It’s been a slow start in the new year over here on IDrunkThat, but Edible Manhattan’s Good Spirits event this week changed all that. For one night, those beloved NYC foodies transformed Le Poisson Rouge into a pop-up cocktail party featuring over a dozen of the city’s hottest restaurants, bars, and lounges in a pairing event – one restaurant to one bar – similar to Craft Beer Week’s Brewer’s Choice event.
“At Good Spirits, Edible’s seasonal cocktail pairing event, we match mixology-minded chefs and food artisans with spectacular, storied spirits (plus some beer, wine and coffee for good measure), asking them to strive for liquid symbiosis. In our estimation, the resonance between tastes and tipple goes far beyond mutually beneficial flavors. We believe getting to know craft spirits at your neighborhood speakeasy or dive bar is no less relevant than following your cauliflower back to the farm, or your bagels, lox and cream cheese back to the baker, fishmonger and dairy.”
Slightly cramped, slightly dark, and slightly frantic, Good Spirit started out with all the makings of a fine cocktail party. The after-work crowd scuttling about to sample their share of small plates and cocktails from several restaurants and bars on my personal boozehound bucket list. Common overheard remarks included “Oh, you have to try this” and “I really want to eat there.”
Personally, I initially wrote the whole thing off as a big cocktail fail. I’m not one for punches, fruity drinks or booze that don’t taste like… er… booze. But there were some saving graces amongst the punch-tastic cocktail list.
My favorite of the fruit-centric concoctions was The King Bee from Red Hook’s own Fort Defiance (above). The cocktail is built around Comb, a honey distilled vodka, that had been infused with darjeeling tea and lemon. It is then finished with just a dash of bitters and a splash of prosecco. The result was a tart, fizzy cocktail with honeycombs on the nose and a subtle earthy finish. The paired deviled egg added little to the cocktail but it did help cut through the richness of the egg.
Beyond the fruity booze, there were a few proper cocktails to be had. The highlight pairing of the evening was a rich marriage between Northern Spy Food Co. and Tuthilltown Spirits. The cocktail, made from Hudson Whisky’s Manhattan Rye, Lillet, and a proper brandied cherry (not those store bought, neon ones) was smooth and earthy with just the right amount of spice. Its edible counterpart, a winter sticky pudding, was a caramel-focused, cooingly sweet dessert with subtle notes of nutmeg and bourbon. While most of the evenings pairings seemed thrown together, this was one of the few that seemed a considered marriage.
The star of the evening, however, was Huckleberry Bar’s New York Times, made from equal parts Death’s Door white whisky, Amaro Ciociaro and Chelsea Brewery’s Tsar’s Revenge Russian Imperial Stout. The unaged whisky was suprisingly smooth and provided a nice backbone for the herbacious Amaro. It all finished with subtle roasted notes from the stout. The cocktail was balanced, strong yet finished smooth… a perfectly balanced drink without being overly showy.
Also notable was the McClure’s Bloody Mary, made simply from Prairie vodka and McClure’s mix. While I still stand by this bloody mary recipe, this is the best mix I have come across yet and will more than satisfy in a flash with its strong pickle flavor, subtle heat and strong peppery notes.
When it came to the small plates, none shone better than the Kahlúa Pork on a Poi Pancake from Lani Kai. Basically a tapas taco, the Kahlúa Pork married tender port with crispy fried onions in a powerful contrast of flavors.
Overall, Edible Manhattan’s Good Spirits was a great cocktail party to kick off another year of exciting drinks and drinkers. Everyone went home happy (and, perhaps, a bit tipsy) and this was a fantastic showing of New York’s promising, young restaurant and cocktail stars. Needless to say, the are at least a few new additions to my boozy bucket list.
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