Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Next Sound You Hear...

Will be me falling flat on my face from mental and physical exhaustion. That will occur some time in the evening hours of Friday, May 2.

To explain: Next week you will be hearing little from me. That is because I will be attending the spring session of the BAR Five-Day Certification Program on distilled spirits and mixology. BAR, in case you didn't know, stands for Beveral Alcohol Resource LLC, the New York City-based spirits institute created by Dale DeGroff, Doug Frost, Steven Olson, F. Paul Pacult, Andy Seymour, and David Wondrich.

They hold the program (I've come to call it the BAR exam, when discussing it with my wife and friends) twice a year. The April 28-May 2 session will only be the fifth such. I expect to have a great deal of fun leaning about and sample the various liquors of the planet, but I also expect to be utterly spent at the end of it. The first day, after all, lasts from 10 AM to 9 PM! Which give the term "intensive" a new meaning. Thereafter, it only gets a little easier: 9 AM to 7:30 PM. They take it easy on you on Friday, Exam Day—only 10 AM to 4 PM.

I have been instructed to dress casually, bring plenty of water, notebooks and pens. Also my "unforgettable laugh." (Not sure if I have one of those, but I'm looking.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In the Cellar With Union Square Cafe

For my April "In the Cellar" column in the New York Sun, I interviewed Steve Mancini, the wine director at Union Square Cafe. Mancini once again served to impress upon me the extreme youth of New York's major sommeliers these days. The Modern, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, etc.—they're all run by babies! But what enthusiastic, knowledgable babies! Mancini is the kind of excitable wine guy that gets you excited about wines. I was particularly pleased to discover he toys around with homemade limoncello and amaro—just like moi.

The Mad Scientist of 16th Street


In the wine cellar of restaurateur Danny Meyer’s perennially popular Union Square Café, there are a few large mason jars of neon-yellow liquid. The contents are not radioactive: The jars contain housemade limoncello, created from a family recipe provided by the restaurant’s youthful, experiment-loving wine director, Stephen Mancini.

The lemon-based Italian liqueur, mixed with grappa and citrus juices, is used to make the Forza Totti — one offering from the new cocktail program Mr. Mancini has been developing since last fall. The 27-year-old puts much stock in family recipes. He and his father cure their own prosciutto every year, and his first exposure to wine was the garage brew whipped up by his grandfather. Mr. Mancini’s uncle has now assumed the family winemaking duties, aging the alcohol in glass, which lends it a bit of carbonation. “It’s not as much about making an amazing product as it is about tradition,” Mr. Mancini said.

Noting that his staff could similarly benefit from firsthand exposure to winemaking, he said he’s discussed with Union Square’s general manager the possibility of making wine at the restaurant — not for patron consumption, but for educational purposes. The idea came to him last fall when he voluntarily assisted Californians Bob Foley and Abe Schoener with their harvests. “Who knows? We could make the worst wine ever,” he said. “But being able to share that experience I had with Bob Foley — drinking juice that was not fully fermented out of his 10-ton steel fermenters, seeing how that wine has evolved — it was brilliant.”

Mr. Mancini hails from Italian immigrant families on both sides: His father was born outside of Rome, and his mother’s family came from Calabria. After graduating from Villanova University, he worked his way up to captain from busboy at Mr. Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern, and learned about wine under the tutelage of former Gramercy Tavern sommeliers Paul Greco and Karen King. Union Square Café is his first gig as a full-out wine director.

He tends to look at Union Square’s wine list as something like a many-layered archeological dig. “I’d say that I’ve definitely been able to put my fingerprint on the list,” he said. “That being said, this list is different than a lot of lists in New York City. It still has purchases that Danny Meyer put on the list originally. Every wine director since Danny has made a contribution.”

One of Mr. Mancini’s major innovations is a full page of grappas. They hail from a range of Italian regions and include a 1984 Bric Del Gaian from the Piedmont ($50 a glass). “I think sometimes people have a preconceived notion of what grappa is,” he said. “We have such great Armagnacs and Cognacs here. Since our list is very much an Italian list and our restaurant very much has an Italian soul, if we’re going to support the after-dinner-drink lifestyle, it’s only right we have a grappa page.”

