Tag Archives: cocktails

The Aviary

I took my wife to The Aviary as an early Christmas present. I booked the five course “Cocktails & Canapes” tasting menu dinner about two weeks in advance with a $100 deposit. The cost is $165pp, with an 18% gratuity added at the end (and tax, of course).

That’s crazy expensive, but this is truly a unique drinking and dining experience. I drank and ate things I never would have even thought about. In hindsight, five cocktails was aggressive (but awesome). I think when I go back, I will just order a la carte.

Here is the entire menu, but I will highlight what was selected for us below in the review:

AMUSE

The first thing to come out was an “amuse” drink – a small shot of tastiness that involved lime, rum, and mint.

A few moments later, our first round of cocktails came out with the first course of food.

COURSE ONE

Drinks: Micahlada (left – and yes, that is spelled correctly) and Zombie Panda (right)

Of these two, the Micahlada was my favorite. This is The Aviary’s take on a michelada (beer, spices and tomato juice), made with soy, coriander, Japanese whisky and Evil Twin beer. The Zombie Panda was tart from the lemon, lychee and pisco, and filled with frozen spheres of raspberry juice to sweeten it up.

Food: Pineapple Two Ways

This was a nice way to get the taste buds popping. That brown stuff at the bottom was a mole sauce. I liked it a lot, but my wife wasn’t too taken with it. The black mint garnish was tasty and went well with the watermelon radish and passion fruit.

COURSE TWO

Drinks: How Does Snoop Dog Use Lemongrass (left) and Mimosa (right)

The mimosa was nice because the fruit juice was frozen into ice cubes, so the drink becomes sweeter and more smooth as it sits.

The idea behind the Snoop drink is that Snoop Dogg ends everything with “-izzle” when he talks/raps, so there is a “swizzle” made out of lemongrass, which is used to mix the drink together:

Food: Kampachi Ceviche

This was bright, light and savory, pulling in southeast asian flavors from Thai green curry, heart of palm and coconut. I really enjoyed the briny broth and the coiled peels of red pepper for spice.

COURSE THREE

Drink: Heart of Stone

This was the best drink of the night, and you get about six glasses out of the container. That container is filled with bourbon, tea, Fresno chili, pistachio and peach. As it sits there, the flavors infuse deeply into the bourbon, so each time you refill the glass it tastes a little different. More spices come out, more sweetness too. Amazing.

Food: Pork Belly Curry

This dish was really good, but it could have been excellent with a crunch element. I think the iceberg lettuce discs were supposed to be that element, but they fell short just a bit. Perhaps a fried shrimp chip or crispy egg roll wrapper would do the trick. But the pork belly curry itself? Awesome. The banana and cashew are excellent compliments to the savory.

FROM THE CHEF

Chawanmushi

They’re experimenting with “all times of day” food here at The Aviary, so this is meant to be a breakfast item. It’s velvety smooth, and the smoked abalone within makes you think you’re eating bacon. The pops of flavor from the pickled huckleberries really brighten and balance this seafood porridge custard dish.

COURSE FOUR

Drink: Memphis Half Step

These glasses come to the table upside down on a charred piece of oak cask, filled with smoke. The aroma is awesome. This absinthe and rye cocktail is super smooth with a hint of sweetness.

Food: A5 Miyazaki Wagyu Rib Eye

Clearly my favorite food item of the night. The meat was buttery soft, and the grilled romaine with puffed rice was a great textural pop to go with it.  That yellow sauce is a yuzu mustard. Possibly the greatest mustard ever. 10/10. Wish I had 16 more ounces of this.

COURSE FIVE

Drink: Boom Goes The Dynamite

This was sweet and warm, almost like a port or brandy. It was made with rum, vanilla, violet and rooibos…  and dry ice for the smoke.

Food: Blueberry

Milk chocolate, violet and buttermilk sorbet make this dessert extra decadent. There were some more spheres of raspberry ice on the plate too, rounding out the meal with a call back to the very first cocktail (Zombie Panda). Really nice.

THE OFFICE

After dinner, our waiter Preston took us on a short tour of The Office, the speakeasy behind The Aviary bar staging area (which looks more like a kitchen than a bar).

Here’s what the inside of The Office looks like:

They have a cabinet filled with really old spirits that you can order as well. Super rare.

I will definitely be back to try this place, as well as the Aviary again. So many interesting sounding drinks and food items to try, like the “Science AF,” which looks like a chemistry set, or the “Wake & Bake,” which is a pillow filled with smoke and a drink made with orange, everything bagel, coffee and rye. I snapped a photo of it before they opened the bag filled with smoke:

THE AVIARY
Mandarin Oriental
80 Columbus Circle at 60th Street
New York, NY 10023

Death Avenue

I’ve been meaning to check out Death Avenue because I was always intrigued by the name. Death Avenue was the notorious nickname given to 10th Avenue due to all of the railway deaths that occurred there in the old days, when trains ran vertically up and down the avenue to service the warehouse and meat packing districts.

