Thursday drinking

Instead of cooking at home Thursday night, Mrs. Bitters and I went out for dinner. We chose Brooklyn’s Marlow & Sons, a gourmet market with a gastropub-type place in back. Marlow usually has an inventive cocktail menu, and last night was no exception. Among the drinks on the menu was Ramp Vodka–a blend of ramp-infused vodka and walnut oil. I have to say we didn’t try it, but it was certainly intriguing.

I ordered an Old Fashioned that I didn’t much care for–actually pink from the muddled cherries, topped off with way too much seltzer, and served in a tall glass instead of an Old Fashioned glass. I don’t understand why a simple drink like the Old Fashioned is such a minefield.

The next round was better. Jen ordered a drink called Italian is English (only the most devoted restaurant geeks will get this reference, I’m sure)–Junipero gin, Punt e Mes, lime, and seltzer. I got the Gigolo–Mount Gay rum, coconut water, and lime. Both were well-balanced and properly mixed.

After we left Marlow, we started walking to the bus plaza, a few blocks away, commenting that we wished we could get a bottle of wine to drink at home. We have some bad package stores in our neighborhood, so simply grabbing a bottle of good wine on the way home is much harder than it sounds.

As we passed another favorite restaurant, Dressler, bartender Jim saw us through the open window and waved. We waved back, walked a bit farther, and decided to go back. Jim’s a great bartender, and as any cocktail geek knows, a great barkeep is fun to watch. He greeted us, told us about his trip upstate to Gary Regan’s Cocktails in the Country, and picked back up on conversation about bitters that we had started two or three months ago, the last time Jen and I were there.

Another gentleman came in and approached the bar. Jim interrupted our conversation to turn to the man and say, “Stella, as usual?” The man nodded and Jim drew him a pint, while easing back into our conversation. A man and woman approached the bar. Jim said to the man, “I’ve got a new port I’d like you to try. I don’t think you’ve had this one.” They discussed the port and compared it to Dressler’s other offerings. That man’s got a good memory.

As for our drinks at Dressler… the bartenders there have continued a great and longstanding tradition–naming drinks for movie stars. Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, and now Gena Rowlands. Jen loved this drink, a mix of gin, orange-blossom water, honey, and lemon.

I tried something new that Jim and his colleagues have been playing with. Unnamed as yet, it’s a Negroni variation made from gin, Aperol, and Fernet Branca, with a mint leaf rubbed around the rim of the glass. Very tasty.

Tasty food, refreshing drinks, and great conversation–it was a wonderful evening.


MxMo 15: Tequila

mxmo15-tequilaHere we are, at the 15th Mixology Monday! This month’s host, Matt from My Bar Your Bar, chose as his theme tequila.

Now, I’m really just getting used to tequila. Jen and I don’t drink it often, so I’m still learning how it plays with other flavors. With that in mind, I wanted a simple drink, one that would allow me to test and tinker without having four or more ingredients to futz with.

So I went with the classic margarita, but I swapped out the triple sec for some pear liqueur. I wanted to just switch fruits–pear for orange–and see how it worked. And, in the end, we liked it. Jen made up a batch of guacamole and we sat out back on a sunny Sunday with icy drinks, chips, and guac.

That’s livin’.

Poire-a-rita, chips, guac

Photo by Jennifer Hess.

  • 2 oz. tequila
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • ¾ oz. pear liqueur (I used Mathilde)

Technique: Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass, or use twice the ingredients, as I did, and strain into an ice-filled Old Fashioned glass.

Manhattan goes to Tuthilltown

In this week’s “Shaken and Stirred” column in the Times, Jonathan Miles looks at the Manhattan cocktail, its origins, and its ingredients. Now, I’ve often heard that rye is the traditional backbone for the Manhattan, and that’s certainly the way I prefer them, but I never knew why rye is the tradition.

Miles doesn’t exactly answer that question, but he does, I think, point us in the right direction. He talks to Ralph Erenzo, co-proprietor of Tuthilltown Spirits, in Gardiner, New York. Miles writes, “In all likelihood, that rye whiskey came from upstate New York, because, as Ralph Erenzo points out, ‘There were 1,200 distilleries operating in New York before Prohibition.'”

Prior to Prohibition, rye was the prevailing whiskey in the Northeast but because so many distilleries shuttered during the dry years, rye fell out of favor. It seems logical, therefore, that rye was the go-to spirit in such cocktails as the Manhattan.

Erenzo and his partner, Brian Lee, have just released a new spirit, Hudson Manhattan Rye, a 92-proof bottling made solely of rye. Because Erenzo and Lee developed this bottling to work well in a Manhattan, Miles also provides LeNell’s recipe for a Perfect Manhattan, with a couple of ounces of rye, a half ounce each of sweet and dry vermouth, and some orange bitters. She used this formulation to best bring out the character of the Hudson Manhattan Rye.


I was lucky enough to acquire a bottle this weekend, although I initially balked at its price tag–$40 for a 375-ml bottle. But on a per-ounce basis, I’ve paid more for spirits and not been as satisfied. I’m still developing my palate enough to provide tasting notes, and I’m not always confident about describing a spirit’s aromas and flavors to other people, but I will say, this stuff is peppery and spicy. It might be the most rye-tasting rye I’ve had. It’s so delicious, in fact, that I was initially saving it to be a special-occasion sipper, but after reading this article, I had to try the Manhattan recipe.

I had Carpano Antica sweet vermouth (which I love), Noilly Prat dry, and some orange bitters I picked up at Marlow & Sons. Delicious. Maybe the best Manhattan I’ve had yet.