Another new aspect is the aforementioned cocktail menu. Each cocktail contains an Italian ingredient made in a different area of the country, and Mr. Mancini has arranged the menu in the manner of a wine list, ordering the drinks region by region, running from the top of the Italian boot (a Venetian Spritz made with prosecco and Aperol) to the bottom (a Sicilian Wallbanger, made with imported Sicilian blood orange juice, vodka, and Galliano liqueur).

“I didn’t want to just make drinks and say, ‘These are our cocktails’ — a drunken cranberry spritzer or whatever,” he said. “So I made it all Italian. We find our inspiration for these drinks from an ingredient from a region.”

Future cocktails may benefit from Mr. Mancini’s mad-scientist proclivities. He’s experimenting with homemade versions of the Italian herbal liqueur known as amaros, as well as a juniper-infused gin. At this rate of invention, the Mancini grandchildren will have considerably more family recipes to choose from.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nobody See the Wine Cellar at Sparks Steak House

Sparks Steak House is known for having one of the best wine cellars in Manhattan. But you're going to have to take that on faith. Because there's no way they're going to let you see it.

I write a monthly column for the New York Sun called "In the Cellar," in which I write about the wine collection at a famous New York restaurant. In the nearly two years I've been writing the column, no place I've profiled has ever said I couldn't see the cellar. Oh, there was the guy at La Pizza Fresca who held out for a bit, but that was mainly because his cellar was a mess and he was a bit embarrassed. But he eventually relented and let me take a look.

Sparks Steak House, however, treats its wine cellar like the North Tower at Thornfield Hall in "Jany Eyre." Off limit. "Nobody ever see the cellar," Eugene, Sparks' wine steward told me. "It's always been that way." Always, meaning the 40 years Sparks has been around. Eugene, whose last name I never caught, could offer no other explanation, except that's the way the boss liked it. He wasn't unpleasant about it; he was quite matter of fact.

Of course, denying access only make one more curious. What have they got down there that has be kept from prying eyes? Paul Castellano's mummified corpse?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Get to Know This Drink!

The ladies and gentlemen behind the best bars these days are advertised as learned in the classics, but there are some drinks that still stump them regularly.

In recent months, I visited three of the top cocktail dens in Manhattan and asked for a De La Louisiane and thus bewildered the bartender. I then followed-up with a request for a Saratoga and got the same blank look. (I won't say which bars; I don't want to embarrass anyone.)

I know what you're saying: I'm asking too much. These drinks are too obscure. But, no, I'm not asking too much. These places set themselves up as the keepers of the cocktail flame, masters of mixed-drink history. The De La Louisiane was invented in 1938 in cocktail capital New Orleans, and has been much blogged about of late. It was thought enough of to be included in The Museum of the American Cocktail's Pocket Recipe Book. The Saratoga reigned supreme a century or so ago and was significant enough to be included in David Wondrich's new book "Imbibe!," of which every serious bartender I know has a copy. These drinks should ad least provoke a glimmer of recognition from the man behind a high-end bar.

So, as a service to mankind (at least the kind of men that prepare and/or enjoy drinks), I am making a plea to bartenders to study this libation and add it to their repertoire asap.

De La Louisiane

.75 oz. rye
.75 oz. sweet vermouth
.75 oz. Benedictine
3 dashes absinthe
3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Still over ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry.

And don't forget it!

If This Is Spring, It Must Be the Passover Wine Article

It is spring, when a wine writer's fancy turns to thoughts of the annual Passover wine roundup.

Few articles in the yearly wine-writing cycle are as predictable as the avalanche of kosher wine surveys that appear each spring. I am no exception to the rule, so here is my take on what your should buy for your seder, printed in

Kosher Keepers
by Robert Simonson

In February, Manhattan's Puck Building was host to the second annual Kosher Food & Wine Experience, an industry event at which kosher-wine makers from around the world present their wares to distributors, wine store owners, critics, and the general public. This year the hall was abuzz with talk of a recent appraisal of Israeli wine that had appeared in über wine critic Robert Parker, Jr.'s influential publication The Wine Advocate. Printouts of the piece were handed out to the crowd like candy; winemakers touted their cherished scores of 90 or above to anyone willing to listen.

