Elsewhere in the Liquiverse…

Boston bartender Jackson Cannon chimes in on the Painkiller debate via Eastern Standard's cocktail menu.

  • 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!

Bottlerocker of the Week: Nicolas de Soto


Nicolas de Soto, bartender at Dram and Painkiller, is leaving NYC for London later this month.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” — Saint Augustine

For as long as the craft of bartending has been a viable career, the opportunity to travel has been one of its biggest perks. We know that Jerry Thomas, father of the American cocktail, spent time in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Chicago, in addition to New York, and that Harry Craddock found refuge at London’s Savoy Hotel during Prohibition. And few books have been as influential to today’s bartenders as Charles H. Baker’s Jigger, Beaker, and Glass: Drinking Around the World, which chronicles the author’s favorite drinks sampled on every continent. Bartenders travel not just for the exotic romance, but to add new techniques and nuances to their repertoire, not to mention new flavors and recipes.

Parisian Nicolas de Soto, bartender at Dram and Painkiller in New York for the past six months, is following the tradition of the traveling bon vivant, and will soon be leaving us for London later this month. Nico has made quite an impression on the cocktail community here, not just due to his disarming accent, but also for his poise behind the stick, undoubtedly polished over the years at several bars around the world. He first got into bartending in Paris in 2005 at a high-volume bar not known for its cocktails before moving on to a bar where he learned the Parisian “classics” at the time: Blue Lagoon, pina colada, mojito, caipirinha, etc.

In 2007, he moved to Australia, where he had lived previously, and delved into more serious cocktails in Melbourne. After a year he returned to Paris, working in China Club, a serious cocktail bar in Bastille, and then he managed the bar at Mama Shelter (a Philippe Starck-designed boutique hotel) before joining Paris’ most respected cocktail bars, the Experimental Cocktail Club and Curio Parlor.

Before moving to NYC and utilizing his connections to get the job at Dram, Nico traveled through Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Cuba, Guatemala, and Mexico before flying to Vancouver for the Winter Games where he worked as a guest bartender. Other than bartending, tennis, and cinema, Nico’s passion is, you guessed it–travel. He says of the 51 countries he’s visited, his favorites are Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Argentina, Indonesia, Bolivia, Peru, French Polynesia, and Singapore; while his favorite cities are Paris, NYC, Vancouver, Melbourne, Sydney, London, Berlin, Singapore, and Barcelona.

“The Dizzy Dozen” (The Same 12 Questions We Always Ask)

Q: What is the first thing you drink after you wake up?

A: A strong black coffee, followed by a protein shake.

Q: What is the first thing you drink after a hard day’s work?

A: Either a whole glass of fresh grapefruit juice or a well made fresh daiquiri (2 oz. Chairman’s Reserve rum, 3/4 oz. fresh-squeezed lime, 1/2 oz. cane syrup). I don’t like beer, sadly.

Q: What is the most delicious ingredient in your liquor cabinet?

A: Noah’s Mill 15-year-old bourbon. Just discovered it recently and I love it.

Q: If you could sit at the bar between any two people (alive or deceased), who would they be?

A: Sasha Petraske and Adriana Lima. No need to say why.

Q: Three favorite NYC bars:
Milk & Honey: Magic place, the Michael show. I haven’t seen Sam at work yet. It’s Sasha’s. It’s where everything started.
Death & Co: You’ll never be bored, amazing drinks, and some of the most talented bartenders on Earth. I always bring my friends and dates there.
• Dutch Kills

Q: Three favorite non-alcoholic hangouts:
• My rooftop: 360º view, two blocks from the East River in Williamsburg, the Manhattan skyline view is amazing.
McCarren Park: Tennis court and grass, what else?
• Paris of course — my friends, my family, my heart.

Q: Average night’s sleep:

A: From 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. usually. Eight hours is a good number.

Q: What is your favorite place to shop for your bar?

A: Cocktail Kingdom: Bar tools, books, great place.

Q: Where do you find inspiration?

A: Bartenders I work with, meet, and watch. Bars I visited. The countries I visit. I visited 51, worked in five, spent two years in Australia. People, no books — people.

Q: If you woke up on a desert island, what bottle would you hope to have wash ashore?

A: On a desert island, with the heat, damned a bottle of coconut water. On a cold island, send me a Zacapa 23-year-old.

Q: Do you have any bar-related good luck charms?

A: I had a blade that I carried around the world with me, but I lost it recently.

Q: Do you have a nickname for yourself when you’ve had too many?

A: Nico, that’s it.

A crusta calls for an elaborate citrus peel garnish.

Nicolas de Soto's "Tiki Crusta" at Dram: Pierre Ferrand cognac, Citadelle gin, lime juice, homemade orgeat, orgeat sugar, tiki bitters and orange peel garnish.