In any event, the joint is Greek-inspired, but also had some classic American staples like burgers and BBQ.

The cocktail list is excellent.

I tried the Banana Bourbon, which was light and smooth, and definitely banana-infused. My wife tried the Mastiha Mint (Mastiha is a kind of tree – its sap or extract is used in the drink). It was refreshing like a mojito.

We started with fried pickles. Pretty basic. The dips were interesting: a BBQ cause, tzatziki and some kind of hollandaise-isa sauce. The pickles were tasty, but the batter slipped off too easily.

My wife ordered the 8 Hour Octopus app as her entree. This was pricey at about $26, but it was tasty and somewhat substantial enough to eat as an entree if needed.

I had the Feta Burger. This was stacked way too tall, but overall it was a decent enough burger to satisfy my cravings. The oregano fries that came with it were great.

I’d say this was a great place to have a few drinks and snacks, but I’d skip making a whole meal out of it.

DEATH AVENUE
315 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10001

The Fat Monk

The Fat Monk has one of the most incredibly ambitious and delicious looking menus I’ve ever seen. Just about every item sounds unique and awesome, and I pretty much got to try them all.

Chef Rob McCue, who has been honing his art for 25 years, elevates American comfort food by using only the finest ingredients sourced via his close relationships with local artisans. He achieves the unexpected through molecular gastronomy, a style of cooking that you don’t often associate with American comfort cuisine.

And the unexpected delights are not limited to the food here, either. The cocktails are equally as exciting. Cory Goldstein, founder of Muddling Memories, put together an amazing cocktail menu.

We tried a whole bunch, but the standouts for me were the “Emma Stone’s a Ginger” (bourbon, peach, Lapsang Souchong tea, molasses, ginger beer, cookie “snack back”), “Say a Dirty Word” (barrel aged gin, vodka, house dirty brine, white pepper, chili oil, Boursin cheese stuffed olives), and “Paul Bunyan’s Flask” (rye, pine infused maple, Oloroso sherry, Bergamot bitters, apple wood smoke) cocktails. In fact, that’s the order in which I would recommend drinking them, the Emma to start the meal, the Dirty with your main course, and the Flask – which is a treat to see being served – with dessert.

Their PR person contacted me, and we arranged to bring in a crew of savage meat eating wackos to get down on all the tasty shit and post some pics of their joint on Instagram. So here’s what we had:

STARTERS

Oyster Escargot: Yeah – I know. Making you think a little, right? Oysters served with a parsley and pernod crust. Lovely.

Kale Caesar: Ours was more arugula and mixed greens than kale, which I was actually happy about. Kale is a bit woody for my liking. All that said, I didn’t even eat any salad. I had my sights set on tons of other delicious stuff.

Crispy Duck Wings: Crisp on the outside, super tender and fall-off-the-bone on the inside. Really amazing Thai/Viet flavor combo too from the sweet and tangy fish sauce glaze and scallions.

Double Cut Slab Bacon: This delicious shit tasted like spiral ham, but more bacony, if that makes any sense.

Deviled Eggs: That’s a “chicken-fried” oyster on top. The balance of textures here is what really sets this deviled egg apart from all the rest. It was a nice crisp against a velvety smooth egg.

Dungeness Crab Tater Tots: If these were around when I was a kid, I may have never found French fries. They’re like part carb cake, part tot. Really genius.

Shells & Cheese: Really nicely executed adult mac and cheese right here. Smoked bacon and fontina cheese make it decadent, but it’s not too rich to the point where you don’t want to touch your main courses after.

Scotch Egg: Perfection. Just really nicely done. Crispy outside, perfect slightly yolky egg inside. Again, great texture contrast.

Foie Gras Bratwurst: The ultimate mash-up of cheap eats and decadent eats, this is a bratwurst served in a hot dog style potato bun with foie gras, crispy onions and truffle mustard on top. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Delicious.

ENTREES

Schweinshaxe: Good luck trying to pronounce that shit, but I think it kinda sounds like you’re saying “swine shank” with your hand in your mouth, which makes sense considering what this is. Successfully speaking the name of this item is one thing, but I know you’ll succeed wildly at eating it. It’s a pork shank with a crispy-as-fuck skin on the outside and juicy-as-fuck meat on the inside. It’s served with spaetzle and cabbage.

Not a Ramen: This is an American fusion version of ramen. The broth is a beef bone consomme, and it’s served with a soft duck egg, a hunk of tender short rib, marrow and egg noodles. Obscenely good.

