Monday, September 28, 2009

In Praise of Don Lee's Celery & Nori

One of the best new cocktails in New York has got to be the Celery & Nori at the Momofuku Ssam Bar in the East Village. This is a bit ironic, since it's a drink you can't get by itself, but must order as a companion to a meal. (Momofuku is too small and too popular a restaurant to waste one of its precious bar stools on a mere tippler.)

The drink is the work of Don Lee, late of PDT, but now in charge of Momofuku's growing drinks program. Lee, of course, is the man who rocked the cocktail world with his technique for "fat-washing" bourbon, resulting in the Benton's Old Fashioned, the massively popular (and much imitated) PDT staple.

Several of the original cocktails at Momofuku have a Asian bent. There's the Sake Lemonade, and the Reverend Palmer, which is grounded on Ceylon black tea-infused Elijah Craig bourbon. But, by Lee's own admission, the most interesting cocktail on the menu is the Celery & Nori (sometimes call the Celery & Nori Old Fashioned). A lot of new cocktails today give you a sense of déjà vu. They taste like something else you've had before. But I've never quite tasted anything Celery & Nori.

The drink is made of nori-infused Laird's apple brandy, celery syrup and celery bitters (nori, by the way, is the Japanese name for various edible seaweed species you see wrapped around your sushi rolls). It's a serious "up" drink, like a Sazerac, though not nearly as moody. You're meant to sip it, take your time. The aroma tickles your nose, like the first breaths of springtime. There are leafy, slightly minty notes, which go nicely with the apple flavors from the Laird's. Unlike most new drink, upon having one, I immediately wanted to have another.

Wish I had taken a picture of it. (That photo up top is of another Momofuku cocktail.) Guess I was enjoying it too much to think that far ahead.

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