- One of the most anticipated cocktail bars to open in NYC, The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog recently flung open the doors of its landmark building to much acclaim. Founders Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry of the award-winning beverage program at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel have done their homework to create a cocktail menu that honors the mid-19th century drinking scene in gangland New York. On the first level, a pub-style bar room complete with sawdust on the floor serves up classic cocktails, bottled punch, draft beer and Irish whiskey, while upstairs a more refined lounge serves an expansive menu of meticulously crafted drinks. On a recent visit, I sipped the Automobile (Marie Brizard Parfait Amour, Pernod Absinthe, celery cordial, Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut Champagne and Bittermens Orchard Street Celery Shrub), the Ale Flip (Sixpoint Cask Conditioned “Dead Rabbit” Ale, Jameson 12 Year Irish Whiskey, spiced egg batter, muscovado sugar and nutmeg), the Bankers Punch (Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength Irish Whiskey, Dead Rabbit Jamaican Rum Mix, fresh lime juice, raspberry cordial, Dead Rabbit Orinoco Bitters and dashes Graham’s LBV Port Wine), and a complimentary teacup of Grandieur Punch (Bols Genever, Varnelli Anis, lemon sherbert, lemon juice, orange flower water and peppermint tea). Everything was incredibly tasty, and the wait time for drinks was not long at all, a stunning feat considering there were only two barmen behind the bar and the room was full on a Saturday night. This Monday, Feb. 25, mixology master Gaz Regan will serve as guest bartender from 7 p.m. onward–so don’t bloody miss that. The Dead Rabbit, 30 Water Street.
- Speaking of new bars, Dipsology has a nice list of recently-opened and soon-to-open cocktail bars in NYC, including Attaboy, taking over the Milk & Honey space. Time Out New York interviewed Sam Ross and Michael McIlroy and rumor is they will open their doors later this month.
- Beefeater Gin recently got the green light to open London’s first gin distillery visitor center, expected to be completed later this year. As someone who has been fortunate enough to visit Beefeater’s headquarters in Kennington, I am thrilled for Master Distiller Desmond Payne and his team. Desmond is profoundly passionate about the making of gin and will do a great service to the public by showcasing the distillery’s process. (Check out the video announcement here.)
You may have wondered what happened to this blog over the past month or so–why the silence? No, I did not drown in a vat of bourbon. Nor did I run away to Mexico to douse myself in mezcal. What’s happened, dear readers, is that I’ve multiplied! Well, myself and my husband have actually, with the addition of our beautiful baby boy, Owen Ezra. He was born on January 11 and he’s kept me busy making his milk punch of choice at the moment. I’ll be back on the scene soon enough, and until then, here is a link to an article about breastmilk in cocktails, in case you’re into that sort of thing. Cheers!
- While I was on a gin tour in London last week (recap coming soon), I missed the dramatic unfolding of a legal tussle between Pusser’s Rum and Painkiller tiki bar. By now, you’ve probably heard that Painkiller decided to change its name to PKNY and give up its web domain after Pusser’s filed a federal lawsuit over its ownership of a trademark for the drink named “Painkiller.” Furthermore, the rum company says all drinks called Painkillers must be made with Pusser’s. (Painkiller/PKNY was not using Pusser’s in its Painkillers.) News of the litigation led to an uproar among the cocktail community, which found such aggression by a brand over a small bar to be distasteful and a bad PR move. To make matters worse, Pusser’s founder Charles Tobias responded to the criticism with a statement mentioning the brand’s intent to market ready-to-drink Painkillers “in a can.” For more insight into the legality of all this, read Payman Bahmani’s post on Umamimart. At any rate, be sure to continue enjoying your favorite cocktails and favorite bars, whether they are trademarked or not.
- Last night kicked off the inaugural NYC Cocktail Week, sponsored by Liquor.com. Sixteen cocktail bars in the city (see the full list here) have created a special Cocktail Week menu offering two drinks plus an appetizer for $20.11. If that doesn’t make you feel better about your lushy habits, a portion of proceeds from the event, running through June 29, benefits City Harvest and the Museum of the American Cocktail.
- Last Sunday, members of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) gathered at Astor Center for a competition and breast cancer fundraiser titled “Speed Rack.” Sixteen female bartenders vied to make cocktails as fast as possible (different drinks were announced each round, including the Ramos Gin Fizz), and they were also judged on the quality of their drinks. Yael Vengroff of PKNY took first place and will compete against other finalists from around the country at Tales of the Cocktail 2012.