Duck Burger: This is actually quite lean, so if you’re trying to be mindful of fat intake, this might be the way to go for you. It still had a robust duck essence without being overly gamey. It’s topped with melted Emmenthaler cheese and shallot confit, and served with house cut fries.

Monk Burger:  This was my favorite between the two burgers; a house blend patty topped with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, shaved red onion and house pickles, served with smoked ketchup and fries.

Fried Chicken Sandwich: I actually didn’t get to try this, but take a look at that amazing batter on the chicken! The chicken itself is breast meat, but it has been pickle-brined. Very inventive!

Bone In Rib Eye: Here we go! This baby was cooked to a perfect medium rare through both the eye and the cap. It also had a pretty decent char-crust on the outside. It was seasoned nicely with flake salt and pepper, and served with roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic and seared exotic mushrooms (my guess is Hen of the Woods). 8/10.

SIDES

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon: The bacon in this was thick cut style, and the smokey, sweet, meat flavor really permeated into the sprouts. Nice execution.

Seared Exotic Mushrooms: These also came with the steak, and were absolutely delicious. Earthy and savory.

House Cut Fries: The fries are pretty great! Usually I see thick fries like this and I’m immediately turned off. These were perfectly fried to a beautiful golden crisp, however, and nicely seasoned.

Also worth mentioning here is the homemade Irish Soda Bread that comes to the table at the beginning of the meal. Really good stuff.

You see how much shit I tried here?!?!? Well, I actually want to go back and try even more stuff. As I said, the menu is bonkers. Give this place a try. You won’t be disappointed.

THE FAT MONK
949 Columbus Ave
New York, NY 10025

Handcraft Kitchen & Cocktails

I had the pleasure of attending an Instagram influencer event at Handcraft last night, and I have to say: I was super impressed with everything I drank and ate. This place really knows their stuff.

The meal started with some buffalo style deviled eggs, which were absolutely delicious.

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They had the same flavor profile you get from good spicy chicken wings, with a pop of hot sauce.

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Then came our first cocktail: Tokyo Drift. This was made with gin, sake, cucumber, lemon and fizz.

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It was really refreshing and slammable, which was nice to pair with the next part of the meal: Handcraft Nachos.

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These are tots, topped with corn, bean chili, pico de gallo, guacamole, chipotle sour cream and cheese sauce. These “totchos” were absolutely fantastic. You definitely need to start your meal with these when you come here.

Next up on cocktails was the Liquid Lunch: watermelon and strawberry gin, basil, balsamic vinegar and lime.

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This baby was like drinking a salad! So savory yet still with a nice pop of sweetness. I loved it.

We drank that with a killer fried chicken sandwich.

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This is up there with Delaney and Fuku+ in terms of taste and quality. It’s topped with pimento cheese, pickled green tomato and kale, served on focaccia.

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The chicken was so tender and juicy inside, and that cheese acted like a sauce to boot. Awesome.

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The final cocktail was a Bourbon Punch: bourbon, amaretto, southern comfort, orange and pineapple.

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The hard liquor really gets balanced out by the sweetness here, and the fruitiness of the drink went well with the next course: The Game Changer.

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This mountain of meat consists of a bison patty and a wild boar patty. Then it gets topped with duck confit, brie and cherry chutney, served neatly on a brioche bun. Amazing. The cherry chutney almost acts like a cranberry sauce, turning this into the perfect Thanksgiving substitute for those of you who despise turkey.

I highly recommend this place, and they have a great beer menu too.

HANDCRAFT KITCHEN & COCKTAILS
367 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10016

Yerba Buena

My sister told me about this place a while back, and she later got me and my wife a gift certificate so that we’d give it a shot. Specifically, she told me to try the “poquito picante” cocktail, made with gin, cucumber, jalapeno and lime. It was really delicious. It had that heat from the jalapeno, but it was rounded out nicely with the sweetness from the lime syrup and then cooled off with the cucumber. My wife tried the “concoction,” a fresh fruit riff on a classic egg white whiskey sour. We ordered both cocktails at the bar while we waited for our table, and we were happy to learn that all drinks were half price for an all-day happy hour at the bar on Sundays.

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We started with a hamachi ceviche. This was fresh and flavorful, and garnished with sesame seeds and dried, puffed corn. It had a mild flavor and wasn’t too overpowering on the citrus.

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We also shared this trio of fries: hearts of palm, avocado and watermelon.

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These were really interesting. The avocado was super creamy, as expected. The hearts of palm had some starchiness to it, about which we were both a bit surprised. They tasted great though. The watermelon was an even bigger surprise, however. It was sweet, yet savory, and crunchy, yet juicy. It went perfectly with the smokey ketchup that was served with these fries.

