Bartender Style is a collaboration between Bit by a Fox and photographer Rose Callahan. This monthly series, exclusively on the Bit by a Fox blog, will explore and document the personal style of some of the best bartenders in New York City and beyond. This month, we’ve featured the brilliant Masahiro Urushido of Manhattan’s Saxon + Parole.
New York City is home to some of the most stylish people around. And, there is no shortage of creative expression, sartorially and otherwise, exhibited behind the many cocktail bars peppering this city. There are stylish bartenders aplenty…
An exhibitionist persona, a peacock quality must be assumed by the bartender before taking the stage behind the stick to perform for the evening. Presentation is key. Not only for the meticulously crafted drinks involved, but for the presenter as well.
But we all know that it’s only when style and substance converge that something sublime really happens.
As we hone in on some of the city’s standouts for this Bartender Style series, we are discovering how skill and presentation behind the bar, along with self-expression are combined to create a bartender’s personal style. Masa Urushido, Bar Manager at Saxon + Parole and the reigning Chivas Masters Global Bartending Champion, is a perfect example of this skill/style convergence.
One of the things we love about Masa’s personal style, besides his dazzling smile, incredible warmth and all around sparkly personality, is his ability to make it all seem so effortless.
From his clean and classic Americana aesthetic…
…to his swift and masterful ice carving skills.
Masa has perfected a sense of ease and confidence behind the bar
…and he looks damn sharp doing it!
Growing up in Nagano, Japan, spending his days snow boarding and delivering pizza, little did young Masa know that in just a few short years after finishing high school in Toyko, he’d be working his way up from food runner to head bartender at one of the hottest spots in town, Tableaux. It was there where his passion for cocktails took root. Over the next 6 years, Masa immersed himself in the craft, learned the art of ice carving, and gained the necessary skills to compete against some of the best bartenders in the area. In 2008 at the age of 26, Masa made the move to New York City to go to school. But before his big move, his former boss reached out to Paul Franich, brand ambassador of 42Below Vodka, who then connected him to famed mixologist, Naren Young. That relationship turned out to be a fortuitous one; Naren became Masa’s mentor and then invited him to be a part of the award-winning bar program at Saxon + Parole.
In 2013, Saxon + Parole won World’s “Best Restaurant Bar” at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. Esquire named it one of The Best Bars in America, 2014, and the beverage program continues to be recognized as one of the best in the country.
Masa is drawn to sturdy, often U.S. made pieces that last. He rarely buys clothes but when he does, he is willing to spend on quality. His wardrobe skews to the utilitarian, slightly sentimental, and well worn. The same can be said for his bar tools.
Some of Masa’s favorite tools of the trade are his Hawthorne strainer with extra tight coils, so it catches all of the little bits, a Japanese knife specific for ice carving, with his name engraved on it, given to him in London from his friend Theo Watt, and a bar spoon gifted to him from top Shanghai bartender, Cross Yu…
…and we can’t forget his Moleskine notebook that he uses to sketch out cocktail recipes. He keeps one a year and has total of 10 kept over the course of his bartending career.
The day that we came into Saxon + Parole for Masa’s photo-shoot, they were just about to roll out the gorgeous spring cocktail menu.
Of course, we needed to sample them all! The Spring Daiquiri, Agave Cooler and the Russian Spring Punch were not only stunning but crazy delicious. Our absolute favorite was the fresh and bright green Spring Daiquiri with muddled snap peas and lemon thyme syrup.
Luckily Masa was willing to share the recipe with all of us!
The Spring Daiquiri
2 oz Cana Brava Rum
3/4 oz lime juice
1/2 oz Nardini Cedro
1/2 oz lemon thyme simple syrup
3 fresh sugar snap peas
Method: muddle sugar snap peas in the lemon thyme simple syrup. Add all ingredients and shake with ice. Double strain into frozen glass.
Glass: large coupe
Garnish: halved sugar snap peas and tarragon salt (half rim)
Cinco de Mayo is less than a week away. Are you ready to worship at the alter of Tequila and all things ending with ‘rita or ‘mole or…’aco? I mean, this is what the Mexicans fought for, right??
According to just about every food and drink publication as of late, you’re either in the Margarita or the Paloma camp. At least this is what the booze bullies WANT us to think! Don’t make me choose between these two agave delights, mind police! You are not the boss of me, mainstream media!
