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.
Bas’ik's The Latitude & The Longitude
323 Graham Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn
There were a few things that certain individuals needed in 2011. Occupy Wall Street: mace-proof goggles. Our government: a Finance 101 class. Jay Zimmerman and his cohorts: a bar to call their own. At least we got one out of three. If you aren’t familiar with Zimmerman’s cocktails from his previous stints at The Breslin or Mother’s Ruin, it’s one more reason to visit his brand new Williamsburg bar, Bas’ik. Bring a friend and request the Longitude and the Latitude ($10 each). These two drinks start the same: Peychaud’s bitters, fresh lime juice, fresh ginger juice, rum, and sugar. But to make it a Longitude, bartender Brandon Bramhall adds in a half ounce of Del Maguey Vida mezcal before shaking. Your buddy is then getting the Latitude, which instead calls for a half ounce of Fernet Branca. One is slightly spicy and smoky. The other is herbaceous and minty. Both have that robust sweetness of rum. Don’t ask us how this works.
The Silver Lining's The Silver Lining
75 Murray St., Tribeca
This drink is not on the menu, but like this subterranean speakeasy, good things reveal themselves if you simply ask. The recipe is a creation of the owner, and he sets the scene with that American whiskey stalwart, Old Overholt. That is combined with Licor 43’s vanilla notes and bright, fresh lemon for citrus. It gets a proper dry hard shake with an egg white. Followed by another hard shake with ice to create a frothy, tall tipple that arrives without a garnish. Your garnish is the fact that you are nestled snug and warm, in a room as classic as a James Stewart movie. The jazz band is hot. The bar staff is hot. The drink is ice cold, light and floral and additively creamy. Hell of a garnish, if you ask me.
Flex Mussels' Lillet Cocktail
154 W 13th St., West Village
Alexandra Shapiro’s drink list is built on two things. First, a capacity to pair well with the menu’s raw and lightly steamed bivalves. Secondly, Shapiro’s fervent belief in the beauty of simplicity. Unlike many drink menus on the quaint, little island of Manhattan, this one is not overworked. The latest addition is the Lillet Cocktail ($10). Lillet Blanc, Damsen plum liqueur and Raventos Cava marry for a blush colored, faintly sweet, effervescent aperitif that slides down crisp and bright after a mignonette-covered oyster.
Red Rooster's Earl of Harlem
120 Lenox Ave., Harlem
Marcus Samuelsson’s food menu is an edible stage play of sugar and spice. There’s honey butter on the cornbread and spiced pumpkin in the turnip soup. The bar follows suit in the drink menu. Try the Earl of Harlem ($13). The high rye spice notes in Bulleit bourbon are tempered by chilled Earl Grey tea. A dose of house-made coriander syrup adds a nod to Samuelsson’s Swedish upbringing, and a rounded, smoother finish to a cocktail that’s best taken down with a side of catfish over black-eyed peas.
Monkey Bar's The 99% (And the 1%)
60 East 54th St., Midtown
This drink comes at you in one of two ways. Normal or Crazy Expensive. The 99% is a beautifully balanced, simple but elegant blend of Pisco, Maraschino liqueur, lime and pineapple juice. It’s light. Refreshing. It’s a lovely afternoon, adult lemonade-type libation, served up in large Martini glass. As a gag, the bartenders rewrote the menu recently, offering an option make your 99% into a 1% by adding a float of Rémy Martin Louis XIII Cognac on top. Your cocktail takes a slight price hike understandably. Ahem, $15 becomes $75. Is it worth it? That’s really a personal decision that should be made between you and your accountant. We will say one thing. If the wafting aroma of fine French Cognac, aged in Limousin oak barrels more than a century old, doesn’t put you in the Christmas spirit – nothing will. Happy Holidays.
· Previous Editions of Strive for Five [~ENY~]