Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NYC Cocktail Roundup

This weekend I was back in New York visiting, and my friends and I tasted so many good things it’s hard to remember them all. We went to Painkiller, Char No. 4, Maialino, Clover Club and Saul Restaurant, and in all of them, I wanted to order everything. (We wondered which would be more expensive, the check or the trip to the emergency room.) My only regret is that I didn’t get to meet more bartenders, but everywhere was busy and we ended up at a table almost every time.

Painkiller is an interesting surprise for a tropical bar: it is also urban. You’re still on Essex Street, but suddenly it’s Tiki. The list is very long and dense, resembling a Cantonese takeout restaurant. (Can I get a large Pearl Diver’s Punch to go?) Arranged according to type, many drinks have no other description, but the folks there are very helpful and ready to talk about what you want. And there’s something for everyone. I was in full crushed-ice Beachcomber madness but my buddy was ordering great rye cocktails I hadn’t had anywhere else.

Char No. 4, Cobble Hill’s great bourbon house is also good for brunch, and features bourbon cocktails, naturally. The bourbon apple toddy is good for taking the chill off a February morning.

I love hotel bars and get cranky when they change one I like, but the new Gramercy Park Hotel makeover is good. The restaurant bar in Maialino is comfortable and has a classy cocktail list. And they’re very nice behind the bar though I may have driven one guy crazy. I ordered La Luna Violetta, essentially an Aviation with Lambrusco instead of crème de violette. I didn’t read carefully—I just assumed it would have to have violet of some description. Before I tasted it, I kept asking the bartender what the violet component was. He must’ve thought I was nuts.

The current list at Clover Club has a great julep-style item, the Louisville Cathouse, an unlikely combo of Ancho chile infused bourbon, crème de cacao and Fernet Branca that comes over all leather and tobacco. Also great is the Duke Leto, rich and caramel-like with Old Tom, Dubonnet, green Chartreuse and salt tincture served over (around?) a big cylinder of ice.

This roundup wouldn’t seem complete with at least one scotch cocktail, Saul Restaurant’s Torino Fog, a mellow glass of Martell V.S., Punt e Mes, cinnamon and walnut bitters and a Bruichladdich Peat rinse. I wish I had one in my hand right now.

Thanks to everybody who made us feel comfortable and served us the best. It was an awesome visit.

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