The Margarita continues to be the most popular cocktail in the states; You can pretty much get one anywhere. It might be a technicolor monstrosity made with crappy sour mix and served with an upside down bottle of cheap tequila bobbing out of it, but you’re likely able to find a Margarita pretty much anywhere hard liquor is served. And when it is made correctly, it’s pretty much the perfect cocktail. I will defend the Margarita, people! The Paloma (Spanish for dove) on the other hand, while even simpler to make – tequila & grapefruit soda, maybe a squeeze of lime, has always been a little off the radar. But it’s been getting more popular all the time, hence the Paloma/Margarita battles we’ve been seeing so much of these days. And everyone loves an underdog. But you don’t have to give up one to love another. That’s what I keep telling myself. I may have commitment issues…
So, here we are: The Bitter Paloma, a little Italiano twist with the addition of bittersweet Campari and aromatic basil. This pink-hued refresher will have you dreaming of luxuriating in the coastal town of Veracruz, in the gulf of Mexico, where there happens to be a very large Italo-Mexican population. See what I did there? I think I made that work, right?
And because this is a special occasion with Cinco de Mayo and all, I wanted to use a very special tequila, Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia.
This limited edition bottle is something special, considered the world’s first extra-añejo tequila and the finest bottle coming from the Jose Cuervo family’s private collection.
Each bottle is handcrafted, numbered, dated and sealed in wax, and every year the Cuervo family commissions a different Mexican artist to design the new collectible box for Reserva de la Familia. The artwork on the box of this edition was created by Carlos Aguirre.
I had a chance to try Reserva de la Familia for the first time just last week at an event introducing this year’s limited edition bottle and the art inspired by the brand. This tequila is the real deal. As I mentioned on Instagram, it has an almost fine Cognac quality, definitely meant for sipping and savoring. So, why would I put this in a cocktail, you ask? I’m sure the purists out there are tsk tsking all over their computer screens right now. But, why WOULDN’T I want to try this in a cocktail?! It only makes a cocktail THAT much better to have a top-tier spirit added. With fresh squeezed Marsh White grapefruit juice and the brightest, greenest basil you ever did see from this week’s box from Quinciple, this is one top shelf Paloma, my amigos. You can recreate it using another tequila, but I strongly recommend going for quality.
The Bitter Paloma
1 1/2 oz Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Tequila
1/2 oz Campari
1/2 White Grapefruit (juiced)
1/2 oz Lime Juice (lime wedge for garnish)
1/2 oz Agave Nectar
3-4 leaves Basil
Combine the tequila, Campari, grapefruit and lime juice, agave nectar and 2 basil leaves in an ice-filled shaker. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a glass filled with ice, top with soda water, and garnish with lime wedge and basil leaves.
VERY IMPORTANT NEWS!
The Maker’s Mark Pinterest #JulepOff board is live and voting (re-pinning) has begun! Please re-pin the Mango Ginger Mint Julep from the Maker’s Mark page, using the hashtags #MakersMark and #JulepOff. We have until this Friday, May 1 to secure as many re-pins as possible and only one vote per Pinterest handle will be counted towards the final tally!
And we’re off to the races! We’re a little over a week away until the Kentucky Derby and, as usual during this time of year, I’ve been a little obsessed with Mint Juleps. But this year is especially exciting because I’ve been tasked with the challenge by the good folks at the venerable Kentucky bourbon company Maker’s Mark, (maybe you’ve heard of it?!) to come up with the most delicious twist on the Mint Julep evah! Sweet baby bourbon, I love a challenge. As part of their #JulepOff contest, I’ve decided to submit for all y’alls approval, the Mango Ginger Mint Julep.
Place all your bets, people. The gun is about to go off and this one is a sure thing!
I’ve tried ginger syrup (in place of powdered sugar or simple syrup) in a mint julep before, with much success. But, the addition of muddled mango in this version makes this dark horse win by a nose.
If you’re throwing a Derby Party, you’ll need to have a batch of Juleps on hand, so you can attend to your guests, the race and your fabulous hat instead of making individual drinks all afternoon. So, this recipe is enough to serve 10-12 people:
1. Make the Ginger Syrup:
Ginger Syrup – makes about 1.5 cups
1 cup of chopped ginger (no need to peel for this)
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
In a large stockpot, bring the ginger, water and sugar to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover the pot and let everything steep and cool to room temperature. When the syrup has completely cooled, strain the syrup, pressing the ginger to release as much liquid as possible. After straining, you can set aside the ginger solids for other uses, or discard. Store the syrup in the fridge until you are ready to use. Should keep for about 3 weeks.
