Monday, March 29, 2010

Barfly's Beat: The Empire Room opens!

The long awaited Empire Room has opened at the Empire State Building in New York City. This cocktail lounge harkens back to the  golden age of cocktails and sophistication. Added bonus, Jonathan "The Cocktail Guru" Pogash is behind the cocktail menu. Here are a few cocktails that we will be sure to sample:

Waldorf (Rittenhouse Rye, Carpano Antica Formula, absinthe, and Manhattan bitters)

The Throwback (Laird's Applejack, Yellow Chartreuse, Punt a Mes, Lemon juice)

The Moscow Mule (Russian Standard Vodka, Fever Tree ginger beer, mint)

Mezcal Martinez (Sombra Mezcal, dry vermouth, Cormbier orange liquer, white creme de cacao, aromatic and mole bitters)

Here is what the Off The Menu blog from The New York Times had to say about the lounge which is in a former post office space:

"At 3,500 square feet of brushed stainless steel, a generous curved marble bar, tufted banquettes, glass-topped tables and Art Deco chandeliers, it accommodates up to 150 people in sophisticated style in a former postal substation."

We look forward to putting on our best duds and making the scene at "the Empire."

Empire Room
Empire State Building (ground floor)
350 Fifth Avenue (34th Street), 
(212) 643-5400, 
11 a.m. to 3 a.m.

(Photo courtesy of Shecky's)

Friday, March 26, 2010

What We're Drinking: Crème Yvette in Cocktails

Crème Yvette is a French liqueur produced from violet petals, berries,vanilla, and spices. This liqueur appears in most vintage cocktail books, such as David Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks (republished by Mud Puddle Books) and is an essential modifier in such classic cocktails like the Aviation. Sadly, Crème Yvette has been out of circulation since 1969.

Well now it is back thanks to the folks behind St. Germain elderflower liqueur,  Cooper Spirits International.  According to Imbibe Magazine, Mr. Rob Cooper, who runs Cooper Spirits, happens to have the good fortune of inheriting the family business - Charles Jacquin et Cie of Philadelphia. This company has owned the original recipe for decades; now producing and importing the much sought after liqueur from France.  This is quite a coup. Frankly, I am curious to see what other liqueur ancienne Mr. Cooper will be resurrecting next!

Those who are familiar with Crème de Violette, another violet liqueur that is produced by the Austrian company Rothman & Winter, will notice a significant difference in taste and color. First of all, Yvette tastes of honey and vanilla notes, and has a strong berry flavor. Secondly, the color of Crème Yvette is similar to sloe gin, a dark ruby hue. This adds a pink color to the cocktails of which it is an ingredient. In my view, the flavor profile and visual appeal is an upgrade from Crème de Violette which can be too floral and gives many cocktails a grey color rather than the desired purple.

For your consideration: A list of de-lovely vintage cocktails that use CrèmeYvette, enjoy the time warp! We suggest Plymouth Gin for all of these drinks.
2 oz Gin
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
2 tsp of Maraschino liqueur

Combine ingredients in shaker and fill with ice. Shake rigourosly until welll chilled,  strain into a cocktail glass. Float the Crème Yvette and garnish with a lemon peel.

Blue Moon
2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Crème Yvette
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

Shake over ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Eagle's Dream (pictured)
1 1/2 oz of Gin
1/2 oz Crème Yvette
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 Tsp of Powdered sugar
1 egg white

One of our favorite nightcaps, this gem first appeared in the Savoy Cocktail Book (1930). Combine in shaker. Dry shake ingredients to emulsify the egg white. Add  ice and shake well  until frosty. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Fizz a la Violette
2 oz Gin
3/4 oz Crème Yvette
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz heavy cream
1/2 an egg white
1 tsp simple syrup

Dry shake the ingredients to emulsify the egg white, then add ice and shake it hard for 20 seconds. Strain into a collins glass and top off with club soda or seltzer.