- Wondering why you haven’t seen as many Dizzy posts lately? I recently started writing a daily drinking column over at CBSNewYork.com. Don’t worry, I’ll still keep things fresh for you here, I’m just getting adjusted to the new schedule!
- Since El Cobre let the rum flow in December, January of 2011 has been a good one for cocktails with the opening of several new bars and more on the way. The West Village’s Fedora reopened with a seasonal menu and the promise of barrel-aged cocktails. Another reopening, The Rum House in Times Square, was orchestrated this week by the owners of Ward III (more photos here), bringing classic drinks and fresh polish to the piano lounge. What’s most exciting is that drinks are $12-$14, a steal for the neighborhood. And The Mulberry Project, a cocktail cave in Little Italy, was recently opened by alums from Milk & Honey, GoldBar and Bagatelle. Later this month, look for Williamsburg’s Maison Premiere oyster bar with cocktails by Maxwell Britten, along with Teqa taqueria and tequileria in Murray Hill. And in February, Locanda Verde’s Andrew Carmellini brings The Dutch to Sullivan Street in SoHo with a cocktail program by mixologist and spirits writer Naren Young.
- On a completely opposite note, a new Duane Reade drug store in Williamsburg is selling beer by the growler to stand out from the mom-and-pop pharmacies. I’d say something about this being another nail in the coffin for the hipster-hood, then again, that coffin is plaid, covered in wheat paste graffiti and sold by Urban Outfitters.
- On January 25, Edible Manhattan is hosting Good Spirits at Le Poisson Rouge, a mash-up of some of the city’s finest food and drink featuring top chefs and mixologists. Get a sweet discount on the $40 ticket price here, and you’ve got no excuse not to go.
Super! Last night at Dram in Williamsburg, I had the good fortune to bump into Romée De Goriainoff, co-founder of Paris’ Experimental Cocktail Club, who was there to visit Nicolas de Soto, a former ECC bartender, behind the stick. Opened at 37 Rue Saint Sauveur in 2007, the ECC is Paris’ premiere cocktail speakeasy and is one of the few bars in the city open after 2 a.m. on weekends. The clandestine 40-seat lounge oozes with 1920s charm and features tipples such as the Experience #1 (Hendrick’s gin, elderflower liqueur, lemongrass, lemon juice and basil) for 10 to 12 euros. Following the success of ECC, its owners opened Left Bank outposts Curio Parlor Cocktail Club, at 16 Rue des Bernadins, and Le Prescription Cocktail Club at 23 Rue Mazarine in the sixth.
Romée said the Experimental Cocktail Club London is expected to open in the SoHo district (about a quarter of a mile from Milk & Honey London in Soho) this December, and the bar will be open until 3 a.m.
“When I sell liquor, it’s called bootlegging; when my patrons serve it on Lake Shore Drive, it’s called hospitality.”–Al Capone
On Sunday, August 1st, I nearly shed a tear as I witnessed a historic moment in NYC drinking culture–the first spirits distilled here since the days of Prohibition were served to the general public at two Brooklyn locations. Kings County Distillery, the little moonshine makers that could, poured their unaged corn whiskey–which also features malted Scottish barley for added complexity–at UVA Wines & Spirits in Williamsburg, while Breuckelen Distilling Co. flung open its Sunset Park doors to a thirsty crowd for tastings of its wheat-based gin and tours of its small factory centered around a 400-liter German copper still.
I visited both distilleries last month before they opened, and the yeast-scented anticipation hanging in the air was nothing short of infectious. Hard at work on a daily basis since spring, Brad Estabrooke of Breuckelen and Kings County’s Colin Spoelman and David Haskell–all in their early 30s–represent the new generation of distillers pioneering the artisanal spirits renaissance. Recent changes to state law have made microdistilling easier and more affordable. But unlike their rural New York counterparts, these guys face the unique challenges of their urban environs.
“I don’t think there’s any distillery in the country doing what we’re doing,” said Colin, who works by day as an architect before spending up to 8 hours a night at Kings County’s 325 square-foot warehouse in East Williamsburg. “Our stills are 8 gallons each. We’re essentially doing what a home distiller is doing, but times four. It offers certain taste advantages, certain integrity advantages.”
