5 for '11
Jan. 6, 2012 6:25 pm
Updated: May 10, 2012 5:39 pm
A friend asked the other day, do I have a favorite cocktail?
Of course, what it is kind of depends on the particular evening and the way the day has angled into it. A hard, sharp geometry means whiskey, surely, most likely a simple version of an Old Fashioned--just a slight bit of super-fine caster sugar, a couple-three
dashes of angostura bitters, a splash of water, bourbon or rye, maybe a wee swath of orange peel. A more gentle, softer slant into the cocktail hour can require a clean, clear martini, the kind with the smoothed-out edges, or better yet maybe a negroni cocktail.
And on days when I'm not clear on how I feel about the day's journey to the cocktail hour, I leave myself the option of switching out my negroni’s gin with bourbon, making it, then, a boulevardier.
So those would have to be my top four drinks. If we want to make it a clean five, let's add the sazerac. Possibly the manhattan, too. At any rate, those would be my top 5 or 6 cocktails. But this being the end of one year and the start of a new, I began to
wonder about the five best individual cocktails? The best 5 of 2011?
It was an easy year for picking, really. I was lucky enough to have traveled this year. And so I can say that most of these cocktails were consumed in unfamiliar cities under mostly unharried conditions. So there was something special about them to begin with.
At any rate, here are the five, in uncertain order.
5.) Sherry Cobbler. Tales of the Cocktail. Vancouver, Canada. March.
I'd never had one of these before. As cocktails go, the cobbler is lowish alcohol and refreshing and not at all the appropriate cocktail for Vancouver in March. But the drink, made with small pebbles of ice (cobbles, if you will) really showed off the importance
of good ice in a cocktail. Since then, I have seen countless articles and heard repeated mentions of the importance of high-quality ice in a cocktail. But it was that Sherry Cobbler at that cocktails event, back in March, when I became a real believer.
4.) Negroni. Liberty Bar, Seattle. April or May.
Liberty is one of the great bars in Seattle, perhaps America, and, as it happens, it is positioned in such a way that, from the back door of my apartment, I could almost surely throw a stone, were I to really rear back and chuck, through its front windows.
Fortunately, there hasn't seemed to be any point in attempting this feat. It should also be clear that Liberty, should it ever come to this, is within crawling distance of home. I assure you, it will not come to that. However, keep in mind that the negronis
at Liberty are barrel-aged and deeply, deeply, unusually delicious and could tempt a fella with less willpower than myself to keep on keeping on even after the keeping on has caught up with ’im.
3.) Delicious whiskey drink of forgotten specifics. Pegu Club, New York City. June.
This was one delicious whiskey drink. But I cannot remember the details of the drink; neither the name of the cocktail nor any of the particulars come to me. It was finely crafted, though, and the scene had me in the mind of someplace far away, which of course,
my being from Seattle, and this being NYC, it already was, but I mean even farther away--other side of the world far away. I was also at the very front end of a nice long vacation, with all the possibility of the trip still laid out before me. That cocktail
had a very nice feel.
2.) Bitter Redemption. Longman & Eagle, Chicago. December.
I just wrote about this place. Another bourbon cocktail, this one included amaro bitters (the Italian digestif), and it was the perfect night capper after a late-ish dinner, settled the belly before it tucked me into bed, which, as luck would have it, was just
up the stairs above the din
of the bar in a tiny but comfortable room. Honorable mention here would have to go to the corn whiskey bloody "Larry" that L&E served at brunch with a beer chaser--it puts a real spit-shine on the day, particularly when paired with the fried chicken and waffles.
1.) Negroni. Rooftop bar overlooking the Roman Forum, Rome. June.
Why this would be my number 1 cocktail of the year probably needs no explanation. Or justification. The particulars of the drink might not have mattered all that much, considering the scene. But the drink itself was done just right. And after a long day of
ancient city--Rome has been a city for twenty-eight centuries; that is staggering!--this negroni, prepared in the Italian way, with nice large squares of ice and a slice of orange, bid us a sweet (and slightly bitter, appropriately) farewell. This was our last
night in Italy--the very end of the trip that began, more or less, at the Pegu in NYC. Nudged along by the negroni, we sat looking off at the ruins, SLS and I, plotting our return to the Eternal City. Or not just our return but a mad scheme to actually live
there for an extended stretch. (I’ll have to get back to you on how that pans out.)
So that's the top five for 2011. A very good year. Arguably the best ever! The thing I notice, of course, is that my favorite cocktail--the simple Old Fashioned--isn't even represented here. Good thing there's always next year.
*Immediately after posting this, I realized I'd forgotten the mint julep at the Modern in Boise. That was in September. And the drink was beautiful, with heaps of perfect crushed ice, on a
very hot day. Perfect. This has to be on the list. So let me tack it on as a bonus beverage.
cocktails at the modern