2. Marry the syrup with the bourbon:
Ginger Whisky Julep Mix – Makes about 10-12 drinks
1 750 mL bottle of Maker’s Mark
1 cup Ginger Syrup (You can use less or more depending on taste from the batch you made)
Combine together and refrigerate for 24 hours to marry flavors.
3. For the finished drink you’ll need:
- Ginger Whisky Julep Mix
- 1/2 cup chopped Mango for muddling, cubed Mango for garnish
- Bunches of mint leaves to muddle and for garnish
- Candied ginger for garnish
- Garnish skewers
- Crushed ice (If you don’t have access to crushed ice, you can use these Cubette Mini Ice Cube Trays that I’m infatuated with. They create the teensiest little cubes (cubettes!) that work well for this drink.
- Silver Julep Cups!
- Straws – When using a straw, make sure that it is cut to just an inch above the glass so your face gets a head on collision with the gobs of mint in the glass when sipping your julep!
Preparation: Add a few cubes of mango and some mint to the bottom of a julep cup and lightly muddle. Fill the cup halfway with crushed ice and stir. Fill the rest of the cup with heaps of ice. When the outside of the julep cup is nice and frosty, pour the Ginger Mint Julep Mix over ice. Generously add sprigs of mint leaves for garnish. Skewer candied ginger and mango for additional garnish.
On Your Maker’s Mark…Mango Ginger Mint Julep
And, just in case you go through that batch, here’s the recipe to make an individual drink:
Mango Ginger Mint Julep
2 oz Maker’s Mark
1 oz Ginger Syrup
Fresh Mint (to muddle and for garnish)
Cubed Mango (to muddle and for garnish)
Candied Ginger (for garnish)
In a julep cup, lightly muddle a few sprigs of fresh mint and cubes of mango with the ginger syrup. Fill the cup halfway with crushed ice and bourbon, stir. Fill the rest of the cup with heaps of ice. Generously add sprigs of mint leaves for garnish. Skewer candied ginger and mango for additional garnish.
On your mark, get set….NOW GO MAKE THIS DRINK! Cheers, y’all!
Courtesy Manhattan Cocktail Classic
It’s now that most heavenly (and fleeting) time of year again. With New York finally thawing to a survivable temp, the daylight hours stretching into the evening, and the perfumed air of blossoming flowers and trees accompanying our daily walks to the subway, it feels like New York City is in the throes of a full-on springtime celebration. It is truly happy making. Another sign that winter is behind us and we are allowed to set fire to those puffy coats and ratchet looking snow boots? The return of New York’s Boozith Fair, Gotham’s Cocktailapalooza, the City’s Boozeachella…I’m talking about The Manhattan Cocktail Classic, you guyssss! It is back! And it’s a pretty big deal. It is also pretty happy making.
Courtesy Manhattan Cocktail Classic
While we are almost exactly a month away, this year’s MCC runs from May 16-19, tickets have been getting scooped up for a few weeks now…
Part annual cocktail convention, part gigantic, city-wide cocktail party, it is a fully comprehensive peek into the current and exciting spirits industry. If you are someone involved in the booze biz in any way or if you’re just a New Yorker who appreciates a well made cocktail, you have most likely taken part in this enormous industry event that includes distillery tours, spirits tastings, seminars and panels, and even drinks specials throughout the city! It’s a marvelous time of year. But the most exciting, glamorous, and most inclusive event that isn’t dominated by industry people, would be MCC’s Opening Night Gala. This black tie extravaganza, the ultimate cocktail party, welcomes upwards of 3,000 people all dressed to the nines and surrounded by just about any tipple that their heart’s desire.
Courtesy Manhattan Cocktail Classic
In its 6th year, the MCC is under new management and they have bigger and boozier plans than ever. The most notable change is that they have moved the Gala taking place this year on Saturday, May 16th from the Great Hall at the New York Public Library to the iconic and newly renovated Cipriani Wall Street.
Courtesy Manhattan Cocktail Classic
Cocktail Classic Productions LLC, the organization that has taken the reigns of MCC this year, is led by CEO and visionary Michael Blatter. He is the driving force behind this year’s event and the future of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. I recently had the chance to interview Michael about his vision for the MCC and the changes to come. Read it! Get your tix! And then get excited to go to this four-day festival celebrating all things cocktail!
