Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Got a Neighborhood? Here's Your Drink

I started noticing the geographic specialization of cocktail names a couple years ago, when I read about the Red Hook, a seeming spin on the Manhattan that added Maraschino liqueur to the rye and sweet vermouth. Then I learned about The Slope, an invention of Julie Reiner. Another spin on the Manhattan, this one added apricot brandy. Hm, my reporter's brain hummed. A trend?

Little did I know. I suggested a story to Time Out New York about such locally named drinks and began to investigate. I found a Greenpoint, a Cobble Hill, a Bensonhurst, a Little Italy, a Brooklyn Heights, an East Village Globe Trotter. Someone said there was a Williamsburg (I never found it). Brooklyn, it seems, is running out of neighborhood to name drinks after, though, strangely, there is no Carroll Gardens cocktail, even though the nabe is surrounded by new cocktails on add sides (the Cobble Hill to the north, Red Hook to the south, The Slope to the east).

The wellspring of most of these concoctions, I learned, is Sasha Petraske's Milk & Honey, where a few years back all the bartenders decided to challenge each other to create new spins on the Brooklyn cocktail (rye, sweet vermouth, Amer Picon, Marascino liqueur). Enzo Errico was the first out of the gate with the Red Hook. The Greenpoint (created by Michael McIlroy), Bensonhurst (Chad Solomon) and Cobble Hill (Sam Ross) followed.

(My estimation that it was a riff on the Manhattan was wrong, but, hey, the Manhattan and Brooklyn are so similar is their bases. It was an easy mistake to make. I should have been tipped off by the name: Red Hook is part of Brooklyn, not Manhattan.)

It took a lot of doing, but I finally gathered all the threads together into an article, which Time Out has run today with a lot of pictures. Here it is:

Local flavor

By Robert Simonson

The New York bartenders of the 19th and 20th centuries showed their hometown pride by giving the world the Bronx cocktail, the Brooklyn, and most famously, the Manhattan. Mixologists of the aughts have gotten even more specific: Drinks are being named after Gotham neighborhoods at a furious rate—most of them descended from those granddaddies, the Brooklyn and the Manhattan (though the Bronx cocktail’s mix of gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth and orange juice was a sensation a century ago, it doesn’t seem to be inspiring many tributes these days). Of course, the whole idea of geographical cocktails is arguably a misapprehension. The Manhattan, after all, wasn’t named after the island, but in honor of a swanky club. The Bronx, one story goes, commemorates the zoo, not the home of the Yankees. Still, all that backstory doesn’t mean you can’t show your NYC pride by raising one of these libations skyward.


One of the most profound mixed drinks of all time, it was reputedly created at the Manhattan Club on Madison Square in the 1870s. By the next decade, it was ubiquitous and wildly popular. Virtually any competent barkeep can make one work; the Manhattan has never gone completely out of style. Try one in the dignified setting of Bemelmans Bar (The Carlyle, 35 E 76th St at Madison Ave, 212-744-1600; $16.75).


2 oz rye whiskey
1 oz sweet vermouth
Dash of Angostura's bitters
Cherry garnish

Pour liquid ingredients over ice and stir. Strain into cocktail glass, serve up (no ice) and garnish with a cherry.


A classic creation of Audrey Saunders, owner of Pegu Club (77 W Houston St between West Broadway and Wooster St, 212-473-7348; $13) and one of the high priestesses of the cocktail revolution. “I named it the Little Italy as I was using the Manhattan cocktail as a frame for it, and wanted to give a nod to the ingredient Cynar,” she says. This Italian-American Manhattan is bitter, sweet, classic and dramatic—like the people.


2 oz Rittenhouse 100-proof rye
1/2 oz Cynar
3/4 oz Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth
Luxardo cherry garnish

Pour liquid ingredients over ice and stir. Strain into cocktail glass, serve up and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.


