Maker’s Mark Holiday Tour Crosby between Spring & Broome; Vesey Street between West & North End Avenue; East 8th Street & Astor Place
Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Maker’s Mark will stop at three spots in New York City this week, offering complimentary brownies and biscuits from Butter & Scotch along with spiced cider. While the goodies are free, a suggested donation ($5 or more) is encouraged. Proceeds will benefit Share Our Strength, an organization which aims to end child hunger in America.
Taco and Tequila Tuesdays El Toro Blanco (257 Sixth Avenue)
Tuesday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
El Toro Blanco is now offering a tequila and taco tasting experience on Tuesdays. Each week, guest speakers from tequila companies will stop by the restaurant guide guests through the tasting process. Get a load of poached lobster with corn avocado tacos or try pork with roasted pineapple. Wash it all down with tequila — offered as a tasting flight, specialty cocktail, or by the glass.
Chefs Jonathan Wu (Fung Tu) and Mario Carbone (Carbone) will chat with food historian Sarah Lohman to talk about under-the-radar recipes that have shaped American cuisine. Reserve your $10 ticket.
Mario Batali Book Signing Williams-Sonoma Columbus Circle (10 Columbus Circle)
Wednesday, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Mario Batali will be appearing live to sign copies of his most recent work, Big American Cookbook: 250 Favorite Recipes from Across the USA. A signed copy of each book is included in the price of a ticket.
Holiday Celebration Gansevoort Market (353 West 14th Street)
Wednesday, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Gansevoort Market vendors are offering complimentary bites at this mid-week holiday celebration, with events throughout the evening like a graffiti art show and Christmas carolers. Guests are encouraged to donate toys.
An Evening with Michael Twitty MOFAD Lab (62 Bayard Street, Brooklyn)
Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Culinary historian and author Michael Twitty will lead a talk and tasting on the history of African-American food and its impact on food culture in the American south. Tickets are $32 for general admission.
Wine has sommeliers; beer has cicerones; mescal has…mescaliers!
Yes, it’s a thing, although there’s only a handful of the certified agave experts scattered about New York’s colossal cocktail landscape. Count Courtenay Greenleaf among them. After earning the distinction three years ago, the New England native set up shop at La Biblioteca, the city’s first lounge dedicated exclusively to craft tequila and mescal. In October, she helped launch Masa y Agave(41 Murray Street; 212-849-2885) — a Mexican-accented speakeasy of sorts — in the basement of Rosa Mexicano’s new outpost in Tribeca. Here’s a taste of what makes her bar and its spirits worth their salt.
When descending into the dimly lit, subterranean den, it’s easy to imagine you’ve wandered into some exotic cantina on the outskirts of Mexico City. This is by design. “We wanted to provide our guests, and even our staff, with a very authentic experience,” Greenleaf explains. When it comes to libations, that means incorporating traditional Oaxacan ingredients into the cocktails. Sal de gusano (worm salt), strained corn milk, and a bevy of house-made syrups and bitters infused with native herbs add a bona fide texture into every drink featured on the menu.
“I honestly think that mescal is the most flexible spirit to mix with,” says Greenleaf. “It shines so well on its own, it complements citrus, pineapple, acidity, sweetness; it’s the most diverse [liquor] in terms of creating a balanced cocktail while preserving its natural characteristics.” That versatility is showcased in drinks such as the “Oaxaqueño,” a semi-sweet, semi-smoky tipple, or the “Dama de Noche,” a barrel-aged concoction fusing blended scotch, agave nectar, and artisanal mescal. Both provide superior entry points for the uninitiated.
But to satisfy inquisitive newbies and seasoned vets in equal measure, Greenleaf compiled her very own Agave Bible, the definitive resource on the subject. The compendium includes detailed information on the more than 400 bottles shelved behind the bar. “It was an absolute joy for me to compile the research,” Greenleaf says of the project, which she considers a work in progress. “It took almost four months. I started putting it together in August, and it was a full-time job until we opened in October.” The leather-bound binder breaks down spirits by distillery, delving into the methods of production and regional idiosyncrasies defining each respective operation. “We wanted to provide a book that would be able to represent each distilling family with great accuracy.”
Her carefully curated tasting flights, ranging from $18 to $45, feature three generous pours tied by a singular theme. The Tahona, for example, highlights mescals produced with stone-ground mills, rather than mechanical shredders, effecting a greater degree of earthiness in the glass. Each flight is garnished in traditional Oaxacan fashion, with orange slices rubbed in chile salt.