Courtesy Manhattan Cocktail Classic
Given your background, the Manhattan Cocktail classic, especially the opening night gala event, seems like the perfect fit. Had you attended MCC in the past? And was there anything that stood out that you knew that you wanted to keep or change?
I have been creating large-scale events for decades, including many for spirits clients, and worked in nightlife and hospitality for numerous years. I was very familiar with the MCC and a long-time fan and I also enjoy a cocktail or two. When the opportunity came to take the reins, I jumped at the chance. It was a natural fit. I’m looking forward to leveraging my expertise in consumer engagement to make this edition the best one ever. My intention is to build upon the integrity and excitement of the MCC to date and, ultimately, I want to ramp up to take the MCC to other U.S. cities and eventually abroad.
What do you think the biggest advantage is in changing the venue for the opening night gala this year from the New York Public Library to the newly renovated Cipriani Wall Street? Do you think will be you’ll be attracting a different audience?
There are several advantages to Cipriani Wall Street. First, it is downtown, where the city’s past and future are coming together. There are many new projects in motion downtown and we wanted to be a part of its energy. Second, we chose Cipriani Wall Street for the Gala because it is a magnificent and iconic Greek Revival structure. The Grand Ballroom has a vast dome and we’ve obtained rare access to its secret subterranean club that includes a screening room, barbershop and billiards room, as well as large vaults from when it was a bank. We expect a lot of MCC regulars, since the festival has become an annual tradition for so many people. That said, we also hope to attract new cocktail fans to attend and become future regulars.
What do you think will be the biggest difference in the MCC with the change in management?
The biggest difference with the MCC’s change in management is the organization’s evolution into a full-scale production company with plans to host a variety of cocktail events in New York and around the country. I’m backed by a team of comprised of MCC veterans, seasoned cocktail experts, spirits industry luminaries and event professionals who are committed to building on the festival’s integrity and enriching the experience for both consumers, as well as partners within and beyond the wider hospitality sector.
You seem to already have established relationships with many of the brands represented at the gala. Are there any new guys that you’re bringing in? Any particular spirits brands/venues/cocktail personalities that you’re especially excited to work with?
Every brand brings something unique to the MCC and we’re excited to work with all of them. We are working with brands of every size, both festival veterans, as well as newcomers. We want to build on existing relationships and widen the field to create new ones.
What have you found to be the biggest challenge so far since taking over the reigns of MCC?
The biggest challenge so far since taking over the reins has been the timing. There are a lot of moving pieces to coordinate, but given my decades of event experience, I’m totally in my element and I have the exact team in place to execute everything smoothly.
What are you looking most forward to in May?
In May, I’m looking forward to staging a spectacular and truly memorable MCC and to attendees and brands saying that this one was the best MCC ever.
Bartender Style is a collaboration between Bit by a Fox and photographer Rose Callahan. This new, monthly series, exclusively on the Bit by a Fox blog, will explore and document the personal style of some of the best bartenders in New York City and beyond. Kicking off this series, and right on the heels of their James Beard nomination for Outstanding Bar Program, we have chosen to profile the beyond dapper gents behind one of the most stylish bars around, Maison Premiere in Brooklyn, New York.
The bar is a stage. And all of us imbibers merely players. But the bartender? The bartender is the star of the show.
There is something extremely theatrical about cocktail slinging. It’s no wonder performers of all kinds have always gravitated to the business and craft of cocktails. The renaissance of classic cocktails in recent years, has had people embracing quality made, hand crafted drinks, which in turn, has brought much more attention to the bartenders as expert craftsmen (and women).
The bartender is being called upon to be more creative than ever, at times eclipsing the celebrity chef in innovation as well as press mentions. We are now living in the age of “Startenders” – celebrity drink slingers, mixologists and personalities. And, as anyone who has ever sidled up to a craft cocktail bar can attest, the creativity and flair that produces inventive and aesthetically pleasing cocktails, is very often translated sartorially.
This self-expression extends to twisty mustaches, pin curls and colorful tattoos, yes, but style is more than all that. It’s the tools involved, techniques used and all around ceremony and performance: a service style. Most of the women and men who have risen in the ranks of this cocktail revolution, and are at the top of their game, no matter what their style, would probably all agree on one thing; It’s all about the guest.
