Mixing drinks at home has never been a priority. We’ve been known to stir up a Negroni now and again — it’s such an easy drink, I basically eyeball it — but the days of Craig shaking up Sidecars at dinner parties has been in steep decline ever since I noticed how much more clean-up is involved (the shaker, the extra glassware, the jigger, etc). Plus Craig always leaves the bottles with the caps off on my cutting board as I’m trying to get dinner together and it drives me crazy.
All of that changed under our current circumstances. We’ve been mixing up cocktails on the regular, with Craig reclaiming the mantle as our resident mixologist. His favorite drink to make is a Paper Plane, which is a surprising combination of Aperol, Amaro, Bourbon, and lemon juice: producing a bright, summery drink despite the presence of a wintery spirit. He also makes a mean gin martini, a fizzy gin and tonic (the day he told me to buy “bespoke tonic water,” I knew we’d become monsters), and an excellent classic daiquiri. And now we’re making even more sophisticated cocktails with the arrival of David Lebovitz’s Drinking French.
Listen up, Negroni lovers. The other night I was with my parents at Hinoki and the Bird and, on the Negroni section of their drink menu, I spied a drink called The Kingston Negroni. The bartender heartily recommended it and so I gave my nod of approval. “Let’s do this thing,” I said, but not really, I didn’t really say that.
But this drink. This drink! It is so good. It’s a riff on a Negroni, not nearly as bitter, but just as bracing. The best part is you can easily recreate it at home with three ingredients: Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum, Gran Classico (a bitter Italian apertif similar to Campari), and Carpano sweet vermouth. Combine them in equal parts, serve over ice, and add some orange peel. Suddenly you’ll be whisked away to Jamaica by way of Italy and your dinner guests will be dazzled at your drink-making prowess. But really all you did was shop for unique liquors and then stir them together. Be careful, though…one too many of these and you may actually wake up in Jamaica.
One of my favorite New York novelties is the existence of Please Don’t Tell in New York’s East Village. On St. Marks, between 1st and A, is a hog dog emporium called Crif Dogs. Looks innocent enough. But what you don’t realize, unless you know the secret, is that the phone booth that you see on the left when you walk in? It’s really a secret entrance to what’s supposed to be one of New York’s best bars, a bar called Please Don’t Tell. We’re big fans of the P.D.T. cocktail book but I’ve never actually been to Please Don’t Tell. Many a time I’ve gone into that phone booth, dialed a number, and many a time I’ve been told there’s an insanely long wait. And every time, including this most recent time, we decide not to wait. But still…
My literary muscles have been flexed thoroughly on the subject of food, but not so beverages. And yet I drink beverages every day. I am drinking beverages right now! (An overly sweet Chai tea and a glass of water, for the record.) Last week I decided to throw my hat into the wine/beer writing ring by taking notes upon sipping from various bottles. What follows are my tasting notes for the various beverages I tried. I hope you will find them as useful and insightful as my regular work here. I hope to make this a regular feature.
Cocktail-wise, Craig–who’s now our official bartender–has two drinks up his sleeve. The first, a Sidecar, I wrote about a few weeks ago. Now he has a new one, perfect for these chilly-weather months: a Manhattan.
My planned Christmas gift for Craig this year was a copy of The P.D.T. Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan and Chris Gall, based on the drinks at P.D.T. (Please Don’t Tell) in New York which was just named the best bar in the world by Drinks International. It’s a bar that’s hidden inside a hot dog restaurant; to get there you have to go through a telephone booth. Any time that I ever tried to go there, I was always turned away and told to make a reservation next time. But I’m not bitter over bitters. As things worked out, I was sent a press copy of The P.D.T. book last week and even though I could’ve saved it to give Craig on December 24th (or is it the 25th that you give gifts? This Jew doesn’t understand Christmas) I decided to give it to him now. And Craig, who’s often aspired to building up our bar and making drinks for our dinner parties, couldn’t have been more delighted.
When in New Orleans, you should drink a Sazerac. I didn’t know this until I went with Pim to dinner at a place called Mandina’s (more on that tomorrow) and she ordered one. Pim’s Sazerac was so good–it’s made with Rye whiskey, absinthe or Herbsaint (an anise-flavor liqueur, like Pernod), and bitters–I made a mental note to order one the next night with Craig so he could experience it too.
You can taste great food in your head long after you first experience it. That’s the case for me and the rhubarb cocktail I drank at Franny’s in 2009. Most rhubarb drinks have a cooked quality to them; the rhubarb is generally poached in a sugar syrup. The Franny’s rhubarb drink (which, apparently, is made with Aperol) is nothing like that. The rhubarb flavor (which comes from juicing rhubarb raw) is intense and sharp and the cocktail, as a whole, is incredibly bracing. It’s the kind of drink that makes you sit up in your seat, alert and ready for dinner.