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Drinking Your Way Through ‘The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book’

Deep in the swelter of summer sixteen, the Waldorf Astoria released a book chronicling nearly every cocktail recipe ever used at the historic Manhattan institution’s old bar. The book, a gorgeous mid-century stunner, pairs each recipe with a story, resulting in a cookbook as readable as a novel.

It took the author and current bar manager Frank Caiafa three years to craft this old book update, working his way through The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book (1934) and Old Waldorf Bar Days (1931). These tomes derived from a leather-bound collection of handwritten recipes, a legendary relic that passed from bartender to publisher before going missing after Prohibition.

“Researching the recipes of the Old Books… was like listening to scratchy recordings on well-worn vinyl,” Caiafa writes in the book’s introduction.

Caiafa was brought on in 2005 to build out the first bar program in the hotel’s lobby since the original Waldorf-Astoria closed down in 1929 (to make way for the Empire State Building). The original building housed the Waldorf and Astor hotels, sister structures connected by a 300-foot marble corridor known as Peacock Alley.

When the new book was released in June, it wasn’t exactly the best time to hole up in a stuffy apartment to tinker with recipes. Now that going outside involves a parka and a pep talk, the time is finally ripe to dig in into this exhaustive project.

Despite the highfalutin language, this book breaks down complex pre-Prohibition cocktails into something New Yorkers can whip up at home. Don’t let the old-world language intimidate you: “We’re only serving drinks here,” Caiafa writes, following five paragraphs about the proper dimensions for a cocktail ice cube.

Chocolate (Flip Variation)
First found in print in 1895, this drink doesn’t actually contain any chocolate at all. If you don’t have these ingredients on hand, you can make a classic Flip by dry-shaking one whole egg with 1/2 ounce simple syrup, then shaking once more with ice and spirit of your choice. “I see no reason why [Flips] can’t become, at the very least, a more common dessert substitute during the colder months,” Caiafa writes, calling them “much lighter than cheesecake.”

1 1/4 ounce yellow Chartreuse
1 1/4 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1 egg yolk

Add all ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and shake well. Fine-strain into small cocktail wineglass. No garnish.

Cole Porter
“This charmingly enhanced whiskey sour was created to celebrate one of the hotel’s most notable past residents,” Caiafa writes. “It’s the top!” If you don’t have sherry, simply increase the whiskey by 1/2 ounce and the egg white by 1/4 ounce, and serve up for a classic whiskey sour.

1 1/2 ounce straight rye whiskey
1 ounce oloroso sherry
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/4 ounce egg white

Add all ingredients to mixing glass and dry-shake for five seconds. Add ice and shake for ten seconds. Fine-strain into Collins glass filled with fresh ice cubes. Garnish with orange peel and brandied cherry.

Milk Punch
Dating back to 1600s England, Caiafa recommends milk punches of all kinds (they can also be made with whiskey or rum) to wow your guests during the holidays.

2 ounces Pierre Ferrand 1840 cognac or Royer Force 53 VSOP cognac
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 1/2 ounce whole milk

Add all ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and shake to integrate. Fine-strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with large ice cubes. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

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How to Make Drinks Like a Pro This Holiday Season

What are the holidays without an extra cup of holiday cheer? Whether you’re throwing a holiday party or just looking to make a weeknight more bearable, everyone should have a few seasonal cocktails in their arsenal. So we hit up some of New York’s best bars to ask their advice for enticing drinks that you can make at home with just a trip to a decent liquor store and the local bodega.

Whether you want to brace yourself for that family dinner, finally convince your brother that you know what you’re doing behind the bar, or sip something boozy alone after the party while mainlining Hallmark movies and weeping, we’ve got you covered. And if the season has you too wiped out to make anything, we’re also letting you know where you can go to try out one of these creations. Or four. We’re not judging.

To Loosen Everyone Up Before Dinner (and After the Election)

Carroll Gardens spot August Laura (387 Court Street, Brooklyn), owned by couple Alyssa Sartor and Frankie Rodriquez, pays tribute to the neighborhood’s Italian roots. The bar focuses almost entirely on Italian spirits, and is named after Sartor’s grandfather, who grew up a few blocks away.This drink makes use of Cynar, an Italian amaro made from artichokes. The cocktail is herbal, with winter apple and cinnamon flavors, and packs a bit of burn from the ginger beer. Since Cynar is liqueur, this is a low-alcohol cocktail; if you think you need a bigger buzz, you can switch it out for Cynar 70 proof, which packs more of a punch.

Carciofi Shandy

1 1/2 ounces Cynar
1 ounce apple cider
1/2 ounce cinnamon syrup*
3/4 ounce lemon juice
Ginger beer

*Cinnamon syrup: Crush six cinnamon sticks and add them to a quart container half-filled with sugar. Add hot water, stir, and let sit for four to five hours. Strain the syrup, removing the cinnamon stick pieces.

Shake all the ingredients except the ginger beer and strain into a glass. Top with about two ounces of ginger beer, add a generous amount of crushed ice, garnish with two cinnamon sticks, and serve.

Instead of (Oh, Who Are We Kidding, With) Dessert

Before Greg Boehm opened up Mace (649 East 9th Street, Manhattan, macenewyork.com), a cocktail bar in Alphabet City that serves well-crafted tipples designed around spices, his mother suggested he use the space for a temporary Christmas-themed bar. Now entering its third year, Miracle is packed nightly with drinkers seeking a little extra holiday cheer, and has spawned a franchise this year — bars around the world, including The Trap in Athens and Danico in Paris, are serving the libations created by head bartender Nico de Soto.

An annual favorite is the Yippie Ki Yay MF, a tribute to both Die Hard and the classic mai tai. De Soto’s take is rum-heavy, but with the twist of a pumpkin-orgeat syrup that will remind you of holiday pie. It’s served in a retro holiday mug shaped like Santa’s pants, and then a giant mint bunch is dusted with powdered sugar to look like a Christmas tree in the snow.

The mug is a showstopper, so if you really want to go all out for your holiday dinner, stop by the bar and buy some for $12 apiece.