Kosher-wine makers have long had a self-esteem problem, mostly because the term kosher itself bears a stigma. To many minds, it still means sweet, unsophisticated, substandard; it denotes a wine that is a cultural product first, a culinary one second. The campaign to have kosher wines placed on an equal footing with nonkosher wines has been on for some years, but it got a big boost from Parker, without whose blessing few wine regions, vintners, or vintages ever truly arrive. The Wine Advocate article (actually written by Mark Squires) awarded more than a dozen wines from Israeli makers scores between 90 and 100.

Parker and Squires's findings came as no surprise to people who have observed the progress of kosher wines over the past decade, however. As with every winegrowing area in the world and every once underrecognized varietal, the march toward quality has been steady, as growers race to meet the demands of an ever more discerning wine-drinking public.

My wife if Jewish, so I have had a steadier acquaintance with kosher wine than perhaps most wine writers can claim. Every Friday night, a kosher bottle is needed for our table. At Passover—when we typically spend both seders at the homes of friends—the search is ratcheted up: we require a wine that will ease our way through the long, often tiring ceremony. What's more, many of our Jewish friends have also begun upping their standards; to them, serving a bottle of insipid kosher wine at the holiday table is no more acceptable than passing a jug of Gallo at a fancy dinner party.

In the past, with some work, I have always been able to find a wine that made for satisfying seder drinking; one that possessed the qualities I look for in any bottle I buy: balance, structure, minerality, and a minimal reliance on oak aging and aggressive fruit-forwardness to furnish its personality. It took a little doing, but it got done. What has changed recently is that the search is no longer a chore. I can now easily recommend a dozen kosher wines off the top of my head. What's more, I'd recommend them for everyday drinking, not just once a week (or once a year).

Most of my favorites come from Israel, whose producers are clearly now at the forefront for quality kosher vino. Smaller vintners dedicated to limited output, minimal technological interference, and old-world (typically French) models are making wines that compare favorably with the output in other wine-producing countries. The French kosher wines, in fact, could learn a lot from their Israeli counterparts, in my opinion. Many of the French koshers I sampled tasted like drab imitations of nonkosher models, whereas the best Israeli koshers possess their own, vibrant personalities. What follows is a list of Passover wines that will make the four mandatory cups a pleasure to drain and may find a place on your wine rack thereafter.

Binyamina ($16)
This vintner makes a great many wines, but I was the most impressed with two of its chardonnays—the Chardonnay Reserve 2004 and the Onyx 2004. Both keep a clear distance from the popular fruit-and-oak California style because the wine is left on the lees (the skins) for a time; that lends them a pungency and bite. The Onyx comes from a single vineyard and shows a corresponding focus.

Bartenura Prosecco ($18)
Kosher champagne is either wretched or terribly expensive. If you want bubbly at your seder, go for this enjoyable prosecco, a wallet-friendly crowd-pleaser.

Weinstock Cabernet Sauvignon Cellar Select 2005 ($20)
Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($20)
Some Passover imbibers will insist on mevushal wine—a subset of kosher drink that involves the juice's being flash-boiled. This methd, Jewish law has it, makes it suitable to be touched by non-Jewish hands. Argue all you like; it's simply very difficult to boil a wine and have it come out at the other end with any appreciable depth or complexity. These two—the red from California, the white from New Zealand—are among the mevushals that show the best. Both offer pleasurable drinking and reasonably distinctive flavor. And the prices—both roughly $20—work.

Bazelet Hagolan Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($30)
This wine came as a revelation to me a couple years back, when a fellow seder participant just returning from Tel Aviv pulled some out of his suitcase. An outstanding unfiltered cabernet of firm structure and understated fruit, it floored the gathered company with its quality. The 2006 is just as good. The Golan Heights winery, merely ten years old, has been certified kosher only since 2004. There's also a pricier reserve ($45), but the regular cabernet is the better value.

Psagot Edom 2005 ($30)
Psagot does just cabernet sauvignon. It also does just merlot. But this blend (75 percent cabernet/25 percent merlot) is where it hits the mark. The bottle won't change your life, but the wine is a solid, dependable, easy-drinking delight. There is oak here, but it knows its place. Everything is balanced.