For her entree, my wife ordered the Lechon Confitado, which is suckling pig with sunchoke-black truffle puree and kale-red chiles.

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This was the winning dish. The pork was cooked perfectly – like a juicy pulled or shredded pork without the over-saucing that typically occurs at BBQ joints. The confit coking method surely helps in that regard. It was topped with some greens and pickled red onion. The earthy and delicious sunchoke puree was drizzled around the plate.

I intended to order the rib eye that was listen on the menu, but they were out. Instead, they offered me a skirt steak, so I gave that a try.

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It was cooked nicely to medium rare, but just wasn’t up to standard with some of the other places I’ve had skirt recently.

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I’d say this came in at about a six out of ten for a combination of flavor and quality. It was juicy, but did have a bit of bleed-out, and lacked a good sear on the outside.

It was served with an avocado, tomato and onion salad, and some yucca fritters.

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For dessert, we shared the “panqueques,” crepes filled with dolce de leche and served with a scoop of ice cream. The menu said it would be pistachio ice cream, which we were excited about, but they gave us chocolate instead.

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In any case, dessert was delicious. The crepes were made fresh, and the dolce de leche was smooth and creamy.

This is definitely a place worth visiting if you’re in the Alphabet City area and looking for a bite or cocktail.

YERBA BUENA
23 Avenue A
New York, NY 10009

MexiCali Sunset

This refreshing cocktail is super easy to make. Here’s what you need to make it:

  • 1 freshly squeezed clementine (or substitute with orange)
  • 1 packet sugar in the raw
  • 1 bottle of spicy ginger beer
  • mezcal (or substitute with tequila, sotol)

Add all ingredients except the ginger beer into a shaker with ice, and shake it the fuck up. Put as much mezcal in as you want! Pour over ice in a low ball glass. Fill it up between half and three quarters full. Then add ginger beer and stir before serving. Garnish with clementine rind to add a pop of bitter into the otherwise sweet drink, and rub the rind around the rim of the glass to get those citrus oils popping with each sip.

Steak Sauce Martini

I came across an amazing drink that Chef Admir from Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse whipped up for the holiday season. It’s called the Steak Sauce Martini.

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Ingredients

  • 1oz Bourbon
  • 1oz Eggnog
  • 1oz White Chocolate Liqueur
  • 1oz Frangelico
  • 1/4 teaspoon Steak Sauce
  • 1 Strip of Bacon (for stirring)

Directions

  1. Smear the steak sauce on the inside of a chilled martini glass.
  2. In a shaker with ice, add bourbon, eggnog, white chocolate liqueur and Frangelico.
  3. Shake and pour into a martini glass. Garnish with strip of bacon.

If its too much work for you to make at home, then take a trip over to Ben & Jacks to try it out.

Winter is Coming

It’s really simple:

  • 1 part Amaretto
  • 1 part Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey Whiskey
  • 1 part Kahlua

Shake up with ice and pour over some rocks. It starts out looking cloudy and light brown, but then it darkens up as it settles. A riff on this if it is too strong is to mix in a little bit of milk, but then the whole dynamic changes.

These were a smash hit on Thanksgiving. I must’ve made a half dozen of them for family members that took a sip of mine and then wanted their own. To me, it tasted like liquid brown sugar. My sister said it tasted like chocolate covered black cherries. My wife said it was a very “Fall/Autumn” drink.

Sweet Cactus

Adding to my repertoire of cocktails made with aloe drink, I went a little deeper into that family of aloe/cactus plant lineage with this mezcal-based drink:

  • 1 part aged mezcal
  • 2 parts aloe drink
  • 1 teapoon agave syrup
  • 1 packet of sugar in the raw
  • a squirt of lime juice

Shake with ice, and serve on ice. Very refreshing.

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Aloe Guvna

Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to make a dent in some booze that I haven’t touched for a while in the liquor cabinet. I offered to make my wife a cocktail and she said “surprise me,” so I figured I would concoct something new and unique.

I have a LOT of scotch, so that was the first ingredient I picked. I took the lemon juice out, and grabbed a packet of sugar in the raw. But it needed something else. I opened the fridge and saw some aloe drinks. Perfect! It has a lychee-ish, grape-ish, elderflower-ish flavor to it, and a bit sweet but refreshing at the same time.

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So I threw one part scotch, two or three parts aloe drink, lemon juice and sugar into the shaker with some ice and went to work shakin’ that shit. The result was a foggy yellow colored drink that was absolutely incredible!

Strong, sweet, refreshing and unique. You can swap the lemon for lime if you want, and you could add a dash of spicy ginger beer if you have it, or perhaps a splash of cherry juice. I garnished with a cherry.

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