The best bartenders already know that the style adopted and cultivated behind the bar is as much a part of the customer’s experience as the feel of that bar stool they’re perched upon, or the level and tone of light that flickers from the candles and wall sconces and bounces off the prettied faces all gathered under one roof. Every piece of the equation is experiential.
Sometimes the style behind the bar is refined by the environment itself. This can be said with certainty when it comes to the spectacularly romantic Maison Premiere in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Owners Joshua Boissy and Krystof Zizka opened their absinthe and oyster bar in 2011, designing it to feel like the lobby of an old hotel in New Orleans’ French Quarter. But the marble-topped horseshoe bar that dominates the front room, and the first thing you see upon walking through the doors, has a distinct Parisian quality. They’ve since expanded their menu to include more food items, and the cocktail list, while still favoring the green fairy, has expanded as well, and changes with the seasons. The spare, elegantly worn space is fairly light and bright for a cocktail bar and is actually absinthe-toned in places. It lends itself to a particular kind of style. One with a nod to the past, a by-gone era where ladies painted their lips in jewel tones and wore flowers in their hair and gentlemen suited up with pocket squares and sported tie bars…and upheld a sense of etiquette and decorum.
For our very first Bartender Style profile, Rose and I knew that we had to feature the exquisite Maison Premiere and the extremely well dressed gents who help to make walking into that place feel otherworldly.
Meet Head Bartender and Beverage Director Maxwell Britten, Head Bartender William Elliot and Service Director, Ben Crispin.
Maxwell, Will and Ben are perfect representatives of Maison Premiere and the style that goes along with it. They might all get their haircuts from an equally vintage-influenced bloke down the street, Russell Manley of Ludlow Blunt, inspiring clients to ask for the Maison Premiere haircut, but they each have their own distinct style.
Will has been a bartender for 11 years, four of them have been at Maison since it opened. He primarily shops in thrift stores like Beacon’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange, but gravitates towards a more modern aesthetic. He doesn’t like to be too time specific and ends up favoring neutral pieces. Hermés is Will’s preferred tie designer and he brings bags of them to work. Like many of the men at Maison, tie bars and vintage collar bars are always in rotation. Some of his work style is primarily utilitarian – like using arm bands to adjust cuff length on a shirt, rolling up the right sleeve for cleaning purposes and tucking his tie into a shirt or vest so it does not dip into the sink when washing glasses. On his off days, Will wears mostly black since Maison is “all about color”.
Maxwell brought Will on board to help open Maison four years ago, and had only started bartending four years before that. But the cocktail program he’s developed at Maison belies his years. Just ask the James Beard Foundation.
All you really need to know about Maxwell is that he wears a suit jacket for most of the service. He’s that committed. When developing the aesthetic behind the bar, he gravitated towards classic mid-century tailored suits. He favors bright, flashy colors when it comes to his socks and ties. And while his style has evolved since he’s been at Maison, he has always been known for his suspenders.
The stakes were raised, however, when Ben came on board…
As Maison Premiere’s Service Director, Ben is truly the face of the bar, and often one of the first faces guests will see. And, he takes his job very seriously. He has never been a bartender, however he is their ambassador. Ben is the bartender’s representative when they have nary a moment for a chat. A liaison between the bartender and guest, he lovingly collects the stories and history of the bar, and is a font of knowledge when it comes to the eras in which many of the cocktails on the menu originate from. He is also a sort of style curator for Maison Premiere.
There has been a culture that has developed within Maison Premiere, stylistically. And much of this is due to Ben’s presence. When Ben came on board three years ago, his elevated everyday dress choices and attention to detail style-wise, created a certain level of friendly competition among the men. This one-upmanship pushed them all to hone their own personal style further. But that hasn’t kept them from looking out for one another. Ben prefers Ferragamo ties and the other guys will keep a look out for him. And if Ben finds a Hermés tie, he knows it’s going to Will.
Ben describes his style as Vintage Americana and takes his cues from the Japanese and their fascination in American made products. He’s into well crafted, handmade boots, and finds vintage Allen Edmonds shoes off eBay. Ben says that he often discovers gems like a Savile Rowe dress suit at Goodwill because other people are not looking for men’s items from the 20s, 30s and 40s.
In the hiring and training of staff over the years, Ben notes that they have developed a lot of “style rules” at Maison. And they are specific!
Maison Premiere Style Uniform
For the female hosts and servers – high contrast patterned tights with a black pencil skirt, off white blouse in a vintage style and a black blazer. They should wear bright red lipstick and a flower in their hair. For the gentlemen – dark slacks and vintage wingtips, simple light-colored dress shirt, a patterned tie and a dark vest. A tie bar and a part in their hair is the last part of the uniform. That is the basics of what they ask the staff to wear. There are times when they have to ask someone to change some elements of their uniform. Most of the time it is a blouse that looks too modern or a tie that is not right with the pattern. They don’t let the staff wear solid tights, plaid or solid ties and dark-colored dress shirts. These rules exist so everyone looks similar but not identical.
One of the questions we’ll always ask for this Bartender Style column will have to do with a favorite cocktail that represents the bar, and its recipe. We’ll leave you with Will’s favorite, á la Louisiane, a complex, Manhattan-style rye and absinthe concoction created in New Orleans in the 1930s. It has been on the menu since they opened their doors. And we see why.
á la Louisiane
4 dashes of Absinthe Verte
4 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
1/2 ounce Benedictine
3/4 ounce Carpano Antica vermouth
1 3/4 ounce Rittenhouse rye whiskey
Pour ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake several times. Stir well and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
We are now just DAYS AWAY until the final season of Mad Men is under way. And, it’s been a delicious and boozy ride! Let’s chat about it, you guys. I’m serious, let’s hang out and chat!
Join KitchenParty as we discuss how to “dine like Draper and drink like Sterling.” We’ll chat about our favorite food/cocktail scenes from the show and share authentic recipes from the Mad Men era. Food and cocktails (especially cocktails) have played a supporting role throughout the series. Viewers have enjoyed a culinary journey through the 1960s… and reports are that the final season will take us through the 70s and perhaps beyond.
If you are a fan of the show or Bit by a Fox or 1960s culinary adventures…this celebration of popular mid-century food & cocktails that made the show memorable, is NOT to be missed. Oh, and if you have a working computer that will let you do things like live stream virtual cocktail parties…that’s pretty necessary. And, tuning in to join the live chat is surprisingly easy! Just click on this BakeSpace.Com link right before it’s to start tonight, 5pm PDT or 8pm EDT, and you’re good to go! There are also other ways for you to watch and interact:
Watch on Youtube: http://bit.ly/1Cec5EC
Watch on BakeSpace.com: http://bit.ly/1EYxoLh
Watch on G+: http://bit.ly/1FMyiO3
Chat live with us on twitter using #kitchenparty & #madmen
SOOOO much technology that you can take part in. Me? I’ll just be shaking and stirring and drinking multiple 60s era cocktails, staring into my computer screen and making sure my lipstick stays on throughout the live stream-y thingie. Wheeee!
I’ll be joining Peter Zheutli, co-author of “The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook” Cookbook”, Steve Isaacs, host, Sweet Ride USA and Creative Director BPG Interactive. Co-hosted by Babette Pepaj (Founder BakeSpace.com) & Rene Lynch (Reporter LA Times).
I hope you tune in! Ask questions! Chat it up! And share with us YOUR fave drinkie moments on Mad Men. I know I have a few…
Photo by Getty Images for AMC
It’s a Mad Mad Mad Men World! The countdown has begun on the final seven episodes of one of the most acclaimed and stylish television shows of all time, Mad Men. And, in anticipation of the final season, there has been a number of initiatives around New York City to help us immerse ourselves in the sexy, glamorous, and boozy world of Don Draper, and the men and women of Madison Avenue. The Museum of Moving Image is hosting creator Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men Exhibit through June, and there has been an installation of a Don Draper bench as well as a change in street signs (Mad Men Ave/Don Draper Way) right outside the Time & Life Building, the home of fictional advertising firm Sterling Cooper & Partners.
Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for AMC
But, to really get all of our senses prepared for next Sunday’s premiere episode, this past week New York City has been in the throes of Mad Men Dining Week, where many of us ate and drank our way through the 1960s. From last Monday, March 23rd up until yesterday, the 29th, 34 New York City restaurants participated in this lunchtime promotion that featured 60s style menu items and “liquid lunches” for a cool $19.69.
Since I am a HUGE fan of the show and I have always been aesthetically drawn to the 1960s, AND I also happen to work in the Time & Life Building…I’m pretty sure all of these festivities leading up to the finale were designed JUST FOR ME. In case you haven’t been following me on social media, I DID in fact, partake in many a liquid lunch last week. Let’s talk about it!
