New York Taste 2016 was a gastronomic mecca for Manhattan foodies. More than 45 of the city’s top restaurants and renowned chefs served world-class cuisine at the 18th annual expo, hosted Tuesday by New York Magazine at The Waterfront.
Cocktail-lovers also had something to savor. A number of top NYC bars served their modern takes on classic cocktails like the whiskey sour, daiquiri and Moscow mule. Here are five innovative drinks that caught our eye and pleased our palate:
1) Bar Goto Yuzu-Calpico Fizz
Smirnoff Vodka, Yuzu Preserve, Calpico, Lemon
This drink featured two interesting twists on a whiskey sour. First, it swapped whiskey for vodka (fitting, since Smirnoff was an event sponsor). Second, and true to the style of Bar Goto founder Kenta Goto, this sweet, sour, citrusy drink featured a tasty Asian influence.
“We do classic American cocktails with a bit of a Japanese twist,” Goto explained at New York Taste.
Calpico, an uncarbonated Japanese soft drink, added a pop of flavor and lent the cocktail a stylishly white color. Goto also used a high-end Yuzu preserve (Yuzu is a Japanese citrus plant) as a Japanese version of the cocktail’s citrus component, enhancing the sugary flavors.
2) Pegu Club After Midnight
Tequila, Mezcal, Cynar, Gran Marnier, Lemon Essence
Here’s a backstory bartenders can appreciate. Explained drink creator, Pegu Club’s Paul Huber, “At the end of every shift we all take shots of tequila and mezcal. So I decided to take all of that and put it into a cocktail.”
The result was a sweet, smooth, smoky, slightly spicy drink. After Midnight showcases tequila and mezcal without being aggressively spicy, as are some mezcal cocktails.
Pegu Club will serve After Midnight with a “side of beer.” Either a Belgium wheat or farmhouse ale, Huber explained, as a palate cleanser.
3) Pegu Club Shiso-Pear Daiquiri
Rum, Poire eau de vie, Aquavit, Shiso, Lime
The influence of Pegu Club’s founder, renowned mixologist Audrey Saunders, was behind the second offering (pictured atop) from her storied Soho bar.
As cocktail creator and Pegu Club bartender Ricky Agustin retold the story, “When new bartenders come into the Pegu Club, Audrey assigns them ‘the daiquiri project’. You have to come up with a new take on the daiquiri, while working within the constraints of the cocktail.”
“So often today people dump 12 ingredients into a cocktail. But a daiquiri is much more confining, because there’s little room to hide behind the citrus, sweetener and spirit,” Agustin continued. “So the daiquiri project forces you to focus in. I tweaked and submitted this cocktail again and again, only to have it shot down every time. So when I finally dialed in and got it right and it was accepted, I was so happy I almost cried.”
All that work and revision paid off with a subtle layered flavor. This cocktail is well balanced between fruity and sweet. It has more fruit flavor than your typical daiquiri, without losing a flavor harmony.
4) Maialino & Marta Negroni Freeze Pops
Campari, Gin, Carpano Antica, Grapefruit Juice, Orange Juice
First prize for innovation (and fun) goes to Jessica Weiss, Executive Pastry Chef of both Maialino and Marta. Her delightfully minimalistic freeze pops retained their sweet flavors in their icy chill. Weiss conceived of the recipe last June.
“We made it for Negroni Week,” she explained. “We wanted to do something that could celebrate Negronis a little bit differently.”
“I call it a gateway Negroni,” she added with a laugh. “There’s something interesting in these flavors. There’s a nice balance between the gin and the vermouth, which then balances well with the juices. It’s nice and smooth, light and playful.”
5) Smirnoff Fall Back Mule
Smirnoff No. 21, Lime Juice, Pomegranate, Apple Cider Blend, Ginger Beer
Event sponsor Smirnoff was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Moscow Mule. The brand helped invent this classic cocktail in 1941, and then popularized it during subsequent decades. Bartenders poured Moscow mules throughout New York Taste. One notable take was the Fall Back Mule.
This seasonally themed version “is perfect for this time of year,” explained Lulu Martinez, a bartender at the Smirnoff booth. “The cider and pomegranate just say ‘fall and winter’. And that’s what’s so great about the Moscow Mule. It’s so simple a cocktail that’s easy to make in so many ways.”
Kyle Swartz is associate editor of Cheers magazine. Reach him at email@example.com