Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Highbrow Cocktails (my own and my love for others')

Although they were one of the big trends of 2007, I have always liked creative handcrafted cocktails. I think the infamous Milk and Honey in Manhattan’s Lower East Side was the first place to offer such libations, and, because I’m sooo cool, I used to have their phone number and have been there a few times – of course, this was a number of years ago, before they got really popular and started changing their number like every month because people were posting it on the internet. The owners of M&H then opened Little Branch, for which you don’t need a phone number to get in, and, although I’ve only been once, I think it’s just as good as – if not better – than the original (probably because it is stripped of all pretenses).

There are now a handful of other bars in NYC that specialize in such cocktails, but I think my favorite handcrafted cocktail bar of the moment is Bramble. It’s in Edinburgh. Scotland. I read about this place in some magazine I found on the train from Glasgow to Scotland, and I decided that we had to go there. It’s a relatively new place, and it’s somewhere I would totally hang out if I lived in Edinburgh. The place is wonderful – it's a tiny subterranean space with lots of nooks, banquettes, dark wood, and candles – but the real draw is the amazing cocktail menu and the attention to detail.

We went on a Friday around 4:30 (apparently Scots get out of work at 4), so there weren’t too many people in there – yet. It took me over 10 minutes to figure out what I wanted – among the 20+ options were a blueberry concoction served in a teacup, a mix of whiskey, cinnamon-banana puree, and vanilla, and an avocado and agave martini. I settled on a lavender and rose martini that was made with, among other things, raspberry vodka and rose water. The lavender, interestingly, wasn’t in the cocktail itself, but rather floating on top of the drink, so that when I took a sip, I could smell the lavender buds while I tasted the other components of the drink. Brilliant. The bf stuck with the bar’s namesake, a Bramble, which came to us as a tall soda glass filled with crushed ice, over which Plymouth gin was poured. Right before it was served to us, it was topped off with crème de mure and a fresh blackberry. It was definitely a simple cocktail, but it was impeccably executed. When I went up to get our drinks, I couldn’t help but notice the attention to detail in all the drinks – the bartender had tons of tupperware containers filled with fresh ingredients, be it a fruit puree, flavored syrup, fresh fruit, or fresh herbs. And at £6 each, they were no more expensive than what you would expect to find at any of the similar places in NYC, even with the horrible exchange rate.
So now that I have gone on and on about my love for inventive cocktails… Because I am not one to be content with an uncomplicated cocktail, when I was mixing up some of my own cocktails on Friday night, I decided to make a pomegranate-green tea cocktail. (I like how lately I have resorted to copying myself.) I went to get the bottle of pomegranate molasses, which is on top of my fridge and hard for 5’4” me to see, but instead I grabbed my bottle of rose water. I figured I’d add a splash to the shaker (ok, I actually don’t have a shaker and I use a Nalgene bottle, will someone please buy me a shaker for my birthday) and see what happened. A very tasty green and red cocktail is what happened. The flavors were really well-balanced, with the tartness of the pomegranate nicely balancing the mellowness of the green tea, and the rosewater providing a delicate floral flavor. And what of the name? Take a look at the photo – I don’t think it needs any further explanation.
Martian Love
(serves 2)
5 ounces vodka
1 teaspoon matcha powder
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 teaspoons rose water
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
5-6 ounces soda water
2 teaspoons pomegranate arils (about 16)
4 dried pink or red rosebuds*
* I got these from the Soho location of Pearl River, an awesome emporium of all things Chinese. You can order them online from Pearl River or from this website, and I’m pretty sure that any good tea shop or Chinese would have the
Fill a shaker with ice. Add all the ingredients except for the soda water, pomegranate arils, and rosebuds. Shake well and strain into two ice-filled highball glasses. Top off each glass with soda water and gently stir to combine. Top off each glass with half of the pomegranate arils (they will sink, so put them on top of the ice cubes) and 2 rosebuds.


kristen said...

M&H changed their phone number like 3 times in 3 months cause when they failed their department of health inspection and got shut down, the DOH published the number, which, at the time, was only a month old.

i had done a good job of keeping up with it until that point, too... dammit.

Doug said...

When is your birthday...that seems like a cheap gift that I could buy

Dr.Gray said...

The martian love looks interesting. When you use the matcha for the cocktail does it dissolve well? I have always been worried about it being clumpy in cold liquid. Or is there a special kind of matcha for this?

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