Last Monday, my introduction to Mad Men Dining Week was at the classic seafood restaurant, Blue Water Grill in Union Square…
…where I parked myself at the bar for a good hour and a half while, Jason, my skilled and attentive bartender, treated me to my very own Joan Holloway experience. Pardon my fuzzy iPhone pics while I take you on this boozy journey…
Staying within the theme of 1960s style cocktails, Blue Water Grill’s “Liquid Lunch” offerings were two tipples inspired by the era: a Whisky Sour type cocktail and a Vesper:
1 oz Gin
1 oz Vodka
1 oz Lillet
Stirred. Strained into a Martini glass. Onion garnish.
2 oz Canadian Whisky
1 oz Blood OJ
1/2 oz fresh lemon
1/2 oz simple syrup
Shake all ingredients and strain over a large cube in a rocks glass. Brandied cherry garnish.
While both cocktails were delicious, I was partial to the Mad Sour. You can’t go wrong with whisky and blood orange juice. And, you could make a meal out of those brandied cherries! After one Vesper and very little lunch, however, you’d be behaving as inappropriately as Roger Sterling in no time!
The next day, I headed to PJ Clarke’s, the historic saloon on East 55th street that can be seen in episode 8 of the first season Mad Men, “Hobo Code.”
The upstairs dining area, Sidecar, was serving a lunch and drink special. I thought it wise, since I had to go back to work, to keep the cocktails to a minimum this time.
By filling my belly with their signature cheeseburger, famously dubbed “The Cadillac of burgers” by Nat King Cole in the late 1950s, I guaranteed my ability to handle my one boozy indulgence…
While their drink specials included an Old Fashioned and a delicious sounding whiskey, rum and brandy cocktail, I knew I had to get a Sidecar…while I was at Sidecar!
I’m so glad I did! Emily, behind the bar, lovingly prepared this drink like she was making it for Peggy Olsen herself!
1 1/2 oz Cognac
1 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz lemon juice
Add the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake 8 to 10 seconds, until the outside of the shaker is well chilled. Strain into a coupe or cocktail glass.
Garnish with a lemon twist. Sugared rim optional.
While the 21 Club has never actually made an appearance in Mad Men…
…the place is an New York institution, synonymous with classic cocktails, well-heeled patrons and power lunches. It’s no wonder they participated in Mad Men Dining Week! I knew exactly where I wanted to sit – on one of the newly appointed stools at the bar in the back Bar Room.
Apparently, the bar stools were such new additions to the back bar, that I had the honor of being bartender Mark’s first lunch patron! Perched up on one of the best seats in the house, overlooking the entire dining room, I felt even closer to the toys and artifacts dangling from the former speakeasy’s ceiling, that dated back to the 30s, including a toy torpedo boat from John F. Kennedy and a baseball bat from Willie Mays.
I went for the lunch special with a traditional Caesar salad and melt in your mouth braised short ribs over whipped parsnips. And, a Manhattan, of course! Don Draper, eat your heart out!
2 oz Rye Whiskey
1 oz Sweet Vermouth
4-5 dashes bitters
Add ingredients to an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir well, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
For my final Mad Men Dining Week experience, I decided to go all out, and headed to famed French restaurant, Le Cirque.
I’m not kidding around when I say we went all out…
Escargot á la Bourguignonne!
Brisket of Beef with pomme au gratin!
“Ile Flottante – floating island”! (a delicious meringue, cream and berry delight!)
We went for the lunch AND drink special, because…Friday. So, we each started with a Champagne cocktail and then ordered the heavy-duty cocktails second.
Look at that gorgeous Stinger! That cocktail doesn’t look so bad, either! Zing! I ordered a Sidecar for my second drink, but I couldn’t help capturing my lovely lunch date with her perfect Stinger. It’s also a cocktail that has been out of fashion for so long, it was a fun one to be able to try off of the menu. This cocktail, composed of just Cognac and Créme de Menthe, tastes exactly like a grown up after dinner mint. And it was a perfect one to cap off our Mad Men Dining Week.
1 oz Créme de Menthe
Add ingredients to an ice-filled shaker. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
What a great idea to introduce new clientele to these time-honored restaurants, and such a fun excuse to dress up, explore some classic New York establishments and indulge in some liquid lunches! I don’t know how those ad men and women did it back in the day! But I’m willing to bring back the boozy tradition every now and again!
