With the proliferation of high quality cocktails in this city, both in specialty bars and high and low end restaurants, it can be hard to keep track of all that's on offer in New York and easy to slip into the pattern of ordering the same old gin and tonic or perfect Manhattan at every stop. So here's the first edition of Strive for Five, a new column where Eater highlights five excellent drinks to try every month at bars and restaurants helmed by New York's best cocktail talents. Time to get drinking.
Colonie's Green Apple Whisky Sour
127 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn Heights
Brooklyn Heights' Colonie, a testament to the appeal of the industrial design phenomenon, welcomes a Green Apple Whiskey Sour ($12) to the menu this October. Sure, bargoers can find a drink $2 cheaper elsewhere, but it's probably not coming with a delight like Michter’s Straight Rye at the base. Or fresh juice from a bright green apple. They add in a little sugar, a dollop of egg white, bitters and cinnamon and shake it hard to create a frothy, snappy tipple that kicks the cold right where it hurts.
The Beagle's Artist's Special
162 Avenue A, East Village
Newish East Village The Beagle is dependable and classic, it’s cute but intelligent. The drink menu has a satisfying lack of flamboyance, and gets crafty where the classics are concerned. The Artist’s Special cocktail ($12) has been on since inception and will like remain year round, and it’s a perfect transition drink when the bartender finally pries the last glass of summer Rosé from your hands. Don’t let the pink hue fool you, there’s Scotch in there. Single-malt to be exact. The balancers include a dose of Oloroso Sherry, lemon juice and the real red-flag-of-fall—an in-house prepared red currant syrup.
Mother’s Ruin's So What Cocktail
18 Spring St., Nolita
One owner has a Mohawk. The other owner once traversed India for six weeks by tuk tuk in some insane, twisted version of the Amazing Race. Brunch is more like a house party than a bar and it’s the only time you can have the So What cocktail ($11). Mexico’s classic Paloma cocktail gets a facelift via fresh grapefruit juice and premium blanco tequila. That combo’s then thrown into a slushie machine with childish glee. Said slushie is dispensed in a glass drizzled with Lynch’s homemade five chili molasses. Lynch uses ancho, guajillo, chile de arbol, pasilla, and chipotle varieties, dried and cooked down with raw sugar, orange peel, cinnamon, vanilla and orange juice. When the bitter of grapefruit meets charred smoke notes from the molasses, it’s a perfect marriage with the earthy agave flavors in tequila.
Saxon & Parole Lower East Cider
316 Bowery, East Village.
Bartender Naren Young is the brains and brawn behind most of Saxon & Parole's drink menu, which has lovely accents—from the hand-carved ice in the Negronis and Manhattans to the hand-cut crystal decanters behind the bar. It’s what’s inside that counts though, and his Lower East Cider ($13) does not disappoint. Young creates a spiced agave nectar from star anise, vanilla, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, white pepper and clove. The syrup is added to a healthy pour of Leblon cachaça and rounded out with a little lemon juice, some pear eau de vie, and helping of tart apple cider. Served over ice in a tall Collins glass, it’s one of those rare concoctions that you can order two or three of without switching to something else.
The Tippler's Derek Smalls
425 West 15th St., Chelsea
The Tippler’s cocktail menu delivers a playful jab at the often pompous subject of classic cocktails. Like Mother’s Ruin, The Tippler offers frozen versions of stalwarts, which they call Lushies. You can sip a Snow Groni or down a Spazerac, but it's easy to appreciate the dose of pop culture in drinks like the Derek Smalls. Named after the bassist in the fake rocker ensemble, Spinal Tap, the drink’s a great choice for October, when it’s still warm enough outside to enjoy a tuft of mint and six-inch slice of fresh cucumber, yet the Zu Bison grass vodka and anise add that richer, herbal quality, the one that makes you want to snuggle in one of the Tippler's dark booths.