From Cocktails to Confusion

Last Sunday I promised details about my visit to the official bar of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, the self-acclaimed "first ever" multi-day cocktail event in New York City. (Do they really need the redundant "ever?" It's just so third-grade playground, as in that is the best scratch-and-sniff sticker ever. First is first. Best is best.)

Anyway, A. and I had a mediocre mishmash brunch with poached eggs, pork dumplings, green salad and home fries at the Kitchen Club on the corner of Prince and Mott Streets. From there we wandered up Lafayette to the Astor Center where the Classic was taking place.

The hostess/ticket seller scoffed when I asked if they had special bartenders. Oh! Well, that depends on what I consider special since they are only some of the top bartenders from across the country. All right then, we each bought a drink ticket, which for $10 was quite a bargain for a specialty cocktail with high quality booze made by one of the best ever bartenders in the U.S.

Our first round, two official cocktails: one Hennessy on the Hudson made with Hennesy Black, Grand Marnier, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, fresh lemon juice and Angostura Bitters and one Great Lawn Sour with Gran Sierpe Pisco, fresh lemon and lime juice, honey syrup, egg white and Fee's Aromatic Bitters.

You may ask yourself, well, what is Hennessy? It's cognac, a whole new spirit category for your urban gastronomer. Hennessy Black is a blend of 35-45 eaux de vie, which according to Epicurious are colorless brandies or other spirits made from fermented fruit juices. The Hennessy on the Hudson was delicious, though not as superb as the cocktail I had last week at Flatiron Lounge.

And Gran Sierpe Pisco? A clear spirit made from grapes that originated in Peru. The Great Lawn Sour was refreshing yet strong.

When it was time for our second round, A. excused herself to the ladies and left me in charge of ordering. I chose two mixed drinks: the misnamed Holland House Cocktail and The Bare Essentials.

The Holland House Cocktail does not contain any bitters, but consists of Bols Genever (another new spirit for yours truly), dry vermouth, fresh lemon juice and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur. Genever is a Dutch liquor made only in Holland. According to the Bols Genever Web site, the liquor was one of the four main spirits featured in the first ever recipe book for mixed drinks, The Bartender's Guide on How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas published in 1862. The Holland House was lovely and balanced.

The Bare Essentials was made with Cuca Fresca Cachaca (a Brazilian rum), fresh pineapple, pink peppercorns, lime juice and agave nectar. I was worried the pineapple would make the drink too sweet, but was intrigued enough by the peppercorns to order it for A., who likes her drinks sweeter than I do.

After watching the bartender dump whole peppercorns into the shaker, I asked whether he doesn't muddle them to bring out the flavor. Oh yes, he assured me, they would be muddled, however, he did not believe in over muddling. A handful of muddles only. Oh, yes I agree! There is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a Mojito (light on the sugar, please) and having tiny bits of mint leaf clog the straw or stick to your teeth.

The bartender, surely one of the best ever mixologists, explained that straining a drink with muddled herbs like the Mojito is really the best way to mix and pour. Though, self-admittedly, he did not strain the smashed peppercorns from The Bare Essentials. But, the magenta confetti was pretty and festive. The drink was served on ice, more summer than fall, but tasty!

A. and I left happily buzzed and armed with new ideas for cocktails. During the train ride home, I fantasized about becoming a cocktail journalist. Is there such a thing? Surely there must be. Other than A. and I, the official bar seemed to be occupied only by event staff and journalists.

But, I digress, yet again. Muddled... why was the term applied to cocktail mixing and how has it come to mean the breaking of ingredients to flavor a drink? The true meaning of muddle doesn't seem to apply so much to the wonderful flavor of The Bare Essential or a well made Mojito. It does, however, seem befitting to our general knowledge of food and the state of the American food industry.

transitive verb 1 : to make turbid or muddy
2 : to befog or stupefy especially with liquor
3 : to mix confusedly
4 : to make a mess of

As an example, I mentioned to a friend at a party yesterday that if they can do one thing to help our food situation, it would be avoiding products that contain non-organic corn. When asked why I went into a thoroughly muddled explanation (I need to keep reading). And, surely, if you have never read a label or paid much attention to what you eat, corn avoidance could seem monumental. In fact, the task extends well beyond choosing the right cereals and chips, one would even need to avoid all products with corn syrup and consume only meat from grass-fed animals to really accomplish the task. (I am still consuming Pirate's Booty, which is made with non-organic corn, even after seeing Food, Inc. Shameful, yes. I plan to quit, I really do. Just one more bag.)

I was reminded in this moment, of my own long and confused food journey. You may rightfully ask how a meat-and-potatoes girl from the Midwest became an urban gastronomer in the first place. Sure, my obsession with alcohol is one thing, but what about the compulsion to try to eat "healthy" (another potentially confusing term in modern times). Perhaps, you don't care, but in the coming weeks, you will find out regardless.

Stay tuned! The journey was filled with about as much random wackiness as the rest of my life!

(P.S. Kudos to PI and VB for throwing a great party and serving delicious food. I particularly enjoyed the homemade tortilla chips and the red velvet cake! And happy birthday to the smiling vivacious J!)

Recent pics from LA:


  1. Cool pics. What kinda camera were they from? Some old TLR, or one of those goofy Holga 120s?

  2. It's a goofy Holga! And not matter how much I tape it up, I always get light leaks. They are kind of fun, though.


Post a Comment