Domaine du Castel ($40)
This is the winery that most folks are raving about these days, and no wonder. All three wines the Judean Hills–based company produces—the top-grade bordeaux blend Grand Vin (2004); Petit Castel, also a bordeaux blend, but more lightweight and merlot heavy (2005); and "C" Blanc du Castel, its chardonnay (2005)—are excellent. It's clear that the winemakers are aping French models, but they're doing it well, without seeming like pretenders, and there's character to spare all the way down to the bottom of the glass. These beauties cost $40 and up, and they're not easy to find

Capcanes ($65)
After all my talk about how great the Israel kosher wines have become, here I go praising a Spanish producer! But Capcanes, located in the southeastern appellation of Montsant, is very likely the best kosher wine in the world. The blend of granacha, tempranillo, and carignan found in Peraj Ha'abib has depth, complex fruit character, and well-integrated tannins that make it worth the high price. Still, the producers were smart to bring out the entry-level Peraj Petita this year; it performs like Ha'abib's likable little brother and is more affordable at $18.

Chateau Valandraud 2003 ($500)
If you must be a big shot and also have the wherewithal, who am I to tell you not to honor your seder meal with this beauty, made by the lauded St-Émilion "garagist" Jean-Luc Thunevin? Some call this the best kosher wine in the world. Drop for drop, dollar for dollar, though, I'd still tap Capcanes as the better value. The Valandraud is more ageworthy, of course, but you're not going to age a Passover wine, are you? You're going to drink it in one go.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What I Don't Know About Petite Sirah...

...was significantly lessened following the April 2 meeting of the Wine Media Guild, which featured the minor, Cali-centric varietal in question. How often have you tasted a couple dozen Petite Sirahs at one sitting? Yeah, me too, until this occasion.

Petite Sirah, to my thinking, is known for two things. It's a heavyweight, knockout red that would give Zinfandel a workout in the ring. And it's got the most ironic name of any grape on the planet. Petite, my ear! It should be called Grande Sirah. Actually, Grande Syrah. (The name actually refers to the tiny size of the berries.)

The grape, called Durif in France, was invented there by Francois Durif. It was resistant to disease, but didn't make good wine, so it was dropped like a hot rock in Gaul. But California and Australia, who like them a good strong wine, picked it up and ran. There are now 282 producers in The Golden State, and they have their own marketing group without the semi-unfortunate name of "P.S. I Love You." (Get it?)

The speaker at the event was Kevin Morrisey, winemaker at Stags' Leap. He was polished and very informative. From him I learned that Petite Sirah is a grape that was made to be blended. It doesn't benefit from the vaunted "single vineyard" approach. It shows best when different plots of land are sourced for the same bottle.

I'm not a Petite Sirah fan, as a rule. It possesses too many of the loud and large traits I associate with the overdone California style. Still, I learned from the tasting how different Petite Sirahs can be from one another. There were two bottles from Staps' Leap, the standard 2005 and the Ne Cede Malis Estate 2004 ($75, thank you). I actually liked the former better. It was rough and thick and dark, with a smoky finish. I found fancier bottle muddy and overly inky—An excessive approach to an excessive grape.

One of my favored wines was the Cecchetti Wine Company's Line 39 Lake County 2006. It had an interesting rustic, rooty edge, the fruit confined to the core of each swallow. The 2005 Vina Robles Jardine was also good, in a different way; it was juicy and fresh, not too heavy, with the rustic tones coming later on in the finish.

Belinda Chang, the wine director at The Modern—always a fun presence at a tasting—alerted me to the presence of the Australian Charles Cimicky 2005 Petite Sirah. The is the inaugural PS offering from this winery and it was impressive. It had a smooth start leading to a rough, ashy, brambly finish. You pay for the quality, however. The bottle comes in at $49.

The meal—one of the best Felidia has provided, highlighting by a beautiful lamb, carved at table (see below)—was topped by a bottle of Prager Port Works 2004 Royal Escort Port. Seems they'll make port out of anything these days in California, so why not Petite Sirah? The bottle, which was rather flabby and hangover-provoking-intense, wasn't given much love on my end of the table.

There were some unopened bottles left at the end of the event and members were invited to help themselves. I took one home, and was sort of glad to do so.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Forget Red Hook-Made Beer; Get Ready for Red Hook-Made Wine

Don't look at your calendar. It isn't April 1 and this is not a joke post.

Beginning next year, Red Hook, Brooklyn, will be a winemaking hotbed. At a wine dinner last night at Stanton Social, Abe Schoener, the cult California winemaker responsible for the boutique line of Scholium Project wines, announced that he would start making wine in deepest, darkest Brooklyn, working out of the old Beard Street Warehouse.

