Monday, September 24, 2007

Death in the Early Evening

I finally made my way to Death & Co., the cocktail emporium on East 6th Street in the East Village. I almost got lost on my way there, however, as Death belongs to that precious group of cocktail dens that adores obscurity. The bar's facade is dim and not clearly marked, unless you look down at your feet and seen the name of the place on the sidewalk in front of the door. Why must all the new cocktail places breathlessly ape the aura of the speakeasy? Would it be so awful to advertise to the general public that you make good drinks?

The interior was dim, a long bar to the right, booths to the left. Deathheads could be spied in the decor if you looked for them. I took a seat at the far end of the bar, near the wall and began perusing the menu. An intriguing list, with ornate riffs on the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Moscow Mule and Kir Royale. Specific liquors were identified. And there was a corner of the menu featuring cocktails created by "friends" such as Gary Regan, David Wondrich, James Meehan—the usual gang.

I can't say enough about the bartender (though, for the life of me, I can't remember his name; it was exotic and I was drinking). He was knowledgable, approachable, straightforward and friendly. We had edifying exchanges about Sazeracs, St. Germain, and more. I started with my usual: the Sazerac. Rittenhouse rye was chosen. The bartender took his time, stirring it plenty, and it came out well-integrated and rich and not too sweet. He said he "loved" the drink. Good man.

The girl sitting next to me had never heard of a Sazerac, so I let her have a taste. Oh, yes: there were two girls sitting next to me, two young girls, and they had been sitting there since 7 PM. They loved the joint and visited regularly, fascinated by the science of mixology. They had been drinking Pink Ladies pretty steadily and were on their sixth round. One later had a Ramos Giz Fizz, getting a head start on breakfast, I guess. They kept saying the current round would be the last, but then they'd go out for a smoke and return for another. "Sex and the City" was a favorite show of theirs. They could have been extras!

I turned to gin for my next round, trying the Elder Fashion, because I love St. Germain, one of its ingredients. It was a refreshing change of pace, what with the grapefruit twist and the huge freakin' piece of ice in the glass. I wanted to take it easy for my third and final drink, so I asked the barkeep to be my guide. He came back with a "riff" on a Brown Derby. Never would have thought of that one. But it did the trick, the smooth bourbon, grapefruit juice and honey keeping things easy.

I came away with wholly positive impression of the place. I plan to return around the holidays to partake of a bowl of genuine Fish House Punch and feel like a character in a Charles Dickens novel.

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