To become a mescalier, Greenleaf had to pass a rigorous test challenging her mastery of agave subspecies — any of two dozen of which are frequently used to make mescal. She also had to identify terroir and how it interacts with the palate and recall all the denominations of origin. Yet even with this wealth of knowledge, Greenleaf avoids the pretentious trappings of many a schooled expert. In fact, she seems to derive the greatest pleasure in steering newcomers toward their proper point of accessibility; she recommends Fidencio Unico or Bruxo #1 for those looking to go light on smoke, with more of an emphasis on caramelized sugar. Of course, the excitement also percolates when talking shop with self-proclaimed connoisseurs.
On the food side, Masa y Agave reaches for flavors to correspond with the spirits. And Greenleaf has tasted her way around the menu enough to recommend some killer pairings. One of her favorites — “besides chocolate, of course” — is a bold, smoke-heavy mescal served alongside the Tamale de Cochinita, house-ground masa with a gritty texture wrapped around roasted pork in a guajillo sauce, all topped by a tangy queso fresco. Look for a mescal-friendly, house-made chocolate to land at the bar in the next few months, courtesy of the mescalier.
As one of the fastest-growing spirits categories, mescal is undeniably having its moment. As are the destinations developing its lore, and the knowledgeable specialists promoting it. Courtenay Greenleaf is helping drive this movement. “People are catching on. And they love our little nook down here. It’s a very cozy environment, and we’re seeing a tremendous response.”
Cosme’s rapid ascent to superstardom owes nothing to hype; it’s all about the grub. To earn its status as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the city, it uses more than high-quality ingredients; it relies on an inventive kitchen to reimagine familiar fare as something entirely fresh: crunchy tostadas topped with arctic char or eel, moistened by bone marrow salsa — a delicate, flaky fish enhanced by spices and fruits typically associated with spit-roasted pork. Each of these dishes would have rightfully contended for a top spot on our list of favorites, if they weren’t eclipsed by the mouth-watering masterpiece that is the duck carnitas.
Served in a skillet, this crisped, sizable portion of fowl, made for two, is probably the best date dish in the city — so long as you don’t fight over who gets the last piece. It arrives at the table with warm, housemade blue corn tortillas, and two types of salsa: a tangy, acidic verde, made with tomato and serrano peppers, and the slightly more picante salsa de árbol. The fajita-style preparation allows you to build your own tacos. Allocate ample chunks of moist, juicy duck meat, crunchy, fatted skin, fresh cilantro, peppers, raw onions; however you see fit.
The $59 price tag is surely enough to deter some. But if you get past the sticker shock, you’re rewarded with half a duck breast — enough to fill nearly a dozen tortillas with tender meat, sweetened slightly by an extended marinade in Mexican Coca-Cola. As savory as that all is, the skin knocks it up to the next level — it has a satisfying crunch of salt and fat that will make it difficult for you to enjoy Mexican food anywhere else in the city.
The Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10.
Jose Cuervo is the tequila brand most commonly associated with frat-like frivolity, and spring break shenanigans. In certain respects, the reputation is apt: their flagship Cuervo Gold is unapologetically cheap, offering flavors best suited to shot glasses and frozen drink blenders. But hidden behind their most infamous spirit is a proud family tradition steeped in quality craftsmanship. The real gold comes in the form of their Reserva De La Familia, a super premium blend of aged spirit honoring the generations-old legacy of this family owned distillery. It might just be the perfect gift to honor your own family on Father’s Day.
Making that case, literally and figuratively, is gold medal Olympian Bode Miller. The most decorated downhill skier in American history was in the New York City earlier this week, presenting his dad with his own personally designed package of Reserva De La Familia.
“My relationship with my dad is really important to me, and strong,” Miller says, explaining his involvement with the brand. “Reserva de La Familia celebrates the tradition that they have in their family of making this really special tequila for 200 years; the family culture that goes in behind that.”
Cuervo approached Bode and asked him to design a one-off box for his father, Woody. He accepted, without hesitation, but didn’t initially realize how emotional the project would become. “As we dug into it, we shared many similar beliefs,” he noted. “Underlying it all is that desire to celebrate the relationship and the tradition between father and son, and passing down whatever ritual it is.”
For Juan-Domingo Beckmann, owner of Cuervo and direct descendant of Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo, Reserva De La Familia is the highest expression of his own family’s ritual. Classified as an Extra Añejo, it’s made from 100% blue agave, and aged for upwards of 3 years in French oak. The added time in the barrel results in a deep color and smoothness far more suggestive of cognac or fine brandy. This is a spirit designed to be enjoyed from a sifter; neat, in a cigar parlor.