Stratosphere (aka The Violette Royale)
3/4 oz Crème Yvette
4 oz of Champagne

Pour the Crème Yvette into a glass flute and top off with Champagne.

Where to get Crème Yvette?

Astor Wine & Spirits
399 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10013
(212) 674-7500

We suggest getting on the waiting list, this product is flying off the shelves.

- Fredo

Friday, March 19, 2010

Destinations: Mood Indigo at Red Lotus Room, Mar 20th

Saturday night, the unstoppable Shien Lee presents Mood Indigo, a Dances of Vice Party at special place in Brooklyn called the Red Lotus Room:

"Dances of Vice celebrates the music and culture of the Harlem Renaissance in the hottest strut in town with our dapper MC Dandy Wellington, burlesque beauty and songbird Dulce de Leche, 1920s style tap sensation Jen Minsky of the Minsky Sisters, the salacious syncopations of Grandpa Musselman & His Syncopators, and the swingin' Adriel Azure & His Dream Indigo Orchestra.

Tickets @
$16.50 Advance, $20 Doors, $10 for Wonderland Ball ticket holders.

"Jazz is a good barometer of freedom...the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country." - Duke Ellington

VENDORS: PUREVILE - Scoundrelle's Keep - Steven Rosen

MUSIC: Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Jelly Roll Morton, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Dizzy Gillespie, Bessie Smith, Fletcher Henderson, Ella Fitzgerald, &c."

Red Lotus Room
893 Bergen Street
Brooklyn, NY

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What We're Drinking: Benedictine - from Monte Cassino to the Cinquecento

Last month, barkeeper Damon Dyer's Monte Cassino won critical acclaim and the title of official cocktail for the 500th Anniversary of DOM Benedictine Liqueur. I caught up with Mr. Dyer at the Flatiron Lounge on a slow Friday night. He began rolling the award winning cocktail as soon as I sat down and we discussed how he came up with the winning recipe.

To appreciate the cocktail's building blocks, one must understand history. Mr. Dyer chose the ingredients and the name based upon the story of the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Monte Cassino. The monastery located southeast of Rome was founded by St Benedict of Nursia in 529 AD. Yes - the Saint Benedict who went on to establish the eponymous order of monks. The same Order that produces DOM (Deo Optimo Maximo) Benedictine liqueur.

The monastery served as the headquarters of the Order of Saint Benedict and history has not been kind to the structure or it's inhabitants.  It was sacked and destroyed several times during the middle ages by marauding invaders, such as the Lombards and the Saracans. The monks rebuilt it again and again. In 1321, an  earthquake seriously damaged the structure but still the monks rebuilt. The coupe de grace seemed to occur during the Second World War when the abbey was destroyed by the Allied bombers in 1944. However, the Monks' faith and determination to rebuild remained unwavering.

Strength and simplicity are central to the monks lives and the perseverance behind Monte Cassino. These principles are the cornerstone to the cocktail's balance. Rittenhouse Rye (Bonded) is the perfect representation of that strength and compliments the complexity of Benedictine's 27 herbs and spices. Yellow Chartreuse another monastic produced liqueur keeps the "Last Word " proportions honest but also adds another layer of flavor and balances the final ingredient, fresh lemon juice. The result is a well balanced cocktail is refreshing, produces a subtle earthy flavor, has the strength of serious cocktail, and is relatively easy to execute. 
By Damon Dyer

3/4 DOM Benedictine
3/4 Yellow Chartreuse
3/4 Rittenhouse Bonded Rye
3/4 Fresh Lemon 
 Combine in shaker, add ice, and shake until stingingly cold. Strain into a coupe and garnish lemon peel.
While, Mr. Dyer built my second Monte Cassino, I ran a drink idea by him. Since reading about the 500 year anniversary of DOM Benedictine contest last year, I have been tinkering with my own recipe that honors the liqueur but also tips the trilby to the iconic Italian macchina, the Fiat Cinquecento ("500" in Italian). In other words, DOM meets MOD, a drink that you could have in Torino or West London or Brooklyn. May I introduce a delicious new aperitivo! 
by Fredo

