One of the enviably cool traits of the native New Yorker is ordering a signature cocktail with added nuances. My friend Katie, for example, swings her long legs onto a bar stool and says to the barman, “a Perfect Manhattan with rye”. I’d like it if she followed the order with “and make it snappy”, but she is not that rude.
My weekend nights are currently filled with the never-ending quest to find my perfect Manhattan drink (a noble task), although despite my best efforts I’m still at the stage of spending ten minutes furrowing my brow at the cocktail menu in the dimmed venue light, trying not to resort to a panicked order of vodka and tonic.
Most bars only put their signature or seasonal cocktails on the menu but the bartenders will have an encyclopedic knowledge of classic concoctions up their rolled-up sleeves. There’s something incredibly natty about ordering off-piste and the bartender giving you a small but knowing nod, as he turns around to start creating his magic.
Some of my favourite bars I’ve found on my, er, journey have been:
- The Pegu Club — many good ones here – especially the French Pearl with mint, lime, gin and pernod
- Boutique Eat Shop / B.E.S — the Black Pearl with gin, hibicus, lime and red grapes
- Weather Up (Tribeca) — El Diablo with tequila, ginger syrup, lime, creme de cassis and soda
- Weather Up (Prospect Heights) — Brooklynite with rum, honey, lime (again!) and Angostura Bitters
I do have a particular taste for the Vesper, however, after Mike Enright at the Zeta Bar in Sydney made me my first one about five years ago.
A Vesper is a gin and vodka martini, which is made with Lillet – a citrusy French aperitif wine from France – instead of Vermouth. It was created by an author, rather than a bartender – Ian Flemming for the James Bond book Casino Royale (note, I have no aspirations to be a Bond girl) in the sixties.
While my quest continues a Vesper is not a bad fall-back at all.
Here’s a video I found on How to Make a Vesper (this, kids, is definitely one you should try at home):
Oh, okaaaey, you just want to see it, don’t you….