Yippie Ki Yay MF

3/4 ounce Plantation Barbados Rum
3/4 ounce Avuá Amburana Cachaça
½ ounce Plantation Overproof Rum
1 ounce pumpkin-almond orgeat*
3/4 lime juice
Mint
Powdered sugar

*Pumpkin-almond orgeat: Blend equal portions pumpkin purée (unsweetened canned is fine) and almond milk, plus a double portion of sugar.

Shake the rums, cachaça, pumpkin-almond orgeat, and lime juice with ice and strain over a glass of crushed ice.

Garnish with a small bunch of mint (think the amount of mint you’d see in a julep) and then dust powdered sugar over the top with a sifter.

A Boozy Drink for Sipping Alone

Matt Piacentini, the owner of the Up & Up in Greenwich Village (116 MacDougal Street, Manhattan, upandupnyc.com), created this cocktail to show off local New York spirits at the Reykjavík Bar Summit, and liked it so much that it earned a spot on his menu. The central ingredient is Mr. Katz’s Rock & Rye, a rye whiskey made with rock candy sugar, sour cherries, cinnamon, and citrus. Piacentini combines it with an un-aged brandy to provide a kick, as well as with Atsby Amberthorn vermouth, made on Long Island. The result “has all the cliché winter things you want in a cocktail, but in a bar-snob acceptable cocktail,” Piacentini says of the drink’s apple and warming spice notes.

The locally sourced spirits can be a bit tricky to find, but large liquor stores like Astor Wine & Spirits should have the ingredients in stock — or be able to suggest workable substitutes. Piacentini adds that it’s easy to batch and bottle a few of these before a party, so all that’s left to do is pour over ice and stir before serving. If you bottle ahead, he suggests adding lemon oil extracted from the peel both before bottling and again when serving.

The Town & Country

2 ounces Mr. Katz’s Rock & Rye
1/2 ounce Atsby Amberthorn vermouth
1/2 ounce Neversink un-aged apple brandy
Lemon peel

Stir the liquid ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Twist a lemon peel over the top of the drink, and discard the peel.

To Warm Up With a Booze Sweater

Once one or two people order this drink, which smells like a fresh-baked spice cookie, much of the bar follows suit, says Nino Cirabisi, owner of the Lower East Side’s Bonnie Vee (17 Stanton Street, Manhattan, bonnievee.com). Cirabisi created his take on the classic hot buttered rum cocktail to taste like ginger snap cookies, one of his holiday favorites. Vanilla, dark brown sugar, and nutty amaretto give the drink a baked-Christmas-treat flavor.

The bulk of the effort in making this drink is on the front end, mixing up the butter, so it’s easy to make for a party — just add boiling water at the last minute. Or whip up a larger batch ahead of time and keep it warm in a crockpot, then let people serve themselves.You can experiment with the base spirits for the drink depending on your taste. Dark rum has molasses notes that work well for those who like things rich and sweet, but spiced rum or rye whiskey can be substituted to make for a spicier, drier drink.

Hot Buttered Rum

1 tablespoon spiced butter*
1 1/2 ounces dark rum
1/2 ounce amaretto
2 dashes angostura bitters
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup boiling water

*Spiced butter:
1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
1 vanilla bean, scraped and skin discarded (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Zest of 1 orange
Pinch of salt

Mix all butter ingredients until evenly incorporated, and keep cold until ready to use.

Combine all into a mug. Stir. Garnish with an orange twist.

A Fancy-Pants Sparkling New Year’s Eve Toast

If you want to go more elaborate than a simple glass of bubbly this New Year’s, try this creation from Moses Laboy, the bar director at midtown bar and restaurant Bottle & Bine (1085 Second Avenue, Manhattan, bottleandbine.com). Laboy says he hoped to “satisfy as many palates as possible” with this Champagne-cocktail-inspired aperitif, which is refreshing rather than cloying. (No need to shell out money for expensive Champagne — a cheaper sparkling wine works just fine here.)

Ha! He’s a Ginger

1.5 ounces Ketel One vodka
1 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
1/2 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
Brut sparkling wine
Candied powdered ginger*

*Candied powdered ginger: Whisk equal parts powdered ginger (you can find it in the spice aisle) and sugar.

Rim a coupe cocktail glass by wetting it with a slice of lemon and then dipping the glass into the candied ginger. Add all ingredients into a shaker except the sparkling wine. Add ice. Shake till cold, about ten seconds, and then strain into a cocktail glass. Top with about two ounces of sparkling wine.

Blow Your Friends Away With Your Cocktail Wizardry

Garret Richard, a bartender at Slowly Shirley (121 West 10th Street, Manhattan, slowlyshirley.com), was inspired to make this cocktail using the Jamaican beverage sorrel, a drink made from hibiscus (known as “sorrel” in the Caribbean and no relation to the herb sorrel) that is popular around the holidays. The result, an intense, deep red libation, gets most of its flavors from homemade infusions, so for the home bartender it makes sense to go ahead and make an entire punch bowl so the whole party can benefit from your labor of love. This will take some time and effort, but think how much bragging you’ll get out of it.

Jump Up, Jamaica

3/4 cup serrano-infused Wray & Nephew (white overproof rum)*
3/4 cup Coruba rum (Jamaican dark rum)
20 dashes Angostura bitters
3/4 cup lime juice
1 1/4 cup sorrel**
2 1/2 cup Ting grapefruit soda

*Serrano-infused Wray & Nephew:
3 serrano peppers
1 liter of Wray & Nephew
Infuse the seeds and membranes of three serrano peppers and the shell of one serrano pepper in one liter of Wray & Nephew for twenty minutes. Taste. If the rum isn’t spicy enough, continue to infuse, tasting every five minutes, before straining out the peppers.

**Sorrel:
4 ounces dried hibiscus flowers (or 2 bags of hibiscus tea)
40 cloves
2 cracked cinnamon sticks
750 ml bottle of Santa Teresa Claro (or any medium-bodied rum)
1 1/2 cups simple syrup
Infuse the hibiscus flowers, cloves, and cinnamon into the rum for 24 hours. Strain, pushing all the ingredients through cheesecloth to get as much flavor through as possible. Combine the
infusion with simple syrup (which is made from combining equal parts sugar and water).

In a punch bowl, combine ingredients with ice cubes. Add the soda and garnish with mint.