Colin, a Kentucky native, has been a moonshine hobbyist for years, while David, a magazine editor, had a bootlegging great-grandfather. Along with their three apprentices, they continuously monitor the cooking of organic New York corn and malted Scottish barley into their fermented mash before sending it through their small pot stills.
Due to the limited size of the operation, David and Colin bottle their moonshine in 200ml flasks selling for $20. Kings County is also placing its white dog in 5-gallon oak barrels, to eventually be bottled as bourbon. And they recently purchased another space within their building on Meadow Street that will be turned into a tasting room.
With a production output of about three times the size of Kings County’s, Breuckelen Distilling Co. at 77 19th St. is a dream come true for Brad, who came up with the idea to start a distillery with his girlfriend, Liz O’Connell.
“We were sitting around having drinks one day, discussing how we don’t like our jobs,” said Brad, a former bond trader who grew up in Maine. “We thought it would be rewarding to produce something. Then I was reading an in-flight magazine article that mentioned that the federal rules for distilling had changed, and that there was a revolution in micro-distilling. I immediately knew that was what I wanted to do.”
At Breuckelen, organic New York wheat is milled and fermented before going into the 16-foot still with eight plates which can be adjusted to result in a stronger or lighter wheat flavor. Brad then returns the wheat spirit to the still with juniper berries, lemon peel, grapefruit peel, rosemary and ginger to produce his gin. The nutty wheat grounds the botanical notes of the gin, offering a unique product for $35 per 750ml bottle. Brad said he is considering bottling the wheat spirit on its own, and is already planning a winter edition of his gin.
“I think people who are interested in trying different spirits, not just the mass-marketed big brands, will want to try our gin,” said Brad. “People who appreciate local and artisan crafted, not assembly line. Anyone who wants to see where and how their spirits are made.”
And click here for all of the locations to buy Breuckelen Gin in addition to their Sunset Park tasting room.
- Casa Mezcal, a ground-level mezcal bar within a three-story property that will soon include a Oaxacan gallery and a basement-level bar/cinema, opened at 86 Orchard St. in early June. Featuring a wide variety of sipping mezcals, including some obscure varieties, the bar also offers a cocktail menu designed by Junior Merino. A Mexican food menu will be added as soon as the gas is turned on, until then complimentary bites include fried grasshoppers and pico de gallo. The mezcaleria is within stumbling distance of two of NYC’s most rambunctious cocktail bars–Painkiller and The Randolph–creating a “Cocktailian Bermuda Triangle,” if you dare.
- Legislation that could have a severe impact on NYC nightlife is on the table. Eater reports that State Senator Daniel Squadron has submitted a bill that would revoke a bar’s liquor license if police receive six or more noise or disorder complaints within a 60-day period. This comes on the heels of a bill from Brooklyn Assemblywoman Joan Millman that would impose an 11 p.m. curfew on rooftop and backyard bars on weekends and 10 p.m. on weeknights, as reported in the Wall Street Journal. Let’s hope both of these bills go nowhere–NYC nightlife generates renevue that the city can’t afford to lose.
- Tribeca cocktail den Ward III celebrates its first anniversary this weekend, offering specially-priced cocktails, as reported by NY Barfly. Check out Hendrick’s Gin drinks tonight and Maker’s Mark tipples tomorrow night.
- Speaking of Maker’s Mark, the Kentucky distillers will be launching their first new bourbon in 50 years, Maker’s 46, next month. Check out blogger DrinkBoston.com’s report from Louisville on how the special edition bourbon is made–the secret lies in the seared French oak staves. Retailing for $35, the 46 (named for the fact that it was simply the 46th recipe) will be a toasty addition to any Maker’s lover’s liquor cabinet.
- Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans is just around the corner–July 21-25, and the 2010 Spirited Awards nominees were recently announced. New York swept the awards last year, and based on the high number of talented bartenders and bars up for honors this year, the city could see another coup–good luck!
- Sam Mason, formerly chef at now-shuttered SoHo restaurant/cocktail den Tailor, has opened a no-frills dive bar, Lady Jay’s, at 633 Grand St. in Williamsburg next to Bushwick Country Club. The bar, which Eater reports is across the street from his apartment, has neither fancy cocktails nor food–just whiskey, beer, shuffle bowling, a jukebox and standard hipster decor–antlers on the walls.