At a preview of the new cocktail menu at Lantern’s Keep in New York’s Iroquois Hotel, bar manager Rene Hidalgo announced that the classic cocktail lounge had added a section of after-dinner drinks to the menu. Guests had been asking for nightcaps, he said.
Hildalgo believes there’s a gap in the market for dessert drinks and old-school nightcaps. Customers like them, but many operators don’t want to put them on the menu: “These are drinks people scoff at,” he says of libations like the Grasshopper and the Brandy Alexander.
True. The Grasshopper in particular had become sort of a joke drink order in recent decades.
And I can remember a story my father told years ago about a couple that came into his favorite dive bar and ordered two Brandy Alexanders. The gruff bartender’s disgusted response: “I’m not a chemist.”
But the Mad Men affect that’s fueling interest in all things retro may just yet revive the art of the after-dinner drink. Many bartenders are now revisiting pre-Prohibition recipes and re-creating the cocktails using premium spirits and fresh ingredients to elevate the dessert-drink experience. Lantern’s Keep’s version is “a really good Grasshopper,” Hildago says, mixed with spirits from craft brand Tempus Fugit.
The popularity of classic cocktails has made people more adventurous about trying different things and getting outside their comfort zone. A little more information or encouragement, or even a sample can help guests get past their preconceived notions about certain cocktail styles and spirits.
For instance, I was recently convinced to try a drink called The Chocolate Cocktail at Henry a Liquor bar, which opened in September at the Hudson New York Hotel. The name sounds delicious—and the drink was—but I have to admit that I never would have ordered it based on the menu description: Yellow Chartreuse and preserved cherry liqueur with a whole egg. (I did appreciate the drink menu’s advice to “Trust us on this one,” though.)
For more on after-dinner drinks (as well as before- and during-dinner cocktails), see “All Liqueured Up” and “Thinking Outside the Snifter.” In our October issue we also cover Trends in American Beer and Tips on Happy Hour Programs.Then there’s our cover story on kegged wine, a trend that stands to revolutionize the way bars and restaurants sell wine.