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The Boulevardier: Winter’s Answer to the Negroni

Whether you’re an impassioned cocktail snob or just a New Yorker with an Instagram account, chances are 2016 brought you into contact with the Negroni. This crimson quaff experienced a renaissance in recent years, with Negroni weeks popping up across the country and photos of the ruby beauties littering news feeds. The vibrant drink has become an al fresco favorite during sweltering NYC summers, but how do you quench your Negroni thirst once the leaves fall?

Campari lovers, behold your hibernal go-to: the Boulevardier.

This cocktail adheres to the classic Negroni recipe, replacing gin with bourbon or rye whiskey. Where the former is bright, crisp, even jittery, the Boulevardier is smooth, cool, and mysterious. One is perfect for spontaneous summer flings, while the other invites you to settle into a leather armchair for an evening of juicy disclosure. If you love Negronis but need something richer to warm your bones, or if you’re partial to Manhattans but want a hint of bitterness, you have come to the right place.

The Boulevardier was first mentioned in a 1923 cocktail book by Harry McElhone, a former Plaza Hotel bartender who saw the puritanical writing on the wall and fled the country before Prohibition. McElhone discovered several European-made libations abroad, including Campari. He opened Harry’s New York Bar in Paris and published a few successful cocktail collections, crediting Erskinne Gwynne for always showing up at parties with this signature drink. Gwynne, an American ex-pat, ran his own literary journal in Paris (featuring early works from the likes of Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Thomas Wolfe), which he called — you guessed it — The Boulevardier.

Originally described by McElhone as equal parts whiskey, sweet vermouth, and Campari, the Boulevardier has evolved to suit more common palates that crave less viscosity and more booze (the sweetness of Campari and Vermouth don’t overwhelm when paired with bracing dry gin, but next to whiskey, the duo can overpower). Most bars now serve up a variation on the original, with two parts whiskey, one part vermouth, and one part Campari, but the modifications don’t end there.

In fact, they don’t even begin there.

In The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, the hotel’s current bar manager and cocktail historian Frank Caiafa speaks to the malleability of the drink’s basic structure. “The original Negroni is actually based on a variation itself,” he writes, “which omitted the gin and added club soda to become the Americano. And that is based on another variation, the Milano-Torino… it seems that this recipe was made to be modified and boy, does it take to it.”

This spirit of experimentation is alive in the Boulevardier. Aside from upping the whiskey, you can also sub in other bitter amari (Cynar, Zucca, Cardamaro, Gran Classico, or Suze — to name a few) for either half or all of the Campari serving. Try the drink with Punt e Mes, Cinzano Rosso, Cocchi Americano, or Carpano Antica in the sweet vermouth slot. Sub in dry vermouth instead of sweet and you’ll get another classic, the Old Pal. You can change up the whiskey, alternating between rye, bourbon, or even Scotch — the playing field is wide open.

If you want to try something new without becoming an amaro hoarder, there are plenty of bars showcasing their own interpretation of the Boulevardier. Find the classic at Midtown’s Hudson Malone and Cobble Hill’s Long Island Bar. Sip on the Barolo barrel-aged version at Lincoln Ristorante. Plenty of bars will gladly make the Boulevardier off-menu — including Schiller’s Liquor Bar on the Lower East Side, Extra Fancy in Williamsburg, and Walter’s in Fort Greene. At Dante, a Village bar repping a deep roster of weird liquor and well-known for riffing on Negronis, you can dream up enough Boulevardier variations to have Erskinne Gwynne spinning in his grave — or just wishing he could come party with you.

The Boulevardier

2 oz. bourbon or rye whiskey
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. sweet vermouth
1 orange or lemon peel

Pour all liquid ingredients into a tumbler 2/3 full of ice. Stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or a rocks glass full of ice (to your preference). Garnish with a twist of orange or lemon.

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Tiki Joint Super Power Gets Its Origin Story in Crown Heights

Bars keep popping up on Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights, trying to keep up with the neighborhood’s gentrification as it moves east from Franklin. In 2013, Nostrand Avenue Pub opened up and was joined in 2015 by the sleek Two Saints and Miami-influenced King Tai. Now, another bar is vying for your dollars and thirst for booze: tiki joint Super Power (722 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-484-0020).

The bar’s unmissable bright blue signage and wooden menu-holding monkey have gotten the neighborhood’s attention. Super Power opened at the start of June by the team behind Prospect Heights’ the Bearded Lady, as well as two other friends. There are four partners, all of whom spent some time working at Gowanus Yacht Club and now run in the same social circle. One of those partners, Justin Olsen, tells the Voice they had been looking in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens as well as Bed-Stuy before settling in on Nostrand between Park and Prospect Places.

“It’s a really good commercial stretch,” Olsen says. “We share a broad customer base with Bearded Lady, but there are a lot of new faces here.” Two of the partners as well as a few of the bartenders live in the neighborhood themselves, making them all the more comfortable.

“We wanted to do something more with a tropical bent, because it’s a lot of fun to play with,” Olsen says. As they built out the space, a tiki menu started to emerge. It’s a foundation that allows a lot of room for play and experimentation — and isn’t too serious. “One of the things we ran into at Bearded Lady is that people thought we were very cocktail-intensive,” he notes. “There was a perceived seriousness and that’s not something we wanted to convey at all, and it took us a long time to overcome that.”

With the bright palm-leaf wallpaper covering the space, a pinball machine in the back, and a glowing neon volcano logo, they’re certainly trying to kill any presumptions of pretentious mixology right out of the gate.

In a neighborhood that Olsen thinks skews younger, that’s important. The cocktails are all approachable and priced at $10 (with a super-size version of their John the Beachcomber available with two or three straws for $20), offered up with the over-the-top garnishes in kitschy glassware that you expect from the rum-heavy style.

Each drink is decidedly strong and singular: The Beach Vibes is a blue cocktail that won’t make you queasy from its sweetness, thanks to herbal notes from Galliano liqueur. The Super Fashioned — a rum-fueled take on the Old Fashioned — is for the grown-ups, while that John the Beachcomber, with its three kinds of rum, will knock you out. Those who drink with Instagram in mind will want the Slow Reveal, which is smooth thanks to cashew orgeat and served in a pineapple chalice. Olsen says the most popular drink so far is their frozen tiki White Russian, made with coconut cream.

“There’s so much wrapped up in the word mixology and the idea of someone with suspenders or a bow tie,” Olsen says. “That’s not what bars are about. They’re about having fun and being at ease.” Super Power has brought some of that tiki ease to Crown Heights, along with a much-needed bit of serious cocktail consideration.

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Get a Taste of Italian Spirits at New Carroll Gardens Cocktail Bar August Laura

Alyssa Sartor is convinced her brand-new Carroll Gardens bar, August Laura (387 Court Street, Brooklyn; 718-858-5483), found her.

“My grandfather actually grew up four blocks away,” the New Jersey–born bartender tells the Voice. She didn’t know that until showing her mom the space, which she and fiancé/business partner, Frankie Rodriguez, then decided to christen August Laura — her grandfather’s name.

Appealing to the quiet neighborhood where they’re located (just a couple of blocks from Frankies 457), they’ve created a very short menu of classic Italian cocktails and fresh takes by Sartor.

You can order a perfectly poured Amaretto Sour or try the Villa Amalfi (modeled after a dessert she loves served at a cousin’s New Jersey restaurant). The You Always Remember Your First combines limoncello, prosecco, and Lambrusco (based on the first drink Sartor ever had: red wine and Sprite).

Sartor grew up “on a bar stool,” she says, which explains her ability to execute lowbrow concepts in a highbrow, worth-the-$12 way. Her father has owned dive bar R Jays Pub in Cliffside Park (where the couple raided the basement for some of August Laura’s glassware) for 35 years. Sartor started tending bar eight years ago by pretending she’d worked there, and the little lie paid off, as she’s since worked at Golden Cadillac and the Bar Room.

Rodriguez — “an original New Yorker,” he notes — has been working in the industry since 1989, a veteran of high-volume ’90s clubs like the Palladium, Underground, and Club USA. He most recently served as manager of Death & Co., and it was that Ravi DeRossi connection that brought them to the August Laura location, which had previously been an outpost of the Bourgeois Pig.

August Laura’s space is a light, warm combination of gray, natural wood, and deep blue. They’ve already established a friendship with a nearby antiques dealer who now sometimes drops by with new décor. Although the doors only opened last week, the neighborhood has already happily welcomed the couple. They’re currently still living in the West Village, but might make a move soon just so that their dog and cat — Achilles and Whiskey — aren’t left alone as much.

By taking their downtown experiences to a quiet neighborhood, Sartor and Rodriguez have created an unpretentious place perfect for summer drinking. Touches like a tattoo-style portrait of a woman flipping the bird and skull-topped copper cocktail spoons bring some edge, but ultimately it’s a place for locals. “We’re gonna be that neighborhood bar,” Rodriguez says. “And that’s what we want.”

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Drinker’s Dozen: Sweet Treats Get a Boozy Boost

Putting alcohol in a dessert seems like a great idea until you’re staring down a gut-bomb rum cake or sickly-sweet bourbon balls at a family dinner. When it comes to these classics, too much of two kinds of a good thing is less than wonderful. But a class of New York confectioners is injecting new life (and new kinds of booze) into established sweet treats, taking a page from the craft cocktail book to create liquor-infused delights that are, above all else, well-balanced.

The trend has its roots in shops like Sweet Revenge in the West Village, which specializes in pairing flights of wine or beer with cupcakes, cookies, and pies. Berries-and-cream cheesecake goes sweetly with a blueberry bellini or, for those who want to cut the sugar, a German wheat beer. The classically inclined can team up their chocolate chip cookie with an Italian moscato or an English chocolate stout. This growing crop of boozy bakers, though, sees added appeal not just in coupling liquor and treats, but in Frankenstein-ing entirely novel creations.

“We want it to be a cocktail and a dessert in one — very composed,” says Allison Kave of Butter and Scotch. Along with business partner Keavy Landreth, she’s been making tipsy treats since last January, first at various pop-up spots and now at a brick-and-mortar in Crown Heights. “We don’t see a huge difference in how you would go about balancing a cocktail and how you would compose a dessert. It’s a natural fit.”

Some of the most potent two-in-ones are spirit-drenched pies, including Butter and Scotch’s signature, the negroni. “[It’s] a dark-horse dessert that people are always surprised by because it’s super liquored-up and really tastes like a negroni,” says Kave. Similar in texture to a key lime pie, the custard is equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. “It’s bracingly boozy in a way people don’t expect. We shave orange zest on top to echo the orange garnish on a typical negroni.”

While these confections won’t get you hammered, Leslie Feinberg of Prohibition Bakery on the Lower East Side agrees they’re not entirely benign. “People come in and we hear them telling each other, ‘Oh, all the alcohol’s baked off!’ ” she laughs. “That’s not totally right. We put liquor in the filling and the batter, so everything is definitely boozy.” Prohibition specializes in cupcake versions of classic drinks, from a summery Pimm’s cup to a whiskey-soaked, cherry-topped old-fashioned cupcake that could replace the real thing as a nightcap.

But if a buzz is what you seek, Tipsy Scoop founder Melissa Tavss might be your best bet. Clocking in at 5 percent ABV — similar to a PBR or a Yuengling — her $10.99 pints require ID. The creamy, liquor-infused flavors, which like Feinberg’s sweets are riffs on cocktails, range from strawberry-rhubarb bourbon to mango margarita sorbet. “The flavors of different liquors work really well with ice cream,” she says, “and unlike something like a rum cake, most of the alcohol doesn’t have to be burned off. It’s gotten very big very quickly. We’re at places like Whole Foods, and during high season I would say we sell about five thousand pints a week.” Alcohol-tinged ice cream treats are also evergreen favorites at Butter and Scotch. “We have all of these boozy shakes and floats, and those, to me, are that hybrid of what’s happening in the kitchen and behind the bar [coming] together in the best way,” says Kave.

Successful as they are, these bakers are still chasing elusive combinations. Feinberg says Prohibition has yet to master a michelada cupcake, but she’s still tinkering with the tomato-meets-beer-meets-batter concoction (whether anyone will want to eat it is another question). Kave would like to add a white russian variety to Butter and Scotch’s lineup of cocktail-inspired caramel corns, which already includes green-chile margarita and dark ‘n’ stormy, but that’s proved difficult. “We were using white chocolate to mimic the milk flavor, and it didn’t have much of a shelf life,” she says. “The popcorn was getting solid and stale, so we set it aside.”

There’s a point at which you have to wonder if maybe there are drinks and desserts that should stay in their own lane. But that’s not a line of thinking Kave indulges. Her work isn’t done until every deliciously spiked dream becomes an equally delicious reality. “Even though the white russian ingredients weren’t cooperating, it’s something I want to revisit,” she says, her voice lifting in excitement at the prospect. “It’s such a good idea, right?”

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Thoroughly Modern Tiki: Creating Tropical Escape, Minus the Colonialist Fantasy

Bensonhurst native Michael Lombardozzi likes a good tiki bar. Nothing, he says, dissipates city stress as efficiently as relaxing amid tropical greenery with mai tai in hand, soundtracked by the lilt of slack-key guitar. But when he decided to open his own bar after ten years in the industry, he skipped escapism in favor of something more familiar. His new Bushwick bar, Dromedary, which opened last month — just in time for summer — focuses on tropical drinks, but keeps the ambience minimalist and approachable; he calls it “urban tiki,” and it’s more salvage-chic than island tableau.

Lombardozzi’s seeking to slide into a New York market that hasn’t always embraced tropical-themed bars: We’ve got Zombie Hut, the beloved Cobble Hill spot that has the look but not the top-shelf drinks, and swank places like Mother of Pearl or Pegu Club, with the addictive cocktails but not the island vibe. Bars that offer up both don’t last long here: The Julie Renner–helmed Lani Kai and PKNY on the Lower East Side were well received and fully imagined but closed within a few years of opening.

Marlo Gamora, a bartender who has studied and mixed tiki drinks for almost ten years at establishments including Mother of Pearl, thinks it’s because the city’s drinkers just don’t want to leave their comfort zone. “We like what we like and want what we want,” he says. “I wish [there could be more] escape, but a lot of folks are too focused on their routine, so they want their bars to feel familiar. They don’t want to go hang out at a tiki bar all the time, just once or twice.”

It may also be the fraught history. The tiki craze — the carved-mask mugs, rattan furniture, and thatched huts evoking an island paradise — that spread across the U.S. from the Forties through the Sixties has its roots in colonialist fantasy. It arguably started with the 1939 World’s Fair, which included a (romanticized) presentation of Polynesian culture — which until then was unfamiliar to most Americans. According to Nicholas Mirzoeff, a visual culture theorist at NYU who studies the history of Western conquest of the Pacific Islands, the exhibit “was a classically colonial project, a spectacle to say: ‘Here’s the world that we control, and dominate, and is available to us.’ ”

In the following years, soldiers returning from combat longed to experience an unbloodied version of the faraway places in the Pacific where they’d served. And as Mirzoeff points out, veterans weren’t the only ones who wanted an escape. “Tiki formed a way out of the Cold War way of imagining the world — a closed world with no way out. So we imagined open worlds that existed outside it.”

It was a cultural landscape in which tiki bars like Don the Beachcomber, in Hollywood, and Trader Vic’s, in Oakland, flourished. Named after their white owners, the bars were nonetheless staffed by Filipino, Chinese, and Hawaiian workers, many of whom helped to create or refine the drinks that are now essential to the tiki canon: the mai tai, the zombie, the missionary’s downfall, well-balanced and endlessly drinkable concoctions of fruit and spice that belie heavy doses of rum.

For Gamora, learning that many of the early tiki bartenders were Filipino like him solidified his love of the subculture. “I look up to a lot of those [original bartenders], and that’s what I’m trying to do now. But even though their influence is in tiki, tiki is not Filipino and it doesn’t represent me as a Filipino.” Rather, he says, it represents a pleasantly familiar tropical atmosphere that conjures not just the Philippines, but Vietnam and Thailand, where he has traveled and explored.

Such vagueness is at the center of tiki’s appeal: It means whatever you want it to. These constructed worlds create their own reality, kind of like Disneyland, says Mirzoeff. “These are real places you can go to, and people form real memories and come to identify [tiki] as part of their lives.” This is why Gamora thinks tiki can be welcoming to all. “It’s a construct, and it doesn’t offend me, because I relate to it. I don’t see it as a bastardization. It’s just this ideal of escape to a distant place.”

At Dromedary, that sense of escape looks different, more homegrown. Lombardozzi’s decision not to open a full-on tiki joint was in part informed by his time spent in Hawaii, where he’s stayed several times with friends who are natives. “Hawaiian culture has been beat to death by Americans making it into a tourist attraction,” he says. “People who are from there aren’t into Americans taking over the island — it was a beautiful place and now it’s got Sheratons all over it. The same thing happened in Polynesia.” And whether or not Bushwick residents new and old know tiki history, at the very least, they think the aesthetic is tacky, he believes.

So while his bar serves drinks faithful to Don the Beachcomber’s careful balance of tart and fruity, the only visual cues are a small carved totem by the bar and a cabinet in the back corner that he plans to fill with tiki mugs. He appears to have struck the right balance; even on a weeknight, Dromedary is packed with Bushwick locals, from the usual young tattooed set to a handful of middle-aged bikers.

That doesn’t mean you’ll see Mirzoeff there anytime soon; to him, no amount of toning down can compensate for a history of violence. “[If] you’re just trying to make a bar, it shouldn’t [rest] on the triumph of one group over another. No one would think of making a minstrel bar, and just because Polynesia or Hawaii are farther away doesn’t mean it’s any better.” But if you can live with the guilt, sidle up and order a drink — they’re strong enough to make you forget where they came from.

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Bars FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Take Your Tastebuds on Vacation: Here Are New York City’s Best Piña Coladas, 2016

“They did a paternity test on the piña colada, and it was made with Don Q rum at the Caribe Hilton!” a helpful stranger yelled at me last year in San Juan, Puerto Rico, before vanishing into thin air. I was researching whether the piña colada was still relevant to the island of its birth, and it seems he was correct. Everyone (besides the folks at competitor Barrachina) believes the Hilton is where pineapple, coconut cream, and rum were first blended with ice and sipped through a straw.

Regardless of where the piña colada truly came from, there are a lot of spots in New York City making this delightful drink their own — adding bitterness, herbaceous notes, or just turning its sweet, milkshake-ready flavors into a soda float. New York City has so many fantastic takes on the piña colada, you don’t have to go on vacation to unashamedly sip one (or two).

Maison Premiere
(298 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-335-0446)

An absinthe and oyster bar known for its class and refinement may be one of the last places you’d expect a piña colada — but with the Maison Absinthe Colada, Williamsburg’s Maison Premiere proves it’s a contender for one of NYC’s tastiest hot spots. Crème de menthe and Mansinthe — a Swiss absinthe with minty elements — round out this unblended take on the cocktail.

Suffolk Arms
(269 E Houston Street; 212-475-0400)

The fanfare around this Lower East Side pub’s opening has been well deserved — given its unpretentious menu and a refreshing change of pace with its cocktail menu. Owner Giuseppe Gonzalez’s legendary take on the piña colada includes a top-off with bitter, red Campari. It’s neither too icy nor too sweet, and as the Campari distributes throughout the glass, it cuts the acidity of pineapple and accentuates the creaminess of the coconut cream.

The Way of the Warrior cocktail from Pouring Ribbons
The Way of the Warrior cocktail from Pouring Ribbons

Pouring Ribbons
(225 Avenue B; 917-656-6788)

A speakeasy like Pouring Ribbons doesn’t seem like the typical locale to sip on a beach drink, but they’re making it work with the new “Silk Road” menu that marries the flavors of East and West. The Way of the Warrior combines two kinds of rum, pineapple, vanilla, matcha, and coconut. The addition of a bitter element to this piña colada takes it beyond vacation status — matcha’s fresh, verdant flavor is a surprising complement to the fruit and funky rum.

Holiday Cocktail Lounge
(75 St. Marks Place; 212-777-9637)

The revamped Holiday Cocktail Lounge wants cocktails to be all about fun again, which is why their new drinks menu offers a piña colada called And His Hair Was Perfect. Bartender Michael Neff’s nontraditional version is made with white Caña Brava rum, Kalani coconut liqueur, fresh lime, and pineapple, then served over crushed ice with an Angostura float, for a touch of bitterness to balance out all the fruit. To top it all off, a pink plastic army man garnish is there to remind you that though piña coladas can be serious…you should probably just have fun with them.

Find out <a href="/restaurants/take-one-last-sip-of-summer-try-a-frozen-brancolada-7655933" target="_blank">how to make Donna's Brancolada</a> at home.
Find out how to make Donna’s Brancolada at home.

Donna
(27 Broadway, Brooklyn; 646-568-6622)

Donna has a tropical feel, despite its South Williamsburg location, and at a place where you can order chicharrón and rice and beans, it makes sense that you can also get a piña colada. Here it’s called the Brancolada, because of its inclusion of minty Branca Menta. A hint of orange juice is also blended in with the pineapple, coconut cream, and Appleton rum — the perfect way to balance out the mint.

Nitehawk Cinema
(136 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-782-8370)

When the thick of summer hits and you just want to sit in an air-conditioned movie theater, Nitehawk Cinema will give you the perfect opportunity to hang out with a piña colada float in hand, pretending you’re not stuck in the city. With pineapple Jarritos, coconut sorbet, and Flor de Caña Silver rum, it’s pure vegan indulgence.

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Bars FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Why Panamanian Rum Will Be Your New Favorite Drink

Top-shelf rum is finally having its moment. According to International Wine & Spirit Research, the high-end rum market is expected to grow 5.5 million cases by 2019.

Mirroring the uptick in global spirit sales, there’s an influx of bars serving specialty cocktails in the the up-and-coming Casco Viejo district of Panama City. Partially thanks to the country’s wealth of sugarcane — which contributes to Panama’s stockpile of rum — this high-quality liquor has crossed the border and is destined for New York City.

Panamanian Terroir

What makes Panamanian rum different from that of other Caribbean or Central American countries? Can local sugarcane transmit an identifiable terroir?

Around Pesé — a town located in a fertile valley of the Azuero Peninsula and home to the Varela Hermanos, S.A. distillery — distinct weather patterns exist and create an unmistakable terroir. According to Ron Abuelo Rum’s global brand ambassador, Cristóbal Srokowski, the region boasts a unique climate called the Arco Seco, or Dry Arch, defined by the area’s lack of summer rain. “The confluence of air from the Pacific Ocean with heat from the Caribbean creates a microclimate of stable temperature and humidity,” says Srokowski. “This is important for controlling the aging process, and — of course — the sugarcane harvest.” Climate stability allows for precise calculations about the evolution of the rum as it ages.

As is often the case with spirits, true terroir-driven differences are often muted by producers’ hands. “I think the distiller and blender play more of a role in the final outcome than the terroir of the cane,” says Tim Cooper, who uses Panamanian rum in cocktails at Sweetwater Social (643 Broadway; 212-253-0477).

 

Worker hand-harvesting sugarcane in Pesé
Worker hand-harvesting sugarcane in Pesé

A Closer Look at Styles of Panamanian Rum

Ron Abuelo: Dark and oak-aged

In 1908, a young Spanish immigrant named Don José Varela Blanco relocated to Pesé, where he established the country’s first sugar mill. By 1936, he and his three sons began distilling alcohol from fresh-pressed juice. Nearly a century later, Luis Varela — a third-generation family member and head of the Varela Hermanos, S.A. — continues to distill spirits, including the premium Ron Abuelo line, from nearly 3,000 acres of estate-owned crops.

Ron Abuelo is one of Panama’s oldest and most popular rums. The company controls 100 percent of their production process: They grow and hand-harvest their sugarcane (without setting fire to the fields, a common practice) before distilling and aging the spirits at their estate. The company also transports a small percentage of cane to the distillery by ox and cart. As part of their sustainable, green initiatives, Ron Abuelo recycles water, uses alternative fuel sources, and helps local communities recycle bottles.

There are four core products in the Ron Abuelo family, and all are dark, oak-aged rums. The Añejo ($15.99) is delicately spiced, lending itself to use in cocktails. The 7 Años ($23.99) has notes of caramel and coconut, and works well with cigars — Ron Abuelo even developed a line of cigars, with Gurkha, imbued with the 7 Años flavor. The full-bodied 12 Años ($34.99) should be sipped…as should the richer, more complex Centuria ($140), a limited-edition bottling that draws from 30-year-old reserves aged in American whisky barrels using a solera system.

The company will soon release a trio of cask-finished rums using port, oloroso sherry, and cognac barrels. They debut in New York in two to three weeks, with an anticipated retail of $70. The rum finished in port barrels conveys the red-fruit intensity of the cask’s previous inhabitant, while the sherry barrel version extracts the nutty, savory notes of its predecessor. The cognac barrel’s effect is subtler, rounder, and slightly sweet.

Caña Brava Rums
Caña Brava Rums

Caña Brava: Cuban-style white rum

In distinct contrast to the local legacy of the family-owned Ron Abuelo, Caña Brava is a contemporary brand created by New York bartenders, for bartenders. Simon Ford, Jason Kosmas, and Dushan Zaric — cofounders of the 86 Co. — went around the world asking top bartenders what was missing from their bars’ rum reserves. The answer was always the same: a “Carta Blanca” expression.

Recognizing Panama’s abundant and “incredible” sugarcane, Ford says the team met with eleven distillers for their new project, but had trouble finding a shared vision for the partnership. “We almost gave up,” Ford explains. Then they had a chance encounter with Panamanian national Carlos Esquivel at Miami’s Rum Renaissance in 2010. After hearing the trio’s idea, Esquivel connected them to Francisco “Don Pancho” Fernandez. Fernandez had made rum in Cuba for 35 years as the Cuban Minister of Rum (yes, that’s a real job) before he moved to Panama to apply his talents to the local agriculture, according to Ford.

Before long, the 86 Co. team hopped on a plane to Central America, and a business was born. Their first rum launched in 2012, intended as America’s answer to Havana Club. “The style of rum we make is based on old Cuban traditions of the classic ‘Carta Blanca’ style,” Ford explains. “It is dry, which makes it a dream to work with if you are a bartender — especially for making drinks like the daiquiri — and it carries a lot of the flavor of the raw ingredient.”

The team’s Caña Brava line has two rums: the “Carta Blanca” style 3-Year-Old ($27.99), and the richer, more aged 7-Year-Old ($39.99). The list of New York bars working with the spirit reads like a who’s who guide to mavens of the NYC drinks biz: Suffolk Arms, Dante, Employees Only (which was founded by Kosmas and Zaric), Dead Rabbit, Nomad, Dear Irving, and more.

Cooper, of Sweetwater Social, vouches for the results: “I love Caña Brava, quite simply because it checks the box for all things that rum should be. Namely, it is clean, aromatic, rich, and complex. Caña Brava is helping to reestablish the Carta Blanca style of rum-making used as the foundation for the classic daiquiri and mojito. What’s not to love about that?” He adds that it’s one of the driest rums on the market, admitting that’s a bold statement to make, “but one I’m willing to be challenged on.”

Other brands of Panamanian rum

While Ron Abuelo dominates the retail space, and Caña Brava caters to bars, other Panamanian products have cropped up — though none are as widely available. For example, Ron de Jeremy is a limited-release developed for porn star Ron Jeremy, marketed as “the original adult rum.” It’s a seven-year-old dark rum crafted by the same Fernandez who distills Caña Brava.

After 50 years of making high-end booze for others, Fernandez finally released his own line of three age-expression rums called Don Pancho Origenes in 2014. The most accessibly priced is the eight-year ($40) — it is assertive and complex with tropical fruit, vegetal, and notes of sweet spice and vanilla. Aged in American white oak barrels, the rum has found its way into cocktails at the NoMad Hotel.

The Washington's Crossing at Sweetwater Social
The Washington’s Crossing at Sweetwater Social

New York Mixing with Panama

Despite the 86 Co.’s influence on the Manhattan drinking scene, Panama’s rums are still a blip on the radar. Striking up a conversation with a couple of off-duty bartenders last week — coincidentally bellied up to the one of the bars using Caña Brava — I got blinks and blank stares in response to questions about the category. “We know Guatemala, Nicaragua, Venezuela,” said one of the bartenders. “But I don’t believe Panama is really a thing yet.” Perhaps because Caña Brava is associated with a style more than a place?

However, at Murray Hill’s Salvation Taco (145 East 39th Street, 212-865-5800), Henry Avila does know about Panamanian rums. “Besides appreciating the history of Ron Abuelo, the brand reminds me of my own abuelo and his love for rum and fresh pressed sugarcane juice,” he says. Avila, of a mix of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent, grew up in Miami. He’s been slinging drinks at Salvation Taco for the last three years, and bartending for five.

Avila uses Ron Abuelo 7 Años in the “Ron Picante” (check out the recipe below). “I chose seven-year for the base because it’s made from the fermented juice of fresh-cut sugarcane, which I think gives the rum a brighter flavor and a different kind of sweetness,” he explains. His cocktail is a variation on a classic daiquiri, made with Ancho Reyes, demerara syrup, lime juice, and a touch of Contratto orange aperitif.

At Sweetwater Social, Cooper works both Caña Brava rums into different drinks. “The Washington’s Crossing is made with Caña Brava 3 Year and is a seasonal daiquiri with Gala apple, lime, cinnamon, and maple. The vanilla, cane, and spice quality of Caña Brava works perfectly with the apple aspect. It’s essentially our shameless play on a fall daiquiri.” With Caña Brava 7 Year, Cooper makes a Pistachio Mai Tai, because he believes “the seven-year has the perfect amount of spice and complexity to play with the aroma of the pistachio and orange in the drink.”

If your spring travel plans don’t include a flight down to Panama, why not sample the rums here in New York? All these rums are available locally, and Avila shared his “Ron Picante” recipe for Voice readers to shake up at home.

The Ron Picante, a spicy twist on a daiquiri.
The Ron Picante, a spicy twist on a daiquiri.