1 1/2 oz Luksusowa Vodka
1/2 oz DOM Benedictine
1/2 oz Campari
3/4 Grapefruit juice
2 dashes of Angostura bitters 

Combine in bar glass, add ice, and shake rigorously until chilled. Double Strain into a coupe and garnish with grapefruit peel. 
Where to get the Monte Cassino - find Mr. Dyer at Flatiron Lounge (37 West 19th Street, New York, NY 1001) or Louis 649 (649 East 9th Street, New York, NY 10009), tell him Fredo sent ya! 

(Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Barfly's Beat: The RYE House

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of attending the Dining & Libation Society's Fat Tuesday celebration at the Flatiron neighborhood's newest addition, Rye House. It was our first DLS event and what sold us was the venue and the gang behind the dark wood oak bar.

The Ringers: The top shelf talent behind the bar included Lynette Marrero and Jim Kearns (previously of Freemans and Woodson & Ford) rolling vintage New Orleans cocktails that included the Vieux Carre (pronouced Voh Cah-ray), The Sazarac, French 75, and an original recipe called the Baton Rouge.

The Party: Brooklyn’s premiere Dixie Land Band, the  Red Hook Ramblers set the tempo with some hot New Orleans jazz in the back room. Meanwhile, the bar was packed like Bourbon Street and I mean that literally. They had to begin bring the passed hors d'ourves through the front door because revelers in the front of the house were getting nothing. When the food started flowing, it was well worth the wait. Macaroni and cheese balls. Jambalaya. Turducken. Crayfish Po Boys. Oysters on the half shell. And so much more.

Best part of the evening was when Lynnette and Jim prepared the quintessential New Orleans cocktail - The Ramos Gin Fizz - and then handed the shakers to the crowd gathered around the bar. The task -  to shake - Huey Long style  for 12 MINUTES! Lynnette was timing it too and enjoying the break from the non-stop service.

The Regulars: We want to add that Rye House is a great place to get a cocktail any day during the week. So don't give it up for Lent. Besides the outstanding barkeepers, 50 types of whiskey, artisanal cocktails, and oh so bad for you comfort food, it is come as you are. The mission statement does not include trying to be a speak easy but it is not a typical New York watering hole. True, the barkeepers wear vest, shirts, and ties, but in my view, that is proper attire for a craftsman or craftswoman. Save the ironic t-shirts for after hours at the dive bars and flat screens for the sports bar.

One of my favorite poisons at this House of Whiskey has no whiskey at all! May we indulge you with the Creole Daiquiri.  They had me at Chorizo infused mezcal but this potable hits a home run because it is so well balanced.
Creole Daiquiri
1 oz New Orleans 3-year aged rum
1 oz Sombra mezcal infused with chorizo
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz sugarcane syrup
1 barspoon pomegranate molasses
3 dashes of Regan’s Orange Bitters

Combine ingredients in mixing glass, add ice, shake rigorously and serve up in a coupe.
Some other favorites include:
Fleur de Lis (Aviation gin, St-Germain, lemon, orange bitters, champagne)
Rye House Punch (Chai-infused Rittenhouse Rye, Batavia Arrack, lemon, grapefruit, angostura bitters, soda)
American  Highball (Buffalo Trace, Averna, soda, orange slice)
and the Clara Bow (Bulleit Bourbon, St.-Germain, house made grenadine, lemon, mint)
The Inside Scoop: After trying all of the above go "off the menu" with this winter cocktail perfected:
Lion's Tail
2 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1/4 oz St Elizabeth Allspice Dram
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2oz Simple Syrup
Dash of Angostura bitters

Shake with ice and serve up in a coupe.
Please check out Rye House. Sample their whiskey selection or original cocktails. You will not be disappointed.

11 W 17th St (btw 5th & 6th Ave)

- Fredo

(photo courtesy of Kathleen "K-Rey"Reynolds)