Everybody comes to Rick’s

From the why-hasn’t-anyone-thought-of-this-before department, Reuters ran a story last week about an American ex-pat entrepreneur in Casablanca who’s opened a new cafe…named Rick’s, after the gin joint in one of my favorite films, Casablanca.

I don’t know whether I’ll be in Morocco any time soon, but somewhat closer to home, anyway, is the Cocktail Film Fest in New Orleans, the weekend of March 21-22. Hosted by Cheryl Charming, the festival features three films, Casablanca, The Seven Year Itch, and Guys and Dolls, along with themed cocktails and meals. But alas, even that’s too far for me.

I had no such excuse on Monday, when Tales held a media reception at Manhattan’s Flatiron Lounge, just blocks from my office. Julie Reiner’s always graceful staff brought around several New York-themed drinks, including the Slope, the Southside Fizz, and the New York Sour. The Slope was a particular favorite of mine. Named for Park Slope (my first landing strip when I arrived in NYC in 2002), it’s a derivative of the Brooklyn cocktail. Jen and I couldn’t stay long, unfortunately, but we both thank Ann Tuennerman for the invitation.

I’ve made my hotel reservations for Tales of the Cocktail. Have you?

The Slope

  • 2 ounces Rittenhouse Rye (preferably bonded)
  • 3/4 ounce Punt Y Mes
  • 1/4 ounce Bols Apricot liqueur
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Garnish: cherries

Technique: Stir and serve in a chilled cocktail glass. Add garnish.


Texas Jim

Mrs. Bitters and I had dinner last night at Hearth, in the East Village, and as we normally do, we started with cocktails. I got the Jim Hogg, named after an old-time Texas governor. Delicious, well-balanced drink. I don’t have proportions, but the ingredients are pecan-infused rye, sweet vermouth, and maple syrup. The spicy rye carries the drink, but the herbal notes from the vermouth marry well with the pecan. With sweet vermouth, you don’t need much added sweetener, and the bartender rightly keeps a light hand–the maple is present, but more as flavoring than as sweetener.

I don’t know where the pecan-infused rye came from, but I should note a couple of similar drinks that have graced local bars. A Holy Roller was on the menu for a time at Pegu Club–with pecan-infused bourbon and Demerara simple syrup, it appears to be the same drink that’s on the Death & Co. menu as the Buffalo Soldier. I might be wrong, but the mention of “Brian” in the eG post makes me think that both drinks are Brian Miller’s.

Because I enjoy the simplicity of an Old Fashioned, I love the idea of a drink that’s just whiskey and Demerara syrup. Pecan-infused whiskey might be worth playing with at home.

MxMo Double X: Pairings

mxmo20-pairingsSo, yeah, the overtime is still kicking my ass. I leave home at 8, I get home 12 hours later, and I don’t feel like much other than the classics–aviation, martini, old fashioned, Manhattan, etc. Not much creativity these days. I do have a pretty bottle of Canton ginger liqueur that I’m playing with (more on that later this week, I hope), but that’s it.

In other circumstances, the lady of Last Night’s Dinner and I would have had great fun planning a pairings menu and then probably cross-blogging it, with her focusing on the food and me on the drink. Aaaaand, we’ll probably do that some time. But not now alas. We had a couple ideas for simple pairings we could put together, but time just ran out.

But then Death stepped in.
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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.


Jen’s firm held its holiday party last night, at the St. Regis Hotel in midtown Manhattan. And it was a rollicking time, with an open bar, passed hors d’œuvres, a long buffet table, and the annual talent-show face-off between the attorneys and the support staff. Which is less painful to watch than it sounds.

I took ample use of the open bar, so much so that I’m really feeling it this morning. When I wasn’t drinking red wine or mineral water, my drink of choice all evening was Dewar’s on the rocks. Can’t really screw that up. Some ice, a healthy pour of scotch, and the imbiber is ready for action.

Jen started on champagne, switched to red wine, and then after hosting the talent show, moved over to Manhattans. I went up to the bar for her first one, and aside from not having bitters, it was an okay drink–two parts Canadian whiskey to one part sweet vermouth, stirred and strained into a cocktail glass. I was impressed that the bartender didn’t just sort of wave the vermouth bottle around the mixing glass or something, but he seemed to know what he was doing.

