Tomorrow night is our second Good Spirits cocktail pairing party, and we asked St. John Frizell–our chief correspondent on all things spiritual (meaning stuff like the history of the Manhattan) and the proprietor of the bar-restaurant-hangout called Fort Defiance in Red Hook, Brooklyn–to work with the restaurants and distillers participating to come up with tasting notes for the shindig.
(It’s at the Bell House just off the F line and the BQE in downtown Brooklyn, and luckily there are still a few $40 tickets left, though they’re going fast.)
There’ll be grub from The Vanderbilt, No. 7, Fette Sau, Walter Foods, Mile End, Fort Defiance, The Farm on Adderley and Palo Santo, paired with cocktails made with best-of-class booze from Tuthilltown Spirits, Warwick Valley Winery and Distillery, Rhum J.M., Death’s Door, Compass Box, Vertical Vodka, Chartreuse and Illegal Mezcal. And seriously, St. John’s notes on the night are so sounding so damn good–as are the drinks and dishes–we just can’t keep them to ourselves on this sunny spring afternoon. So check em out:
The Vanderbilt, with Rhum J.M.
EAT: Vanderbilt beef jerky
DRINK: Bali Ha’i, a Tiki-style refresher with Rhum J.M., spiced pineapple, homemade gingerale, lime and spices
Frizell says: If you’ve been following cocktail trends this year, you know Tiki is “the new black” in New York City. As the novelty of super-serious cocktail dens and intense, austere mixologists wears thin, bar goers find relief in the lei-strewn bosom of all things Tiki—Mai Tais, Fog Cutters, Singapore Slings, and all the juicy, full-flavored drinks made popular by the legendary restaurateurs Don the Beachcomber and Trader Vic in the mid-20th century. Here the bartender builds a spicy refresher based on aged rhum agricole from Martinique, known for its funky, intensely grassy character. And beef jerky—why not?—goes well with anything thirst-quenching.
No. 7, with Chartreuse
EAT: Uni cheese and crackers, herbs du Provence, basil
DRINK: Rose petal gin, Campari, Chartreuse
Frizell says: Here’s a drink that pairs powerhouses of the cocktail world—Campari, the bitter and bright red Italian aperitif, and Chartreuse, the intensely herbal French liqueur. When mixing with these flavor bombs, a little goes a long way; they can add worlds of complexity to a cocktail with just a teaspoonful. In that way, they’re like uni, or sea urchin, which here lends its wild brininess to a mild soft cheese.
Fette Sau, with Tuthilltown Spirits
EAT: Duroc pork belly on a polenta crisp
DRINK: The Gardiner, made with Hudson Corn whiskey, fresh lime juice, simple syrup, Fette Sau rub rim
Frizell says: We know bourbon and barbecue go together—that one’s easy. Here, Fette Sau is working with the Hudson Corn Whiskey—which is essentially a bourbon before it’s been aged in oak barrels. The Gardiner follows in the footsteps of other sour-style drinks, like the daiquiri and the caipirinha—a little lime juice and sugar are used to punch up and round out the flavor of the base spirit (and in this case, the citrus will also help cut the unctuousness of the pork belly). The spicy rim on the glass is the rub that the chef uses on the meat before he cooks it low and slow.
Walter Foods, with Death’s Door Gin
EAT: Blue Point oyster and pomegranate mignonette
DRINK: Death’s Door Pimms cup
Frizell says: What the mint julep is to the Kentucky Derby, the Pimm’s Cup is to Wimbledon. Besides calling to mind neatly trimmed lawns, cucumber sandwiches, and linen trousers, the flavor should evoke both an English strawberry picked on the last day of spring and a good cuppa. It’s ripe and juicy, but never blowsy—its tannic structure keeps its upper lip stiff. Add the salty minerality of a good Blue Point and a tart mignonette, and you’ve got a perfect day by the seaside.
The Farm on Adderley, with Vertical Vodka
EAT: Butcher’s meatballs (pork, beef and lamb) with roasted parsnip and pickled fennel
DRINK: Vertical Vodka, house made ginger soda, citrus
Frizell says: There’s a golden rule in the cocktail world: If it was good enough for Granddad, it’s good enough for you. My granddad drank Manhattans, but plenty of his contemporaries drank Moscow Mules, the ginger beer highball that helped kickstart America’s love of vodka in the 1940s. Here’s a spin on that classic, paired with a dish that hits the trifecta of cocktail party food: meatballs (fatty and rich) with roast parsnip (sweet) and pickled fennel (salty).
Palo Santo, with Illegal Mezcal
EAT: Conejo (rabbit) en mole verde and jabali (wild boar) en mole negro
DRINK: Illegal Mezcal Joven and Reposado neat, each paired with a sangrita (traditional Mexican chaser)
Frizell says: In one corner, we have Oaxacan mezcal: perhaps the most intensely flavored spirit in the world—at times smoky, musty, stony, and lush—and for those that acquire a taste for it, absolutely irreplaceable. In the other corner, we have Oaxacan mole: considered by some to be the acme of traditional Mexican cuisine, these vibrant, complex sauces can contain dozens of ingredients and come in infinite varieties, from the deep, dark mole negro to the zesty mole verde. Who can make peace between these two luchadores de sabor? Enter sangrita, the friendly and bright combination of tomato juice, orange juice, lime, and spices.
Fort Defiance, with American Fruits Distillery
EAT: Deviled eggs with smoked black pepper and radish sprouts
DRINK: Warwick Bramble, made with blackberries, gin, lemon, and American Fruits Black Currant Cordial.
Frizell says: The Bramble is a modern classic; it was created about 20 years ago by a British bartender named Dick Bradsell, and has since found its way onto just about every cocktail menu in London. The original recipe calls for creme de mure, a French blackberry liqueur, but I use American Fruits’ wonderfully tart Black Currant Cordial, made in Warwick. Like a pair of madras slacks, the Bramble is a little gaudy, but perfect for a spring garden party, and it looks great next to chef Bobby Duncan’s deviled egg.
Tumbador Chocolate, with Dallis Coffee and Compass Box Whiskey
EAT: Selection of Tumbador bon bons, including passion fruit, lime, coffee cardamom, molded caramel, green tea, honey, coconut & lemongrass, nougat, 55%, pear black tea
DRINK: Mocha Highland Rebellion, made with espresso, whiskey, and half & half topped with chocolate foam and grated cacao nibs
Frizell says: Coffee, chocolate, and Scotch—a classic after-dinner troika, in any combination. Tumbador Chocolates has suggested whisky-and-coffee pairings for each of their dozen or so seasonal bon bons, and you may be tempted to try them all, but prudence is urged; choose wisely. You can’t go wrong. Perhaps begin with the evening’s only dessert-style cocktail—the Mocha Highland Rebellion, which combines all three of our post-prandial players in one decadent glass.
PASSED HORS D’OEUVRES
EAT: Mile End’s smoked meat and salumi sandwiches
EAT: Rick’s Picks, assortment of pickled items
Frizell says: Little salumi sandwiches and zesty pickles are a cocktail party no-brainer, just enough to sharpen one’s thirst to a rapier’s edge. En garde, my friends–the game’s afoot!