Schoener, an affable and erudite man with a beefy frame, short gray hair and thick glasses, said he planned to ship grapes down from the Hudson Valley wine region, possibly working with the Millbrook Winery and possibly vinifying Tocai Friulano grapes, a varietal native to Friuli, Italy; Millbrook is one of the few U.S. growers of this grape.

Schoener said he was going to use Red Hook the old-fashioned way: the grapes would arrive by ship and delivered using an actual extant slip at the Beard Street Warehouse.

The winemaker has won acclaim for his iconoclastic takes on Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Syrah and Petite Sirah, which are produced on various parcels throughout California and bottles in small amounts.

The Brooklyn Cocktail Wave

The New York Sun today published my thumbnail survey of the new (and I mean new) Brooklyn cocktail scene. In the past six months, three major cocktail joints—all on a par with the best of the Manhattan places, or at least getting there—have opened in the Borough of Kings: the Hideout, Weather Up and Jake Wake. On its way is the The Clover Club, which has been under construction for months on Smith Street. It could well overshadow the others once it gets up and running.

I've been to all of these, and like each for different reasons. The Hideout is closest the secretive, elite aesthetic you get at PDT or Milk & Honey. Weather Up is attractive because of its outpost aura; it's really in the middle of nowhere. Jake Walk is good is you just to sit back and be yourself, free from the judging eyes of poseurs. Welcome all!

Brooklyn’s Artisanal Cocktails

Brooklyn residents no longer have to trek to Manhattan and knock on specific unmarked doors below 14th Street to get a perfectly made Sazerac. The cocktail revolution, which has reintroduced a generation to the historical and artisanal joys of tippling, has crossed the bridge in recent months. One of the most anticipated new watering holes, Cobble Hill’s Clover Club — from the creators of Manhattan’s Flatiron Lounge — won’t be open for a couple months. But here are three others that are stocked and ready to pour.

The Hideout

Following the psuedo-speakeasy aesthetic so popular across the East River, this snug, swank tavern sits behind three garage doors in a former 19th-century stable. Vaunted British-born mixologist Charlotte Voisey was drafted to fashion the cocktail menu — drinks are $12–$14 each — currently marked by high amounts of fresh muddled fruit and invention (rose petal-infused simple syrup). Co-owner Asio Highsmith, who points out that none of the scotches on hand are younger than 12 years, commented: “We don’t make mojitos.” (266 Adelphi St. at DeKalb Avenue, Fort Greene, 718-855-3010)

Weather Up

For this oasis on a desolate block in Prospect Heights, owner Kathryn Weathup joined forces with Sasha Petraske, who, like Ms. Voisey, helped shape Manhattan’s cocktail culture; he runs Milk and Honey on the Lower East Side and Little Branch in the West Village. The bar has started out slowly, with just a few featured libations, and plans to venture into wine. Signature drink: the Weather Up ($15), a potion made of amaretto, cognac, and lemon juice. Only two a customer are allowed — and that’s a good thing. (589 Vanderbilt Ave. at Dean Street, Prospect Heights, no phone number yet)

Jake Walk

Patrick Watson and Michele Pravda, owners of a mini mercantile empire on Smith Street that includes wine shop Smith & Vine and the cheese store Stinky, are behind this new saloon. Fittingly, the cocktail program shares the spotlight with a choice wine list and delectable cheese plates. Still, any bar that features both a Star (apple brandy, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters) and a Bijou (gin, Chartreuse, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters) — two classic, pre-Prohibition-era drinks ($9 each) — on the same menu knows its way around a cocktail shaker. (282 Smith St. at Sackett Street, Carroll Gardens, 347-599-0294)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Fallen Angel

I've had my gripes with the leading cocktail lounges in this City from time to time. But one thing I've almost never found myself complaining about is service. Pegu Club, Little Branch, Death & Co., PDT, Milk & Honey—they may be hard to get in sometimes, but once you're in, you are promptly served. A bartender will see you without a drink in your hand and ask you your pleasure.

Not so at Angel's Share. In my travels about the metropolis, I have thus far failed to pay the hidden, second-story, Stuyvesant Street bar in the East Village a call. Last night, I found myself standing in front of it and thought "Why not?" There is no sign on the street. One must know it's there. You climb a flight of stairs and find yourself in a nondescript Japanese restaurant. To the left is a plain wooden door. Pass through it and you'll enter a snug little cocktail haven with a lovely view of street down below.