To highlight the Miller family ritual, Bode delivered his dad a box of Reserva jacketed in a trail map of the New Hampshire mountain where he learned how to ski, with pictures of childhood memories intermittently peppered about.
“This is a trophy memorializing our relationship,” the younger Miller added. His father — significantly softer-spoken than his son — didn’t have to say much to demonstrate the paternal pride he felt at the moment. “It means a lot to me. This will always be something that epitomizes our relationship.”
Even if you’re not an Olympic champion, dad will surely be proud of you this Sunday, particularly if he’s on the receiving end of an artfully-boxed, $120 bottle of premium tequila. The 2015 limited release is now on shelves at Philippe Liquors in Chelsea and in Midtown at Park Avenue Liquors.
Even if you’re hitting sophisticated Mexican restaurants around town, you certainly encounter many a margarita and Corona in passing. It’s unavoidable. But beyond these mainstays, Mexico offers so much more to drinking culture. By now, even casual drinkers have at least heard murmurs of mezcal, tequila’s smokier sibling. Far fewer are aware of the existence of raicilla, bacanora, and sotol — three distinct agave-based Mexican spirits. And that’s to say nothing of the myriad liqueurs and cordials artfully produced south of the border. To pay proper homage to the culture, bypass the migraine-inducing sweet and sour mixes and spice things up with a few of these adventurous alternatives.
The game-changing mixology program at Death and Co. (433 East 6th Street, 212-388-0882) devotes an entire menu section to offbeat agave concoctions. The Pale Horse, for example, blends a snap-pea-infused tequila with vermouth and an herbal alpine liqueur, landing curiously on something between a wheatgrass shot and a gin-infused Last Word. The Sound & Fury delivers broader appeal, with raspberry and muddled red bell pepper added to Calle 23’s delicate blanco tequila. An initial sweetness is combated by the tingling heat of Ancho Reyes — a Mexican liqueur derived of spiced chiles.
Also utilizing Ancho Reyes to expert effect is the program at Añejo (668 Tenth Avenue, 212-920-4770) in Hell’s Kitchen. The restaurant’s Ancho Negroni balances the peppery complexity of the liqueur against the earthy smoke of Montelobos mezcal and citrusy bitterness of Campari. Offering significantly more depth than any gin-based drink, it’s that rare example of a sequel outperforming the original.
By the way, for the DIY set, 80-proof Ancho Reyes, with its superior mixing capabilities, is a worthy addition to the home bar. Bottles retail for $35 throughout town. In Manhattan, Phillipe Wine & Liquor will even deliver it to your door.
But if you feel like stepping outside your comfort zone, delve deeper down the rabbit hole with a shot of raicilla, which is traditionally regarded as Mexican moonshine. Similar to mezcal, the once-illicit spirit utilizes agave hearts that are fire-roasted in primitive clay ovens, imparting a punchy smoke guaranteed to mess with the margarita-minded. Head over to Empellón Cocina (105 First Avenue, 212-780-0999), where the well-versed staff can either pour you a shot or steer you toward sensible mixing applications.
Let’s talk tequila. Even casual drinkers of the agave-based spirit should be aware of its basic categories: blanco — or silver — is unaged white liquor, straight from the still; reposado rests in the barrel between two months and one year before bottling; and añejo meets oak for one to three years. While these classifications have been recognized for decades, the recent explosion in craft tequila has led to some slight modifications. It wasn’t until 2006, for example, that Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council officially qualified “extra añejo” as a certified distinction for anything aging more than three years. And what do we make of the diamante category?
In 2008, Maestro Dobel introduced its Diamante onto the market. It was the first aged tequila with a clear appearance — most have a familiar caramel hue. Today, there are several brands offering a so-called diamond-level tequila, and they’d all like to see the category officially recognized. But let’s examine the original diamante to better understand what makes it unique.
Blending reposado, añejo, and extra añejo into a single spirit, Dobel’s flagship tequila utilizes a special filtration process to remove the color. The flavor and aroma is left fully intact, however, as Diamante hints at a complexity rarely detected in its un-aged counterparts. This is the nuanced interplay between oak and agave, wood and soil. It ought to be discernible, as a portion of that liquid has spent up to five years in the barrel — a rare claim for a bottle priced at $45 per 750 milliliters.
I found it to be a superior sipping spirit, enjoyed neat — though that hasn’t stopped several high-end bar programs across the city from exploring its mixing potential. At Nobu, for example, the staff has combined the spirit with pear liqueur and cactus purée in a prickly-pear margarita. There’s a solid backbone to the cocktail that a blanco would fail to deliver.
Beyond the aesthetics, the makers of Dobel, including the eleventh-generation owner of Jose Cuervo, will have you believe their proprietary filtration imparts a certain crispness as the color is removed. It’s difficult to disprove, as you’re unable to sample Diamante prior to that process. But to me, the spirit’s true significance stems from the artful blend of different aged tequilas, arriving to the bottle in sensible harmony.
Dobel does offer a standard blanco, which packs more of a peppery spice and would be better equipped for a paloma or a margarita. The brand’s standard reposado and añejo products are also easily distinguishable thanks to more pronounced caramel notes in the finish.
But Diamante truly occupies its own space. Whether or not it’ll succeed in establishing its own official category remains to be seen. What is clear, aside from the spirit itself, is that Diamante is expanding the boundaries of the world’s fastest-growing spirit.
Biting cold in November is no fun, but tequila sure is. If the national spirit of Mexico makes you think of warm sandy beaches and summertime margaritas, allow coffee to reconfigure your expectations.
The benefits of the caffeine bean are seemingly endless: It adds a a bitter roasted note to anything it touches, it gets you through a long day, and now scientists have even discovered that drinking coffee on the reg can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. There’s never been a better time to add it to your cocktail than right now. You know, for your health.
Of course, dumping several dashes of Jameson into a cup o’ joe is a time-honored tradition — one that I would never dismiss. And you can get one hell of an Irish coffee in this city if you head down to the Dead Rabbit.
But there are far more inventive ways to bring coffee into the cocktail fold. I find the slightly vegetal, wooded notes of a fine reposado to mingle soulfully against the backdrop of a cleanly roasted java. Seemingly, coffee would simply overpower the booze. If mixed in proper proportion, however, they encourage each other to shine.
Surprisingly, there are not enough bars in the city serving tequila-based coffee cocktails. One notable exception is in Bushwick, where Montana’s Trailhouse whips up their Tail Dragger. The $10 drink combines agave spirit with cold-brew iced coffee and a dash of demerara. Served on the brunch menu, it’s a wicked fine way to kickstart the day.
Over in midtown, Middle Branch’s Mathew Resler has fashioned his own tipple of caffeinated agave. The Flat White Reviver melds reposado with coffee-infused Campari, vermouth and an absinthe cream float for a Central American spin on a Negroni. Infusing the traditional Italian bitter aperitif, Resler takes two tablespoons of Vittoria Italian Style Dark coffee grounds to one liter Campari for one hour, before finely straining all the granular residue.
As any high-end craftsman, he’s fairly particular about his ingredients. “Vittoria coffee has a beautiful Italian-style roast that pairs wonderfully with a reposado tequila as they share similar characteristics, full of caramel and chocolate,” says Resler.
If infusions seem daunting, remember: Both coffee and tequila are commonly available in the average household. It’s easy enough to experiment with more pedestrian DIY variations. I recommend a simple concoction called the Joelisco, which hardly requires an advanced degree in mixology:
Depending on how your day is going, take between one to two ounces of your favorite reposado (I use Partida) and add it to about five ounces of strong, black coffee — either cold-brewed or hot-. Add a dash of agave or even maple syrup, a smidgen of milk, and a light sprinkling of cinnamon to top it all off. If you’re feeling fancy, go ahead and garnish it with a cinnamon stick. Since you have so many lying around your kitchen cupboard.
Regardless of the temperature, the end result is exceptionally drinkable. An ever-so-slight sweetness is washed away by way of roast. And the slight spark of tequila binds with the cinnamon spice for an unexpected treat. Repeat as necessary.
If you’re freaking out because July is coming to close, we feel your pain. Here are five ways to feel better about it, including one containing a little vitamin B: bacon, beer, and a ballpark.
Bacon and Beer Classic, Citi Field, 123-01 Roosevelt Avenue, Queens, Saturday, 11 a.m.
The Mets cause plenty of heartburn, so it makes perfect sense that the Bacon and Beer Classic makes its only New York stop at the Amazins’ stadium. Revelers can select from either a brunch or evening session; you’ll taste a number of tasty bacon dishes and craft beers either way. Participating restaurants include Strip House and Ottomanelli Brothers, and you’ll find brews from the usual local suspects plus a variety of out of towners, like California’s Stone Brewing Co. Ticket packages start at $39.