Salvation Taco’s Ron Picante Courtesy of Bartender Henry Avila

Ingredients
1 oz Ron Abuelo 7
1 oz Ancho Reyes
1/2 oz Contratto Apertif
3/4 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Demerara Syrup

Preparation
Rim the a chilled coupe glass with guajillo chile salt. Lightly shake the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and strain into glass. For garnish, set a lime wheel on the rim of the glass.

Lauren Mowery is a drinks and travel writer, and Master of Wine candidate.

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Bars FOOD ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Bask in the Spring Weather With Floral Cocktails and Sunny Venues

Spring’s slow arrival in New York City has teased locals with gorgeous, bright days nestled between dreary, rainy ones. But as the city emerges from the grasp of winter, flowers bloom in the park and imbibers are ready to shake off the cold and sip on flavors of this crisp season. What better way to rejoice over warmer weather and pretty flora than with an ultra-fresh cocktail? Here are eleven New York bars where you can take some time to stop and smell (and drink) the flowers.

Jue Lan Club
(49 West 20th Street; 656-524-7409)
Located in what was the infamous Limelight Building, Jue Lan Club pays tribute to the party atmosphere of its predecessor with its spirited mood, eclectic decor, and delicious cocktails. Formerly a church, the Gothic Revival brownstone building boasts a beautiful courtyard, now named the Imperial Garden. To fete the outdoor patio, mixologist Riana Wyatt created Madame Adventurist ($15), a Herradura tequila-based cocktail garnished with a lovely purple hibiscus flower.

Ladurée Soho
(398 West Broadway; 646-392-7868)
Stepping into the Ladurée tea salon in Soho is like stepping into a different country — and a different century. The Versailles-inspired furnishings and fragrant desserts are a feast for the senses, plunging guests into a time long past. An idyllic garden sits in the back of the salon, with green iron chairs reminiscent of those in Paris’s Jardin du Luxembourg. The Ispahan ($16) cocktail, created in Paris, is a floral and fruity delight, with Chambord, lychee liqueur, rose syrup, and garnished with a single rose petal.

Kings County Imperial
(20 Skillman Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-610-2000)
This Chinese-American restaurant just opened in 2015 and has garnered both attention and acclaim for its delectable cuisine. But the food isn’t the only star at this Williamsburg eatery — beverage director Richard Murphy has crafted a superb cocktail list. The Coco Palms ($12) is a burst of flavors, including fresh pineapple juice, Denizen rum, blue curaçao, and house-made macadamia nut syrup. Bright, lively, and edible nasturtiums finish off the drink — and better yet, they’re grown in the backyard. Look out for the location’s new patio opening later this spring.

Leyenda
(221 Smith Street, Brooklyn; 347-987-3260)
It’s one of the best new bars in NYC, it boasts the best bartender in America, it has a killer fireplace, and it even has a backyard patio. Leyenda truly does have it all. Sip on Ivy Mix’s mezcal-and-rum Tia Mia ($13), topped off with a gorgeous orchid.

Conrad New York
(102 North End Avenue, 212-945-0100)
The Loopy Doopy Rooftop Bar at the Conrad Hotel in beautiful Battery Park offers great views of the sunset on the Hudson. Check out the orchid-garnished Topsy Turvy ($18) made with Grey Goose, Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed oranges. (You can also get the Topsy Turvy at the Conrad’s indoor bar, ATRIO.)

Pampano
(209 E. 49th Street; 212-751-4545)
The terrace at the Pampano Restaurant in midtown Manhattan is lined with greenery, unifying city and nature in one lovely location. The coastal Mexican cuisine and breezy milieu fit perfectly with Ciro Garzon’s Margarita Pampano ($14), garnished with a dried hibiscus.

Leaf Bar & Lounge
(133-42 39th Ave, 10th floor, Flushing; 718-865-8158)
Its name, Leaf Bar & Lounge, describes the space perfectly. With cushioned lounge chairs and leafy bushes encircling the outdoor oasis, this Flushing rooftop bar elevates the area to a new height. Matcha has been an increasingly popular cocktail ingredient these days, and mixologist Madeleine Liu serves it well. Try her delicious take on the green tea, Matcha Do About Nothing ($12), an egg white-based cocktail garnished with a plum-blossom flower.

Studio Cafe
(99 Gansevoort Street, 8th Floor; 212-570-3670)
On the 8th floor of the Whitney sits the Studio Cafe, featuring plenty of sights and delights for museum guests. In the colder months, visitors can bask in natural lighting thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. But in better weather, the windows open onto an airy terrace with a breathtaking skyline view. Enjoy spring with Due West ($13), a new lavender-sprig cocktail by beverage director Eduardo Porto Carreiro.

Due West from Studio Cafe (left); Lavender Lady from Edi & the Wolf
Due West from Studio Cafe (left); Lavender Lady from Edi & the Wolf

Edi & the Wolf
(102 Avenue C; 212-598-1040)
This cozy and eclectic Alphabet City spot has an adorable garden patio to match its rustic interior, where plants hang overhead. Enjoy the Lavender Lady ($14) with lavender-infused Grey Goose, crème de violette, and — of course — a lavender-sprig garnish.

Dante
(79-81 Macdougal Street; 212-982-5275)
Dante has been around since 1915, and over the years, this quintessentially New York locale has become known for its classic cocktails with a seasonal spin. Dante’s Negroni Bianco ($9), served at aperitivo hour, embodies its classic-yet-contemporary style. Made with Brooklyn Gin, quinquina, bianco vermouth, and lemon bitters, the drink comes garnished with a delicate sprig of baby’s breath. The Negroni Bianco is best enjoyed outdoors at the café’s sidewalk seating.

Brooklyn Winery
(213 N 8th St, Brooklyn; 347-763-1506)
For those who want to drink alfresco but don’t love the unpredictability of actually being in nature, Brooklyn Winery has what you’re looking for. Their atrium has the perks of the great outdoors with the comfort of being indoors. Sit under the skylight next to the living wall, order off-menu, and ask for the brandy-based Brooklyn Botanica by mixologist Adam Cornelius. This cocktail is mixed with a homemade “bouquet-of-flowers” simple syrup — made from dried hibiscus flowers, dried lavender flowers, and dried rosebuds.