Casting about for a cocktail high in bitters to make use of some of my own personal blend, and one with gin, because that’s what the evening wanted, I happened on this distinctive cocktail, so high in bitters it can clearly fill in for a post-prandial digestif. It was created by Don Lee several years ago at Ssäm Bar in NYC, inspired by Chef Wylie Dufresne, and named for that chef’s daughter. Served to the writer Brad Parsons, it wound up in Parsons’s bitters book. I love bitters for the complexity they bring to a drink, this one very much in the sour category with its dose of fresh lime juice. It’s become one of my favorite cocktails. If you don’t have citrus bitters (or your own bitters), use what’s on hand. This can be mixed Read On »

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When I opened to the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s wonderful and expanded food section, I was delighted to find a handful of bartenders offering cocktails. The Derby, offered by Lindsey Hawes, who mixes drinks at The Willeyville in the Cleveland Flats, caught my eye (here she is making another fave of mine, The Dark & Stormy). The Derby  caught my eye for its straightforwardness and lack of frou. I immediately thought of the Brown Derby, a restaurant chain that flourished here in the 1970s, where I first encountered what was called a salad bar, back in the pre-sneeze guard days (God, how I long for the simpler times when people didn’t freak out about bacteria and rub sanitizing gel on their hands every five minutes). Potatoes came foil wrapped (an actual botulism worry, in fact). Butter Read On »

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Lollygagging in the West Village a few weeks ago, Donna and her pal Lee wandered into the Fatty ‘Cue, and there found one of the servers experimenting with fat-washed rye. I had that very week been working with a schmaltz-washed rye (whiskey infused with the fat’s flavor), so I took it as an omen owing to my wife’s unfailing good karma. She fired off some quick shots and I asked Wilmer, above, for the story and the results.  Here with the Friday cocktail, a spicy take on the classic Manhattan that morphed into a kind of Old-Fashioned, thanks to the ingenious Massa Syrup, and Fatty ‘Cue’s “master fat,” combination of fat from various meats, clarified. This drink takes some planning, so if you’re drinking along with the Friday Cocktail hour, in lieu of the Old Read On »

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Donna asked to shoot a cocktail. I said, “Go ahead.” She said, “I want to do a Sidecar.” I said, “It’s summertime and hot, how about something refreshing?” She remembered a bottle of limoncello that she’d bought in a moment of nostalgia, recalling a time when she’d enjoyed drinking it with my mom. “I want to shoot ice-cold shots of it,” she said. But then she tasted it straight. She found it cloyingly sweet and knew she’d never drink it like this (and wondered how she could have such fond memories of it). She did a little research and found a limoncello cocktail using gin. She tried it. The gin clashed with the limoncello. She found one calling for grilled thyme. I told her I didn’t like thyme in beverages, grilled or otherwise (grilled?!). She Read On »

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When I returned to the CIA in the fall of 1999, two years after the publication of Making of a Chef wherein I described the humiliating service experience on my first day at St. Andrew’s restaurant, and Chef Czack lofted an overly generous tip onto my table with a look of withering disdain for my shoddy performance, he himself hosted me at the Danny Kaye Theater for an interview. I had been provided a pink beverage, strangely, as one almost always is given water. Chef Czack held out his hand to the drink. “Can you tell us what this is?” he asked me. I looked blankly at it, took a sip, looked out at the audience as a deer into headlights. I had not been expecting a sucker punch and confessed ignorance. “A Sea Breeze,” said Chef Czack, Read On »

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