Luzzo’s Pizza Cart, multiple locations, Saturday
Luzzo’s pizza is going mobile this weekend with the debut of its custom street cart, which will offer free warm slices of Neapolitan pie throughout the weekend. Track the cart’s location in the East Village via Luzzo’s Twitter handle, @PizzaByLuzzos, and #LuzzosPizzaCart.
Summer Luau Pig Roast and Dance Party, Fitzcarraldo, 195 Morgan Avenue, Brooklyn, Saturday, 11 a.m.
This all day affair featuring surf rock and a limbo contest has all the benefits of the beach without the sandy aftermath. Add in a giant pig, drinks, and piña colada jello shots, and you’ve got yourself a leisurely Saturday in Bushwick. Tickets start at $20 if you plan on just enjoying the entertainment, while $40 gets you access to food and drink tickets; reserve via the event’s website.
Tequila Fest, Tequila Park at Hudson, 356 West 58th Street, Saturday, 3 p.m.
This outdoor patio is offering guests a taste of six tequilas along with an assortment of bites like tuna poke tacos and pineapple glazed skirt steak. To cap the meal off, boozy ice cream by Tipsy Scoop will be available while live musical performances from a DJ and band will take place throughout the afternoon. Tickets start at $50 and can be purchased through the venue’s website.
Sunday Night Lobster Boil, Hearth, 403 East 12th Street, Sunday, 6 p.m.
Few meals represent summer in the northeast better than boiled lobster, which is why Marco Canora is making the end of the weekend a little easier with a special three-course menu. For $68, guests can enjoy appetizers of tomato and watermelon salad along with smoked bluefish pâté; a one-pound lobster and traditional sides follow. Reservations are required and can be made by calling the restaurant.
Now that you’ve swapped weekend warrior stories, it’s time to start thinking about how to get through this Monday through Friday. You could catch up on (or get started with) all those TV shows you’ve been hearing about, but who wants to risk cabin fever in the heat? Get out of the house with one of this week’s top food events.
Some Like It Hot Dinner, Louro, 142 West 10th Street, Monday, 7 p.m.
In another installment of Chef David Santos’ weekly Nossa Mesa Supper Club series, patrons will get a chance to find their spice threshold–and sweat to something besides the oldies–when they dine on six globally diverse courses including papaya salad with homemade Thai chili vinegar. Dinner is $55 per person and is BYOB. Reservations can be made by calling or e-mailing the restaurant.
31 Days of German Riesling Concert Cruise, Skyport Marina, East 23rd street and FDR Drive, Tuesday, 8 p.m.
Riesling fanatics have flocked to Paul Grieco’s Terroir Wine Bar all summer long for the sixth annual Summer of Riesling, and the festivities continue with an evening cruise of New York Harbor featuring–what else–bottomless Riesling. Get your fill while you dance to live music; food will also be available for purchase. Tickets are $51.22 per person.
National Tequila Day, multiple locations, Wednesday
College co-eds celebrate tequila with lime wedges, salt, and body shots while spirits geeks taste it with seriousness and contemplation. No matter which side of that spectrum you favor, celebrate the agave spirit this Wednesday at one of the city’s fine drinking establishments, some of which are running thematic specials. Gemma, for instance, will offer a special Mexican Mule in the form of Qui extra añejo (extra aged) tequila with bitters, golden ginger, and an orange twist; all Village Pourhouse locations will roll out a $10 Sol beer and tequila shot combo.
Bonus: Make exceptional daiquiris? You’re invited to participate in this weekend’s Daiq-Attack daiquiri-making competition put on by the Claque. Mixologists of all levels are welcome to enter. The competition is Sunday at the Huckleberry Bar; for more details or to sign up, e-mail email@example.com. Registration closes tomorrow.
According to a infographic by Target 10, a gay-focused agency for top-tier consumer brands, gay people drink, dine out, and party more. The survey was based on a Experian Simmons data set with about 33,000 people polled. Not only are gays and lesbians more likely to consumer certain alcohol, but they’re also more likely to consumer larger volumes of alcohol.
In terms of food, they’re more open to trying new eats compared to their straight counterparts. The data shows that 68 percent of gay men enjoy eating foreign foods. Lesbians are at 52 percent, straight men are at 43 percent, and straight women are at 46 percent.