Thursday, October 6, 2011

Danish Drinking in the East Village

I have heard from a few colleagues recently that the cocktail scene in Copenhagen had come into its own. I took in the news and then sighed heavily, knowing my chances of experiencing it anytime soon were narrow. But living in New York is great that way. Very often, the thing you want to experience will come to you, rather than you having to go to it.

On Oct. 5, PDT, the East Village speakeasy, played host to Nick Hobbernagel Hovand, a bartender at the Danish cocktail bar Ruby—which, like PDT, has a secret entrance. For the occasion, Hovand, a friendly chap in a brownish-reddish scruffy beard, came up with a guest menu of five drink, all of them served at Ruby.

The theme of the menu was "Salt and the Sea." Indeed, salt could be found in four of the five beverages. Hovand explained that he simply wanted to have the menu stand out from PDT's usual choices; salt isn't necessarily a staple ingredient at Ruby.

I tried two drinks. The first, the Rapscallion, has been on the Ruby menu since it open in 2007. It's a Manhattan riff featuring 2 parts Talisker Scotch, 1 part Pedro Ximinez sherry and a dash of Richard, which is used like bitters in this case. It's a simple, silky, sweet drink, but complex in taste. The ingredients almost war with one another, but stop just short. Instead, you get an ever-intriguing interplay of flavors.

I preferred my second choice, the 866, an on-the-rocks sipper made up Dild Aquavit, Campari, Grapefruit juice and salt. Dild is a modern Danish brand of Aquavit unavailable here. Its key note is not caraway, but dill. It has a fragrant, freshly cut nose and a taste to match. The drink was refreshing and piquant and only slightly bitter. I know from Beta Cocktails how well salt can play with Campari, and it did the same trick here. But, really, it's the unexpected taste of dill that makes the drink. For some reason, I thought the cocktail would go wonderfully well with pickled herring.

The rest of the menu is below.


Anonymous said...

Boy I wish I could have been there for that. Like you, there's no way I'll get to Copenhagen any time soon.

For a dill-drive aquavit, try the Aalborg brand. Their Taffel Aquavit, around $20 a bottle, is clear and dill-forward. Their Jubilæums Aquavit, which is pricier and sometimes harder to find, is more caraway-driven, like Linie from Norway. And frankly, the Jubilæums is tastier, unless you're drinking it in shots with pickled herring, or in a cocktail that demands a dill flavor.

That 866 cocktail sounds like it's worth trying to replicate with Aalborg. Any idea why he calls it 866? Is it a ratio?

Sune Urth said...

Hi, just found your little chat here. I work at Ruby. The route 866 leaves from Copenhagen and takes you to Bornholm, a small Danish island in the Baltic sea, known for smoked herring, fishing and pretty girls.
Sune Urth