Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Good Fork; Good Sazerac

The "Tales of the Cocktail" crowd—for being such an insular, clannish little band—has long tentacles. I was dining the other day at The Good Fork, thought by some to be the best restaurant in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. My wife and I parked ourselves in a banquette near the door. The wine list was impressive for such a small place, but I still had a taste in my mouth for cocktails left over from New Orleans.

I asked the waitress, plaintively, if they stocked rye in their bar, expecting to get a response in the negative. I almost fell on the floor when she said yes. And imagine my stunned surprise when she said their bartender made a great Sazerac. I glanced over at the man behind the bar, a tallish gent with close-shorn salt-and-pepper hair. "His name isn't St. John, is it?" "It is," said the waitress, surprised.

This same St. John I met at Vaughan's Lounge in the Bywater section of New Orleans. We chatted between sessions of jazz trumpeteer Kermit Ruffins. He is one of the Pegu Club's many bartenders. And here he was, in the farthest corner of Red Hook, tending bar.

I went up and reintroduced myself. St. John, it turns out, tends bar at The Good Fork Tuesdays and Fridays, and the bar there is friqhtfully well equipped. (No surprise, I guess, since they're situated just a few feet from LeNell's great liquor store.) He agreed with the scuttlebut that the Sazeracs in NoLa were on the sweet side. So I let him do his stuff to see how his fared.

The resulting drink was impressive. It reminded md of the one I had at Bayona in New Orleans: a vibrant color, chilly as snow and served in a small tumbler. Moreover, it was very well integrated, one of the best mixed Sazeracs I've had. I noticed he had taken a great deal of time and care stirring it. I approached him later and asked his other secrets. He had one or two, which I won't share here, in case he wants to keep them private. But, if you're in Red Hook of Tuesday or Saturday and are looking for a good drink, grab one of the four stools at The Good Fork.

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