New barrel-aged spirits for 2012 include 1512 rye and Bols Genever. Plus: our cocktail picks from the revamped lounge at Fifth Floor
COCKTAIL INTELLIGENCE: FIFTH FLOOR DELIGHTS
Food and wine are the draws at gorgeous Fifth Floor (www.fifthfloorrestaurant.com), but bartender Brian Means, formerly of Zero Zero, has created singular cocktails worth a stop in the mellow lounge. Perhaps you'll skip dinner entirely.
The unassuming Mr. Means creates some of the more promising recipes I've tasted from an up-and-coming crafter. As I judge multiple cocktail contests, his entries consistently exhibit a surprising level of sophistication, often placing high. He shakes (and stirs) with an unfussy hand, comprehending classic cocktail foundations, but varying off-path enough to keep it interesting.
Here are three of his cocktails I'd recommend, currently on the Fifth Floor menu:
Pink Elephant — Death's Door (one of my favorite gins), with rosato vermouth, pineapple gomme syrup, orange bitters and smoked absinthe. Means doesn't let the smoke overpower. Rather, it gives off a faint smoke aroma, hinting at brawn behind a delicate surface. Don't judge it by its color.
Loretto Wrangler — Named after a key Kentucky bourbon town (home of Maker's Mark, the Wrangler's base spirit), Loretto Wrangler includes Cynar (Italian artichoke liqueur), Graham's Six Grapes port, Dubonnet Rouge, and Bitter Truth chocolate bitters. It may sound like a lot of ingredients, but never fear. Playing like a classic, spirit-driven whiskey cocktail, it unfolds with layers of bitter, sweet, boozy, and — thanks to the choco bitters — meaty, goodness.
Spanish Maiden — El Tesoro blanco tequila and elderflower liqueur with a lemon twist makes for an obviously pleasing aperitif pre-dinner, right? Add in a dash of sherry and this bright refresher takes on depth and dimension, if ever so subtly, while still remaining stimulating and light. *
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