Nico’s going-away parties are at Painkiller this Wednesday night and at Dram on Sunday night. Bye Nico, you will be missed!

Saloon Stakeouts: Painkiller

Are you ready to kill the pain?

Just in time for a tropical heatwave and many of the country’s best Japanese training-seeking bartenders sweeping into NYC, one of the most exciting bar openings of the year is scheduled for this week, and it just so happens to be tiki-themed. Painkiller, from Dutch Kills’ Richie Boccato and Giuseppe Gonzales, has flipped the former Sasha Petraske-owned East Side Company Bar into a bamboo-walled underground lair that feels miles from the city and yet all at once very New York. The bar celebrates Manhattan as “the best island,” said Giuseppe, surrounded by images of topless, tan island ladies.

I don’t want to give too much away about Painkiller just yet–the Chinatown bar officially opens Thursday night–but I can tell you to expect: fresh-cut fruit, house-made syrups and orgeat,  industrial blenders, a cooler full of shaved ice, grafitti artwork by “Style Wars” legends, and badass light effects. The menu will be of the choose-your-own-adventure variety (simply tell the bartenders how you like your drink) but based on the recipes of Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber. Expect incredibly strong drinks and wild garnishes–you’ve been warned!

Giuseppe said he and Richie got the idea for bar over free hot dogs at Rudy’s, the Hell’s Kitchen dive, so naturally, Painkiller will have free hot dogs too. Which will surely come in handy after all that frothy tiki-ness with shots of flaming 151.

Painkiller, 49 Essex St.

Scandalous spray-painted velvet by NOC 167, a "Style Wars" '70s legend.

The Painkiller logo underneath the tempered glass bar. The logo might look familiar if you know the NYC punk scene.

Elsewhere in the Liquiverse…

A new cocktail menu arrives tonight at The Breslin.

  • Aisha Sharpe of Contemporary Cocktails unleashes a new cocktail menu at The Breslin at the Ace Hotel tonight. See the full menu below.
  • My prediction of “all-tiki-everything” is already coming true–NYC is finally getting a tiki cocktail bar! Food & Wine reports that Painkiller (from Dutch Kills‘ Richard Boccato and Giuseppe Gonzales!) will open at the former site of the East Side Company Bar on Essex Street in March. The bar will combine the vibe of 1970s New York with 1940s tiki culture. Stay tuned!
  • If you haven’t seen it yet, PDT’s Jim Meehan was a guest on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last night, mixing gin tonics and tequila highballs.
  • On Wednesday Jan. 13, Benedictine is hosting the finals for it’s “Alchemist of Our Age” cocktail competition celebrating the liqueur’s 500th anniversary. The throwdown takes place at the Hearst Tower in NYC, with Dave Wondrich selecting the winner. First place prize is a stand-alone profile in Esquire‘s March issue. Finalists are: Jackson Cannon (Boston), Damon Dyer (NYC), Brandon Clements (San Francisco), Lynn House (Chicago), and Daniel Victory (New Orleans).
  • The cocktail industry was in a tizzy this week over the sudden shortage of Angostura Bitters, a staple product at most bars. Reportedly the plant that makes the secret-formula bitters in Trinidad and Tobago had a brief shutdown.  Many bar managers are either paying exorbitant prices (such as $65 for a 20-oz. bottle) for the bitters, or they have been told it will be weeks before their orders arrive. Expect to see different brands of bitters dashed in your next Manhattan.
  • One more reason for cocktail bars to use bottled soda: an International Journal of Microbiology study found half of soda fountains analyzed contained fecal bacteria. Now you know.

The Breslin Cocktails, all $12:

Liquid Swords (rye whiskey, orange curacao, Aperol, Green Chartreuse, with an orange zest)

Lust for Life (gin with lavender syrup, mint, fresh lemon juice, topped with soda water)

Rush of Blood to the Head (prosecco with blood orange liqueur, hibiscus syrup, and lemon zest)

London Calling (vodka with Ribena-Blackcurrant Syrup, fresh lemon juice, topped with prosecco)

Kingdom Come (blended scotch whisky, orange essence, black tea syrup, fresh lemon juice, egg white)

Pablo Honey (blanco tequila with spiced agave nectar and fresh lime juice)

Beggar’s Banquet (bourbon whiskey with maple syrup, fresh lemon juice, aromatic bitters, topped with ale)

Rattle and Hum (rum with spices, brown sugar and butter and hot water)

The Breslin Gin & Tonics:

The Classic (Tanqueray Gin with tonic and a lime)

The Garden Tonic (Hendrick’s Gin with cucumber, celery bitters and tonic)

The Tonic and Grapefruit (Beefeater 24 with grapefruit bitters, tonic and grapefruit zest)