Cocktails of the Day: Little Italy, &c.

Going out to a bar and closing it down on a school night. You’re a bad boy, Taggart.

This is an occasional occupational hazard of having friends who are bartenders, of course. Late nights are no problem for those guys, but for me and another friend who had to get up early today, the getting-up part was a bit dicey. By the time I got on the road this morning I was pretty much over it. Could be famous last words, though — let’s hope I don’t just conk out a little later on.

Last night was a long overdue visit to Seven Grand, occasioned by our friend Eric‘s visit to start getting Old Tom Gin into the L.A. market (yay!). More on that a bit later.

Order of the day was Bartender’s Choice, which I love doing there — it’s one of the few places I’ll let someone just make me anything and trust that it’ll be wonderful. (It gladdens my heart that the number of such places is slowly but steadily growing.) Our friend John took marvelous care of us, and when I asked to be surprised he asked what I was in the mood far — “Something on the tart and fizzy side, maybe something more on the bitter side?” Bitter always works for me, and John presented me with a wonderful Audrey Saunders variation on the Manhattan, with Cynar, the artichoke flavored bitter aperitivo, sitting in for the aromatic bitters.

This is Audrey’s original recipe below; John varied it slightly by cutting the sweet vermouth back to 1/2 ounce but using the powerfully spicy and flavorful Carpano Antica Formula, and garnishing with a lemon peel instead of two cherries on a pick.

Little Italy Cocktail
(by Audrey Saunders, Pegu Club, New York)

2 ounces rye whiskey.
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth.
1/2 ounce Cynar.
2 good-quality cocktail cherries.

Combine with ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with the cherries, speared on a cocktail pick. (Variation: cut vermouth back to 1/2 ounce but use Carpano Antica or Vya, and garnish with lemon peel.)

The rye and the Cynar played very well together, with their alchemy creating chocolatey notes in this drink that I really loved. I’m very curious to try augmenting that with a dash of Bittermens Xocolatl Mole Bitters.

Damien ordered a Negroni variation that was really tasty too — substitute Partida Blanco tequila for the gin, add a barspoon of absinthe and serve on the rocks with an orange twist.

We tried a ton of other things too — a Martinez Cocktail using the Old Tom gin, the way it was originally made (although with a slight variation in proportion — 1:1 with the gin and vermouth). As we had several of Eric’s products on hand (as well as the guy who makes them, visiting from Austria!) we tried a few of those in cocktails as well. Mr. Purkhart himself asked for something using his Crème de Violette, and was given a variation on the Ramos Gin Fizz, sort of a violette fizz: Swap out Old Tom gin for the London Dry, substitute 2 barspoons of the violette instead of the orange flower water, and add several drops of Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6 to the frothy head and swirl around with a toothpick. Holy crap, that was good.

Then they were kind enough to make two of mine. Eric brought out the St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram and asked for a Réveillon, so we had a bit of Christmas in September. Then John asked about the Hoskins recipe — he had had one at Zig Zag but hadn’t made one himself — so we got one and shared it with him and everyone else. So nice to be able to get one of those in a bar. Speaking of the good ol’ Hoskins, I hear tell that Torani have reformulated their Amer, removing the vegetal characteristic that so many people found off-putting and making it taste much more like Amer Picon did. If so, I can’t wait to taste that!

All that, plus a visit to Leo’s Tacos at 2:30am. Great night.