Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Two With Champagne
The East Village near Tompkins Square is turning into a little warren of boutique cocktail havens. In addition to Death & Co. on E. 6th between First and A, and PDT on St. Mark's between First and A, there is The Bourgeois Pig on E. 7th between the same blocks.
The Bourgeois Pig is owned by one of the same people who run Death & Co. It was for some years in a small space on the south side of the street, but very recently moved to a larger space on the north side. My heart received a jolt when I first approached it as I saw the address was precisely that of the bygone Tompkins Square Books, a beloved used book store of my youth. To see a bar installed where stacks once stood was disorienting.
The interior in on the louche side: red light, silvery tin ceiling, an ornate chandelier of blown glass pieces which look like something between deer antlers and exploded champagne flutes. A curving bar dominated the left side of the room. At present, BP is more a wine bar than a cocktail joint, with an emphasis on French vino. There were, however, sections for champagne cocktails, wine cocktail and, uh, beer cocktails, as well as a couple champagne punches.
While the wine cocktails intrigued me, I was in the mood for something light and refreshing, so I chose the Violetta, a combination of 3/4 ounce each of Creme de Violette, lemon juice and Maraschino liqueur, topped with Champagne (they used Pol Roger). It was piquant, mildly tart, refreshing, a romantic drink. Wish I could have seen the color, but it was dark.
From there I walked a block to PDT, which is hidden behind a fake telephone booth door in a hot dog joint called Crif Dogs. (A telephone booth in an East Village hot dog place! You can't find a telephone booth at even the high-end places anymore.) Like Death & Co., like PG, it's a small, intimate place dominated by a beautifully lit bar and ringed by booths. The novelty of the bar is that imbibers can order franks from the low-rent Crif Dogs and eat them with their cocktails. (Hey—salty food and beer have always been a drinker's staple.)
I was hungry and ordered one such dog, wrapped in bacon and topped with kimche. (I kid you not. And it was good.) I then asked my extremely helpful and friendly bartender to point me in the right drink direction. He suggested an off-menu concoction called a Jimmy Rutledge, which was a riff on an old drink I'd never heard of called a Jimmy Roosevelt, and was named after the master distiller at Four Roses Bourbon, who is celebrating 40 years on the job this year.
The drink was a fairly complex little ditty. The champagne glass was coated with syrup. Then in went a sugar cube dotted with bitters, Four Roses, champagne and a thin layer of Chartreuse on top. I find champagne-brown liquor mixtures hit my palate in an odd way. Still, the brisk, mature cocktail stood up nicely to the dog. The man knew his cocktail-food pairings.
I must have passed the bartender's test as a curious and learned gentlemen, because after that he asked me to test a bourbon they had been working on. It was infused with bacon! They planned to use it in a version of an Old Fashioned. I was hesitant, but it was delicious, the bacon very subtle and marrying well with the meatiness of the bourbon. Can't wait to taste the drink.