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 latest 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.
The Lighthouse's Hachachai
145 Borinquen Pl., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
It’s officially becoming winter, folks. Evidenced not so much by the blustering temperatures outside, but more so by the warmth and community brought by cocktails like Lighthouse’s Hachachai. The house chai—made daily from bay leaf, cinnamon, fresh ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, fennel, clove and star anise —is blasted with steamed milk and a spoonful of the sweetened, condensed variety. It’s then mixed with a soul-melting four ounces of Louis Royer Cognac and served in a charming French press. It comes in portions built for two ($25) or four ($45), and after a round, don’t be alarmed if life starts to feel like a Norman Rockwell painting.
Junoon's Tandoori Tequila cocktail
27 W 24th St., Gramercy
The Patiala cocktail lounge at Junoon is brand new, and the venue’s recent Michelin star is still twinkling. The Tandoori Tequila cocktail is a winter stalwart and a fine addition to any “Damn it’s cold, I need a drink” list. It’s a crafty, ingenious combination of curry leaf, muddled tandoori-roasted pineapple, pippali pepper and El Jimador’s herbaceous blanco tequila. The first swallow is a bit disconcerting admittedly, when you encounter Indian spices (ground fresh daily in the spice room downstairs) in place of the more familiar jalapeno or habanero. But with the second and subsequent sips, it’s nearly impossible not to fall in love with such a bold move with ancient flavors.
Jimmy's Legal in Vermont
27 Grand St., Soho
The fall cocktail menu at Jimmy offers several great excuses to shirk off silly responsibilities like work and lose yourself in a lazy afternoon. The Legal in Vermont ($17) is a beautiful ode to balance with the rich heat of Knob Creek bourbon tempered by Vermont maple syrup and orange bitters. Muddled Shiso leaf adds a level of complexity (it’s also employed as a fresh garnish) and the whole thing arrives over a stick of cinnamon frozen in the ice cube. For the more adventurous and those with a much sweeter palate, the B.M.O.C. ($15) is also worth experiencing. The bizarre combination of beer, moonshine, orgeat and Coke somehow creates a dead ringer for Cheerwine cherry soda.
New Leaf Restaurant & Bar's Vanilla Rum Toddy
1 Margaret Corbin Dr., Washington Heights
The building that now houses the New Leaf Restaurant and Bar in Fort Tyron Park, just a short walk from The Cloisters, has been many things over the years. Originally a horse stable, it was re-purposed by the Rockefeller family as a men’s gathering hall called the Unicorn Club in the 1920s. Today, it’s a profit generating means for Bette Midler’s philanthropy, the New York Restoration Project. The proceeds from libations like the $11 Vanilla Rum Toddy go toward preserving and restoring the city’s parks and gardens. The classic recipe of boiling black tea, honey and lemon is improved with vanilla and coffee bean house-infused rum, served with a classic, clove-spiked lemon slice. Tax deductible and delicious? Yes. Please.
Prune's Classic Bloody Mary
54 E 1st St., Lower East Side
Several things are necessary for humans to thrive in fall. These include but are not limited to: mittens, hip flasks, football and Bloody Mary’s. Prune’s take on the last item has become something of a Lower East Side legend. The lines that stretch along the sidewalk outside during peak brunch hours are worthy of a velvet rope and a bouncer sporting a headset. And, while the food is certainly part of what keeps the masses huddled in freezing weather for hours, the Mary’s are pretty damn spot-on. There are 10 recipes to choose from, listing liquors far beyond vodka, decorated with a whole cornucopia of garnishes. Each recipe uses Prune’s winning mix—a blend of Sacramento tomato juice, tart lemon, grated horseradish, and several other items Eater was unable to pry out of the tight-lipped bar staff. Brave the line. It’s worth it.