Remember all the way back to a few days ago, when I posted a tutorial for how to make limoncello? And, that part at the end of the post, where I promised to fill you all in about the most perfect Lemon Drop cocktail made from limoncello?? Well, here it is! Sometimes I really come through for you guys.
I mean, look at this gorgeous drop of sunshine:
Tart! Sweet! Balanced! A citrus explosion on every single one of your taste buds! And, all of this can be yours! You just need a few simple ingredients…
Lemon Drops are typically made with Vodka, lemon juice and sugar. Triple Sec is often added for depth of flavor and a little more sweet. The Limoncello Drop on the other hand, uses limoncello in place of sugar and along with the orange liqueur, Grand Marnier, we’ve got the sweet, citrus part covered.
Add a hefty dose of fresh lemon juice and a sugary rim, so it tastes like a boozy version of those lemon candies you had as a kid…
…and you’ll soon arrive at your new fave springtime, summertime, pretending-it’s-not-still-acting-like-wintertime-in-the-middle-of-March cocktail! Hello pretty!
The Limoncello Drop
1 oz Vodka
1 oz Limoncello
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
superfine sugar and lemon wedge to rim glass
To sugar the rim of your cocktail glass, take a freshly cut lemon wedge and slice the middle. Slip the wedge over the rim of the glass where you’ve cut the lemon, and sweep around the entire top of the glass until it is well coated. Gently dip the glass upside down into a saucer filled with sugar until just the tip of the glass is coated.
Shake all ingredients over ice until the outside tin is frosted over. Strain into a well chilled, sugar-rimmed cocktail glass. Add a lemon twist.
Today is technically Spring! But, as is often the case, New York and the greater northeast region for that matter, has not quite gotten the memo. I heard some super mean rumor about it snowing this weekend. Harhar, real funny, guys. Psych! I’m not laughing. Good thing I have my very own batch of liquid sunshine to trick me into thinking I’m really on a boat in Capri with Lolita glasses heading to some blue lagoon.
Limoncello is a sweet, lemon liqueur native to Italy, and is made with lemon peels, sugar and high proof grain alcohol. The commercial stuff is often very cloyingly sweet and doesn’t have that fresh zing that you might get from the home made version. Luckily, this is one of the easiest liqueurs to make at home. It just takes a little time…
I am #blessed to have recently participated in the making of this Homemade Sunny Delight, Booze Edition, while also snagging a bottle for myself. All because my dear friend Catharine is slightly obsessed with all things Limoncello. She’s made it a ton, but this time around, I thought I’d hop onto her lemon train and ride out these last couple of months to see the process firsthand from start to finish. And, I was able to document each of the three steps in order to share it with all of you!
This recipe was adapted by Catharine “from her friend Ryan’s Dad’s recipe, which he got from an Italian professor at an academic conference in Naples.” I think I got that right. I know that sounds pretty far removed, but I saw the original recipe and charming note from the Italian professor, and the basic recipe is pretty intact. Catharine just lengthened the time that the alcohol and lemon peel would hang out together. She found, through research, that it seemed a few weeks was average for that stage.
Catharine’s Limoncello Recipe
What you’ll need:
large glass cannister
zest of 10 lemons (rinsed, ideally organic)
750 ml high proof grain alcohol
2.5 cups water + 2 cups sugar = combine and boil to make a syrup. Cool.
Try to peel the lemon skin very thin, without getting the pith – the white part closer to the fruit, to prevent bitterness.
After all the lemons are peeled, add the alcohol.
Label and then put in a dark, cool spot for two weeks.
Make sure to label it with the date you want to retrieve it as a reminder!
Two weeks later, your alcohol should be fully infused with all of those lemon peels.
Remove the lemon peels from the alcohol and place in a strainer.
Once all of the peels are removed, strain the rest of the lemon zest from the alcohol.
Add the cooled sugar syrup to the infusion.
Store the liqueur at least one month, in a dark spot for all of the flavors to mellow.
After a month…
It’s time to bottle!
Look how beautiful this all turned out!
Limoncello is best served VERY cold. I have most often had it as a digestif – an after dinner treat, but I love to use quality limoncello as a cocktail ingredient. In fact, it wasn’t long after I brought my freshly bottled elixir home with me, that I got cracking on a cocktail. So…stay tuned. Get ready for the most delicious Lemon Drop you’ve ever tasted. This isn’t your college bar’s version!
May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.