By Symrise-Diana Chef Matthew O'Connell
Everyone has heard of the Bloody Mary – vodka, tomato juice, some combination of spicy, acidic, and savory whatnots along with a celery stalk to garnish. It’s a hair of the dog staple omnipresent on brunch menus across the United States. It also happens to be one of the only savory cocktailsthat you are likely to know and enjoy. There are, of course, savory elements interspersed throughout cocktail history - the olive in a martini, the pickled onion of a Gibson, and perhaps even the salt along the rim of your favorite margarita – but there are too few savory cocktails that stand proudly today in a world seemingly riddled with mixologists. In light of this travesty, let’s indulge ourselves and take a look at some of the best and most unique savory cocktails that New York City has to offer.
Maltese Falcon/Foie Gras Flip (Betony) – Bryce Shuman and Eamon Rockey (both formerly of Eleven Madison Park) run the Michelin-starred Betony which offers its own brand of new American food and inspired cocktails in Midtown West. Although classics are available upon request, their extensive list of signature cocktails should encourage you to explore a bit and step outside your comfort zone. Amongst these libations is the Maltese Falcon. Beautifully prepared, this drink combines the bitterness of an IPA with house made malt vinegar (produced from Allagash Black) and Cardamaro to produce something that resembles a mutant Kombucha. Delicious and refreshing, this drink pairs nicely with whatever beef dish you may have a hankering for. After treating yourself to that beef dish, perhaps you will require some sort of digestif? If so, the Foie Gras Flip may be your answer. Dark rum washed with the rendered fat of foie gras is shaken with Amontillado, Demerara syrup, raw egg and garnished with grated nutmeg to produce this carnivorous delight.
Turbo Monsooner/Full Metal Jacket (Booker & Dax) – If you ever find yourself in the East Village (and you should because there are plenty of great food options), you would be remiss to pass by a small cocktail bar/science experiment run by Dave Arnold. A part of the Momofuku empire, Booker & Dax offers your traditional Manhattan or Martini (perhaps with a few non-traditional elements) flanking less traditional items such as the Tropic Thunder (milk-washed rum, pineapple, orange, memories of Simple Jack) or Nidstang (aquavit, amaro, acid adjusted grapefruit). Even less traditional, however, are their two savory cocktail offerings – the Turbo Monsooner and Full Metal Jacket. The Monsooner at first glance appears to be some sort of fugitive Margarita having fled Tijuana for brighter prospects in Bangkok. In reality, the cachaça, lime, cilantro, Thai basil, and…fish sauce (yep, that pungent stuff that makes Southeast Asian food awesome) shake together nicely to remind you of your favorite Tom Yum or Pho - albeit with that extra kick. The Jacket is a cocktail with which even R. Lee Ermey wouldn’t be able to find fault. Charcoal filtered smoky mezcal is stirred with a bit of clarified lime and black pepper tincture to create a beverage fit for Hemingway.
Phil Khallins (Mission Chinese) – You might surmise from its name that this cocktail is spectacular. Served in a vessel more appropriate to host wonton soup than your new favorite beverage, this delicious libation combines gin, coconut milk, kaffir lime, ginger, chili, and sesame oil with a nod to the Thai soup, Tom Kha, in mind. As with its parent cuisine, this refreshment finds the perfect balance of sweet and savory elements to make it successful as a standalone beverage or accompaniment for your meal. It also happens to be a necessary part of the dining experience at Mission. For those of you who have not had the chance to dine at Danny Bowien’s Lower East Side locale, you will be unfamiliar with the extreme level of heat associated with his dishes. On the menu, there is a pepper scale that goes up from one pepper to indicate spicy to two peppers for extremely spicy. His flagship dish, Chongqing chicken wings, happens to have three peppers by its name. Words apparently aren’t enough to describe the level of numbing fire that consumes your mouth post Szechuan peppercorn and chili encrusted wing. Although it can never be truly squelched, the blaze is best treated with a healthy dose of Phil should you decide to tempt fate with this dish.
Harvest of Mexico/The Gardener/Siren’s Call (Apothéke) – In Chinatown, the small cocktail lounge, Apothéke, seems to be taking the savory cocktail call to arms seriously. Over half of the beverages on their current menu contain a savory item such as red bell pepper, kale, cilantro, and cucumber among others. One drink that stands out amongst these is the Harvest of Mexico. Taking its inspiration from dishes like elotes, this drink combines roasted corn with mezcal and is accented with hoja santa (an herb with flavors similar to eucalyptus, mint, and anise), agave, lime, and habanero for a spicy and smoky punch. For a “healthier” cocktail, the fine people at Apothéke have developed the Gardener. As you might expect, this drink combines all of the elements you might find in a home garden with the delightful addition of Ford’s gin and aquavit. Horseradish, zucchini, asparagus, and celery are accented with lime, agave, and truffle oil to create something reminiscent of a Bloody Mary but completely different at the same time. Moving from land to sea, the Siren’s Call might be a bit too adventurous for the average landlubber. Ford’s gin, roasted seaweed, cucumber, squid ink, and ginger are mixed together and garnished with a black smoked sea salt rim and a clam shell complete with edible pearl.
To see what others are saying about savory cocktails, check out the articles below!
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