Thursday, July 12, 2007

Library Hours

I checked out (forgive the pun) the Brandy Library in Tribeca the other night and, while I have some reservations, I was suitably impressed.

It's on N. Moore Street and you walk up what must have been a loading dock once to enter the place. I do wish that the owners of these Class Cocktail joints didn't always equate a good drink with some old Englishman's study. Brown leather chairs, hushed amber lights, books and bottles handsomely displayed. It's nice, I admit, but it's shtick, isn't it? You don't have to visit the lair of Colonel Blimp to enjoy a brandy.

(If I ever open a cocktail bar, it will be no-frills. The drinks will be the stars, not the decor.)

The "menu" was a leather-bound ledger like you might find at a hotel desk 50 years ago. It began with a listing of the Brandy Library's beliefs and rules (another rather annoying trend in drink emporiums). A small menu of foodstuffs, followed. No fries; lots of things involving Gruyere cheese. The list of available cocktails (all $13) came next, followed by the pages upon pages of brandies and scotches.

I was happy to see old favorites like Corpse Reviver, Rob Roy, Bronx, Sazerac, Brooklyn, Pisco Sour, Old Fashioned and Moscow Mule readily available. Also offered is a Stork Club, which purports to be the house drink and the famous old New York society hangout. I was told that the Side Car is the bar's most popular drink, in that it's the best-known, brandy-based cocktail.

I also liked the fact that, while there were sections for cocktails that were "Brandy-based," "Scotch-based," "Gin-based" and "Other," there was no column for "Vodka-based." We've got to teach the masses the error of their ways somehow.

Some things irked. The Martini was described as being a drink made with either gin or vodka. (Excuse me while I clear my throat.) And the Manhattan's ingredients began with bourbon. I pointed this out to the bartender, and he actually told me that Manhattan's were traditionally made with bourbon. I briefly corrected him and then changed the subject to the more worrisome detail that the lead ingredient listed for a Sazerac was also bourbon. Now, while an argument can be made for the historical validity of the bourbon Manhattan, no one can sanely maintain that a bourbon Sazerac is correct. He relieved my anxiety by saying it was a typo in the menu.

This bartender, friendly and attentive to the last, proved himself in the making of the Sazerac, which was fine and mighty strong! He also knew the whole history of the drink's invention in New Orleans, and it's status as possibly the first cocktail in history. Later on, he steered me into trying a Jack Rose, a Calvados-based libation that I have never tried. While it won't become one of my favorites, it was an intriguing, piquant change of pace, and I like the bartender for bravely directing me into uncharted waters.

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