The place appeared packed. I asked if there was room for one anywhere. The waiter asked me if I would wait for 10 minutes. I agreed. Soon enough, a place at the bar appeared. I plunked myself down, to no great notice from anyone behind the bar. After five minutes, I was handed the cocktail menu. Fine. But I had already browsed through it during my wait (a few too many things with vodka in them for my taste) and was ready to order. I waited for the bartender to return. He didn't. Another did and promptly began cleaning glasses, right in front of me. He did not ask me if I cared to order. He did not in fact look at anyone who was seated at the bar.

He left. A third bartender arrived and promptly began to clean glasses, again right in front of me. No eye contract. No inquiry as to whether I had been served, though it was clear as day that I hadn't been served. No napkin, no water glass, no nothing was before me. 15 minutes had passed. Then, suddenly, all three bartenders were behind the bar. CLEANING GLASSES. No one was making cocktails. At all. I began to wonder if I was wearing a cloaking device. What's more, the bartenders were cheerless and unsmiling, and staring at some distant point past the heads of their customers. I usually get into a conversation with most of the barkeeps I encounter. Not this time, mainly because I did not encounter them.

I could have, I suppose, snapped my fingers, or waved a hand and said "May I order, please?" But my point it, that shouldn't be necessary. Asking the order of a person sitting at your bar is rule one of being a bartender, more important than knowing how to make great cocktails, because, who cares if you're a superb mixologist if you don't ask anyone if they want a drink. At all the other cocktail places I mentioned above, I have never had to hail down a bartender like he was a cab. They are professionals. They are dedicated. They recognize and acknowledge and look out for their customers.

I left and walked a couple blocks to McSorley's on E. 7th. I bellied up to the bar, ordered two dark and had them in front of me, all within a minute. Now, that's a bar.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Amer Picon on the Brain

Now that Absinthe is again made all over the place and readily available in liquor stores and bars, there are few potions in cocktail geekdom that excite the blood of the fanaticist as Amer Picon.

Amer Picon, as Drinkboy described it, "is a bitter cordial made with orange, gentian, and other ingredients." It's an Amaro, which is Italian for "bitter." Amaros are a variety of Italian herbal liqueurs, and have a fairly high alcohol content. Amer Picon used to be readily available in the good ol' U.S. of A., and is a part of many classic pre-Prohibition cocktails. For some time, however, it has an unpurchaseable item Stateside. It exists still, but only over in Europe, and apparently was reformulated in the 1970s, creating a Old Coke-New Coke-like split on whether the new version can hold a candle to the old.

West coast bartender Jamie Boudreau (that's a real bartender's name, isn't it?) last year came up with a formula which he believes replicates the taste of the original Amer Picon, and many of the more prominent Cocktailians seem to agree. I got a hold of the recipe and am in the process of putting the stuff together. It really doesn't take that long, except that that Jamie insists the orange tincture that is one of the ingredients sit for two months. It's been on my shelf for one week and already I'm impatient. His website said I can cut the time by a month if I shake the jar up three times a day, so I may go that route. I'm not promising anything! (The picture is courtesy of Boudreau's site, since I ain't got no bottle to photograph.)

Events conspire to keep Amer Picon on my mind. I was bellying up to the bar at Death & Co. the other night and got to talking with its able bartender Paul. He said the bar used to have some real Amer Picon smuggled over from Europe, but made the mistake of listing it as an ingredient in a featured cocktail. Word got around and the stuff was gone in a flash.

That lesson may soon be learned over again by a recently opened Brooklyn bar. (I'm not going to say which, because I don't want to incite a run on the place.) They possess a bottle of the stuff (old or new, I can't say), prominently on view behind on the bar. Recently, they started featuring it as part of the on-offer Liberal cocktail. (Rye, sweet vermouth, Amer Picon.) I've made Liberals at home, using various substitutes for the Picon, but they never tasted like this. Best Liberal I ever had. The Amaro added amazing and pleasing layers of depth and flavor. The bartender said they won't be serving any Picon Punch, because the bottle would be emptied in a flash.

One thing I'd like to know. Amer Picon is unavailable here, but does that make it illegal to sell it in an American bar. Anyone know?