It was later that things were dodgy. A different barkeep was working, and when I asked for a Manhattan, he just sort of blinked at me slowly. He thought for a minute and grabbed a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, poured that, and then blinked at me again. “Uh, sweet vermouth, right?” I said, “Yes, please,” but further held my tongue.

Sweet Christmas!

If you can’t get a good Manhattan in Manhattan, the world is completely falling to shit.

Chestnut, Brooklyn

Jen and I dine out a lot, and one thing I want to discuss in this space is the cocktail menus in the restaurants we frequent.

We’ve all been to eateries that don’t have a full bar; they’re beer and wine only or–horrors!–they have no liquor license at all.

Worse, in some ways, are the places that serve spirits but fail to train their staff on how to sell, mix, or serve cocktails. You ask for anything more complicated than a martini, cosmo, or gin-and-tonic, and the waitron squints at you and says, “We don’t serve that here.”

With that in mind, it’s always fun to find a place where the owners think as much about the bar as they do the kitchen. Over at the blog The Art of Drink, Darcy’s been writing about his experiences in managing the bar at a new restaurant, Mint. It’s fun and interesting to watch how Darcy has crafted a good cocktail menu for his customers.

On Saturday, Jen and I went to a Brooklyn restaurant, Chestnut. (Check out New York‘s review, if you wanna know more.)
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Flatiron Lounge: Red Hook Fizz

Flatiron Wedding-Melee AftermathThe day we got married, Jen and I corralled our wedding party and celebrated with drinks at Flatiron Lounge. Six months later, it’s time to celebrate, so my bride and I convened Friday evening at Flatiron for after-work drinks.

Because I leave work at 4:15 each day, I find it fun to arrive at a good bar like Flatiron or Pegu early so that I can sit grab a stool and talk to the bartender before he or she gets weeded with the after-work crowd. We’ve been back to Flatiron twice now since the wedding, and both times bartender Katie has provided our drinks service. She’s friendly, professional, and easy to talk to, so it’s fun to go in and chat a little about drinks.

I knew already that I wanted to start with a rum-based drink. I’m still learning rums. Too many experiences with badly mixed Captain Morgan drinks have turned me off the taste, I’m afraid, but I know it’s important that I rectify that if I’m to be serious about this hobby. So it’s time to develop my palate.

Luckily, Flatiron had mai-tais on its guest-mixologist menu; a classic drink for all the right reasons, a well-mixed mai tai is balanced and tasty. I know I’ve had them before, with cheap rum, poured to the point of overpowerment. Sad. But Flatiron does them right, of course, so I asked Katie what rum she used for it, and she showed me the bottle of Appleton Estate. This sparked a good conversation about rum brands, distilling methods, cane syrup vs. molasses, and so on.

I had nearly finished the mai tai when Jen arrived. I let her sample some of the remainders, and she liked it too. It’s one for the repertoire.

Jen and I worked through the menu. My second was a Singapore Sling, while Jen ordered a Gin Shagler for her first–muddled cucumber and mint, mixed with gin and topped off with Champagne. Quite tasty.

I then ordered a Negroni, but Jen stumbled her way into something interesting. I blogged earlier about going to Dressler and getting served an impromptu Seelbach. We’ve experimented a bit with the recipe at home, and Jen wanted to see how Katie would make one.

But when Jen asked, Katie said she’d never heard of it. We described the drink, but by this point, I couldn’t remember the proportions, just the ingredients. (And not even those, really–I forgot the triple sec.) So she thought for a moment and said, “Do you mind if I offer you my take on that?”

When she came back, she sat down my Negroni and a fluted drink for Jen, who took a sip and was pleased. Katie said, “That’s a Red Hook, but topped with Champagne.” Paul’s got more on the Red Hook at Cocktail Chronicles, but it’s basically a variation on the Brooklyn cocktail. Made with rye, Punt y Mes, and maraschino, the Red Hook is hard-bitten and ribald, and the champagne smooths it out without sacrificing its character. Think James Woods in a tux.

Jen liked it enough to have two.