

© 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.

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.

Soul Mates: Booze finds its perfect match at Edible Manhattan’s mixer

30 Jan

Food paired with wine or beer is fairly common; less so is food paired with cocktails, the complexity of which can often dominate the dishes. However, if anyone knows how to bring together delicious drinks and bountiful bites, it’s Edible Manhattan, and the magazine’s Good Spirits event at (Le) Poisson Rouge in Washington Square Village definitely delivered. Restaurants and bars teamed up with spirits brands (and one wine) to showcase their best cuisine and cocktails, while foodies and drinkies swarmed throughout the two rooms, dutifully tasting every offering.

One thing’s certain: There was plenty of pig. I began my tour with Peels’ pork and beef sausage hot dog, topped with Brussels sprout slaw (yum!) and Bourbon cherry mustard, and washed it down with the Cherry Crush, comprising Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery’s American Fruits Sour Cherry Cordial, rehydrated cherries, star anise simple syrup, lime juice and a splash of club soda. The drink’s sweet and tangy cherry flavor perfectly complemented the savory sausage.

Next I tried Huckleberry Bar’s peanut butter and banana sandwich, consisting of peanut butter mousse, banana, peanuts, mayonnaise, salt and orange bitters on toasted white bread. It was like a grown-up version of my favorite after school snack, especially when accompanied by The New York Times, which mixed Death’s Door White Whisky, Amaro CioCiaro, Chelsea Brewing’s Imperial Stout and orange bitters. The crisp cocktail cut through the sandwich’s salty creaminess and cleansed the palate.

Huckleberry co-owner Andrew Boggs exhibited the tools of the trade.

I swung by the table of Long Island’s Wölffer Estate Vineyard for a taste of its 2008 Chardonnay, which had great acidity and balance with just a touch of oakiness, and a bite of cheddar polenta topped with crispy bacon and apple purée, courtesy of Jimmy’s 43.

Nearby, Fort Defiance served up deviled eggs, made with smoked black pepper and pickled mustard seeds, and the King Bee, which combined Darjeeling tea-infused Comb vodka—which is distilled from honey—with lemon, a dash of Benedictine liqueur and Prosecco. I love me some deviled eggs!

In the other room, Fette Sau had a spread of barbecued Duroc pork belly, matched with Compass Box’s The Peat Monster, a light and smoky blend of Islay and Highland Scotch whiskies. I’m usually not a fan of peaty whisky, but this one I could drink.

Next up was Palo Santo’s tostada de chicharrón (fried pork rind), topped with a spicy pineapple sauce and presented on a piece of newspaper, street food-style. The dish was paired with a mix of Nonino Chardonnay grappa and crushed pineapple, served in a chili salt-rimmed cup. I found the chunky concoction to be somewhat difficult to drink, and its astringent flavor overpowered the tostada—a rare miss of the night.

Macao Trading Co. delivered with its mushroom and truffle croquette and a tartare of bacalhau—Portuguese for “salted cod”—atop a slice of baguette. Providing a fragrant, citrusy complement, the Macao cocktail comprised lavender-infused St-Germain elderflower liqueur and a sugar cube soaked with lemon bitters, topped with dry Zardetto Prosecco.

Here’s the author, happy and buzzed, in front of a piece from Kate Casanova’s art exhibition “Spoils.” Very festive.

I headed back to the main room and hunted down Lani Kai, Julie Reiner’s new Hawaiian lounge, which served tasty kalua pork on a soft poi pancake and the Pacific Swizzle cocktail, mixing lime juice, passion fruit purée and Don Q Cristal rum that had been infused with rose hips, hibiscus and lemongrass.

Julie is one of New York City’s mover and shakers—she also co-owns Flatiron Lounge, Pegu Club and Clover Club.

The final pork dish of the night was Fonda’s pork in guajillo adobo over white rice, matched with a Ginger Margarita that blended Karma Tequila, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur and lime juice.

For dessert, Northern Spy Food Co. offered a decadent sticky winter pudding soaked with Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Baby Bourbon hard sauce and served with nutmeg custard. The accompanying Tuthilltown Manhattan, made with Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey, further warmed my tummy.

To end the evening, I chased Tumbador Chocolate bonbons with a couple shots of Bache Gabrielsen Cognac. There were also Serendipitea and Dallis Coffee stations, but their drinks didn’t contain liquor, so why bother?

© 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.