“I love Manhattans, and am always playing around with them,” says Julie Reiner, Slope inventor and owner of Flatiron Lounge (37 W 19th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, 212-727-7741; $13) and Clover Club (210 Smith St between Baltic and Butler Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn; 718-855-7939; $11). “Not much of a story, but that’s it.” The Slope is richer than a Manhattan, owing to the apricot brandy and Punt y Mes—a liquid fruitcake (in a good way).


2 oz Rittenhouse rye
3/4 oz Punt y Mes sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Apricot brandy
Angostura bitters
Cherry garnish

Pour liquid ingredients over ice and stir. Strain into cocktail glass, serve up and garnish with a cherry.


“It first popped up in the 1910s, probably as a response to the Manhattan,” says cocktail historian David Wondrich. As for the drink, it’s like a Manhattan, just a bit rougher and more complex. Sort of like Brooklyn itself. The once-popular Amer Picon, a bitter-orange cordial, has sadly been off the American market for decades. Try the version at Weather Up (589 Vanderbilt Ave between Bergen and Dean Sts, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn; no phone; $11). There’s no Amer Picon, which results in a slightly sweeter drink. But three fourths of a good cocktail is better than none.


1 oz rye
1/2 oz sweet vermouth (early recipes use dry vermouth)
Dash Amer Picon
Dash maraschino liqueur
Cherry garnish

Pour liquid ingredients over ice and stir. Strain into cocktail glass, serve up and garnish with a cherry.


The recent streak of NYC-named cocktails began in 2004, when Vincenzo Errico (Milk & Honey) concocted the Red Hook as a 21st-century answer to the Brooklyn. The drink so wowed other bartenders that they countered with their own riffs. The maraschino defines this one; it’s a Brooklyn with a cherry center. Try it at Little Branch (20 Seventh Ave South at Leroy St, 212-929-4360; $13) or White Star.


2 oz rye
1/2 oz Punt e Mes sweet vermouth
1/2 oz maraschino liqueur
Maraschino cherry garnish

Pour liquid ingredients over ice and stir. Strain into cocktail glass, serve up and garnish with a cherry.


Michael Mcilroy, a regular bartender at Sasha Petraske’s taverns, created the Greenpoint as a response to Errico’s Red Hook. The moniker plays on the hue of the chartreuse, which is the key to this beautiful creation, planting a core of herbal notes in a Brooklyn framework. Coincidentally, Mcilroy ended up living in the namesake neighborhood. Order it at Little Branch or White Star (21 Essex St between Canal and Hester Sts, 212-995-5464; $10).


2 oz rye
1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
Dash orange bitters
Dash Angostura bitters
Lemon peel garnish

Pour liquid ingredients over ice and stir. Strain into cocktail glass, serve up and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.


Maxwell Britten, head bartender at Jack the Horse Tavern (66 Hicks St at Cranberry St, Brooklyn Heights, 718-852-5084; $10), was well aware of the Red Hook, the Greenpoint and every other borough-inspired drink out there when he invented this spin on the Brooklyn cocktail last year. “The idea came after many nights watching the seasons out the window of the bar,” he says. It’s a complex, yet calming wintertime treat, a Brooklyn edged by the bitter Campari and warmed by sparks of cinnamon and allspice coming off the Abano.


Campari in a spray bottle
1 1/2 oz Rittenhouse 100-proof rye
1/4 oz Luxardo Amaro Abano
1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1/2 oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth
2 dashes Regan’s orange bitters

Spritz glass with Campari. Pour remaining ingredients over ice and stir. Strain into a cocktail glass, serve up.


erik.ellestad said...

Oh excellent!

I was just thinking yesterday I wanted to gather up all these exact recipes!

You've saved me from spending hours searching and emailing.


Unknown said...

Does the Bemelmans really not use bitters in their Manhattan? For shame.

Anonymous said...

What about Long Beach?

Flash Fairway said...

There is definitely a Carroll Gardens cocktail: