Specialty of the Cocktail

12/4/2009 -

At the lounges where I'm a regular, I prefer a seat at the bar that’s just left of center directly in front of the bartender’s main station – there I get to observe the successive creation of each cocktail: spirits queued up, measured pours, cracked eggs, mists, precise-stern shakes, and the long metered stir held in perfect time while conversing with a guest.

Around here we often talk about the story of a wine - its terroir and its connection to the earth; cocktails tell a different sort of story – the kind of stories that are the craft of human creation.  And it’s not just that certain spirits are artisanal (some even terroir-driven) – Machu Pisco, Vieux Pontarlier and Rothman & Winter Creme de Violette certainly are – but that cocktails as human concoctions are, by definition, a reference to our own creativity and connection to each other. 

For this feature (and, I confess, for my own pleasure) I solicited one of the bartenders at Eleven Madison Park to create an original cocktail using the Machu Pisco. The night I first tasted the Costa d'Oro was the eve of a weekend trip and I was giddy and full of great expectation, and that first sip was the beginning of my charmed fulfillment. The drink he configured was as profound as many Burgundies I’ve tasted. In its color it’s deeply, romantically rose-hued and singular in its vibrant Christmas-spiced aromatic expression. On the palate it started with cherry and pear and then moved to a chalky minerality, so rarely found in a cocktail, and the finish lingered for minutes, without the heat of alcohol, but with the pure balance of what we come to expect from our finest wines.

Unlike wine, cocktails were not created around a meal. In origin, they were not meant for food, but they were meant for conversation (or, sometimes the other side of the coin, for nonconversation). They are most wonderful when enjoyed in the spirit of laughter, joy and commemoration, but the cocktail also has a long history of being appreciated alongside all kinds of human stories – certainly quite a few have been consumed in our moments of weakness, bitterness, anger, confession. And because the cocktail can join us there, it can also join us in dialogues of bravery, reconciliation and forgiveness.

Good wines, good bartenders, and good storytellers, cannot get by on sweet happiness alone - quality recipes must have their “off” components – subtle elements of earth, bitter, sour… they must strike the right balance of components that result in a truly pleasurable and whole story.

It is not just that our bar chefs are master storytellers, but their creations are meant to be partaken as we tell our own stories. We’ve solicited three singular cocktail recipes, from three excellent mixologists, from three of New York’s greatest lounges because in both their creation and their consumption we can find the profundity of each of our own singular stories.

Cheers. RSG.


Costa d'Oro, original recipe contributed by:
Eamon Rockey, Eleven Madison Park

2 oz. Macchu Pisco
3/4 oz. Dolin Blanc Sweet Vermouth
1/4 oz. Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz. Plymouth Sloe Gin
1 dash Chuncho Bitters
1 dash Bitter Truth Aromatic Bitters
1 ea. Spiced Brandied Cherry

Stir and strain into cocktail glass; garnish with cherry

Shiso Malt Sour, original recipe contributed by:
James Meehan, PDT

2 oz. Yamazaki 12 Year Old Japanese Malt Whiskey
.75 oz. Lime Juice
.75 oz Simple Syrup
.25 oz Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe
3 Shiso Leaves (Muddle 2, Garnish 1)
Egg White

Add the shiso and simple syrup to a mixing glass and muddle. Add everything else and shake without ice. Add ice and shake and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with a shiso leaf.

Cereus, original recipe contributed by:
Aaron Polsky, White Star

2 oz. Agricole Rhum
1 oz. dry Vermouth
1/4 oz. Creme de Violette
1/4 oz. Stregga

Stir in a frozen mixing glass and strain into frozen cocktail glass; garnish with a lime twist.

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