Monday, June 9, 2008

Barfly's Beat: Industry Night at House of Campari

Late Sunday, I received an email from a friend in the Hamptons. It read, "what ever you do, be at the House of Campari's Industry Night with Radar Magazine featuring New York Mixologists and a burlesque showcase. This Monday, as in tomorrow!"

Monday night, hmmm - that is a tough sell for a regular office stiff like me. Then I scanned down at the featured NYC mixologists and knew it was fate. I would be dressed to the nines and ready to imbibe. The folks crafting customized cocktails (oh alliteration!) included a whose who of the New York industry: Allen Katz, Director of Mixology of Southern Wines & Spirits, Brian Miller of Death & Company, Dushan Zaric, Jason Kosmas, and Igor Hadzismajlovic of Employees Only, Naren Young of Bobo, and Lynette Marrero of Elletaria. Oh and it got better. The burlesque numbers would be provided by Amber Ray of Light, Ms. Tickle, and the World Famous "Bob." Gulp!

I popped by Balthazar for a quick pre drink bite. I wolfed down my bar burger and headed around the corner to 54 Crosby Street in SoHo. Campari had taken over an art gallery for the show. The theme of the Industry Night event was "Celebrate your Passion" but the party was an installment of the greater Campari sponsored art festival "Defining a Moment: 25 New York Artists." This showcase is a series of events spread over two weeks at New York art galleries, clubs, and museums. The way this crowd celebrated their passion was to drink free cocktails made by some of the NYC's best cocktailians (with Campari natch!)

The Employees Only bar: Jason, Igor, and Dushan were on my side of the bar for a change. Their apprentices were furiously at work making refreshing Waterloo Cocktails made from Martin Miller's Gin, Campari, muddled watermelon, and fresh lemon juice. The drinks were served on the rocks in Collins glasses and imbibed with a straw. Now, I am not a big fan of Watermelon, but it was unseasonably hot outside and with the gallery's air conditioner drumming away at London tube levels, I gulped down their cocktail with gusto. Bonus - no pits!

Next on the Hit Parade, the Bobo cocktail: This tangerine, vodka, and Campari mixture was aesthetically pleasing. The orange liquid was served up in a martini glass and garnished with a violet flower. It was distributed by comely cocktail waitresses who buzzed around the main floor. I had one and chatted up Allen Katz and several industry folks (some of whom were clearly at checking out the competition.) Katz told us to keep a look out for cocktails with Kirschwasser and other l'eau de vie this summer. I made a note Kirschwasser good, drinks with tangerine mehhhhhh.

Upstairs I went and so did the heat. Mind you, I was clad in an impeccably tailored blazer, gabardine slacks, fitted shirt, and a daring tie with the required accoutrement's (deco tie clips, cuff links, in other words - the nines).Unfortunately, the eco-system in the gallery was more conducive to a guayabera or perhaps nothing at all!!

On the second level, I hit a double team effort from Death & Company and Elettaria:
Brian Miller was sorting out a delicious cocktail called the Benjamin Barker Daiquiri. This drink is made from Goslings Rum, Campari, St. George Absinthe, Demerara sugar syrup, and fresh lime juice. You could really taste the absinthe flavor but it did not overwhelm the drink and or overpower the slight bitterness of the Campari (which is the point of using it). The cocktail was served up in a stemless martini glass.

Next to Mr. Miller, the bar was manned by Lynnette Marrero of Greenwich Village restaurant Elettaria featuring veterans of Freemans and Death & Company. My left eyebrow was arched at 180 degrees as I approached. Her cocktails were served in champagne flutes and though I missed the name (Rose something?) I saw the words tequila - which have haunted me since freshman year of college. So I went safe and asked for a Negroni. Ms. Marrero kindly advised me that only the custom cocktails are available. So I shrugged like Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glennross, my will power deflated, and reluctantly picked up a flute. The first thing that impacts your senses when you take a sip of this delicious concoction is the dried rose bud that is used as a garnish. It is floral yet effervescent. Then the mixture, Campari, reposo tequila, and sparkling wine begin to numb what's left of your resistance. I fell in love with it. I loved that Rosey drink the second and third time around too. She was my bad habit. She was hypnotic. Then I realized I was broiling.

I retreated back downstairs and took a stance near a cool vent like a Gecko lizard. It was strategically perfect. A stone's throw from the EO bar and on route to the bathroom. Everyone walking by naturally started conversation and I met many new friends. Upstairs the burlesque show was going full swing with the Fisherman's Quartet supplying xylophone studded lounge music that Martin Denny would dig. Downstairs the crowd was getting loopy and actually checking out the art for the first time!

What a memorable evening and it was only Monday! If anyone was at the event and knows the name of that Rosey drink, please send me an email. I'm getting no hits on Craiglist's Missed Connections!

- Fredo

The House of Campari
54 Crosby Street
New York, NY 10012

For great pictures of the House of Campari Industry Night check out Patrick McMullen's site.


  1. Sarahm@therosegrp.comJune 10, 2008 at 2:50 PM

    Hi Fredo,

    The Rose drink you were wondering about is called the "Gypsy Rose Lee". It was created by Lynette Marrero of Eletteria. I've included the recipe just below!

    Gypsy Rose Lee

    1.5 Cabo Wabo blanco
    .5 lime
    .25 Campari
    .5 Rose jam 9
    .75 rose syrup
    .5 gruet rose

    Shake Cabo Wabo with lime, Campari, Rose Jam and Rose Syrup. Pour into a champagne flute. Top with Gruet Rose. Garnish with a dried rosebud.

  2. Grazie mille Sarah! This drink is a delight would be a welcome addition to any cocktail party!

  3. Hope someone reads this despite my being over a year late. Was reading about your mention of the Benjamin Barker Daiquiri.

    You had it almost completely correct. Simple:

    St. George's
    Demerara Syrup
    Lime juice

    Artists, writers were fueled by absinthe. The heat of drinking it neat, or the clouding louche, was something fantastic. What's pivotal about this drink is not the Gosling's but St. George's, which is used because it's Brandy based to mix well with the rum. Demerara is a type of sugar from Guyana. And Gosling's, a Caribbean Black Seal rum first sold in Bermuda, mixes perfectly with the bitter Campari, plus the slight tartness of the lime juice. The Benjamin Barker Daiquiri is a really amazing cocktail, which I'll go so far as to say is the epitome of cocktail-making in that it melds a distinct base liquor with two spirits which, on their own, are strong, complex and standalone liquids.

  4. Thanks ALT+EAA, since the BB is a daiquiri, I assume the proportions are:

    1 1/2 oz Goslings Rum
    1/4 oz Demerara simple syrup
    3/4 oz lime juice
    1/4 oz Campari (?)
    1 tsp of Absinthe(?)

    Regards - Fredo