Please don’t judge
Defying a blizzard and a hellacious hangover for a pilgrimage to mixology’s Holy Land
Wed, Dec 30, 2009 (7 p.m.)
Courtesy of Eater.com
Saturday, December 19, 11 a.m. EST
Beatrice pokes her head into the guest bedroom where I lay good as dead on an air mattress, still fully clothed from the night before, right down to the scarf.
“Brunch? Maybe Clover Club?” she asks, way too perkily. I’m still drunk, I think, and the very thought of returning to the scene of the crime sends my stomach into stern objections. She leaves me to alternate between sleep and staring past the fire escape at the snowstorm. B’s Brooklyn apartment doesn’t have a view so much as it has an alleged sighting of some bridge and a church steeple, neither of which can be seen through the snow. Get up? No, no, not just yet.
Five hours later, I’m sober and all the worse for it, but Mamma B revives me with mugs of hot vegetable stock and sugared cranberries, her homemade, vitamin-packed remedy for rebalancing my electrolytes. “You are my Corpse Reviver,” I sing in praise, then wince at the thought of last night’s final round of drinks.
Friday night had begun with an Old Fashioned and fries with vinegar at Alchemy, a little neighborhood joint. They’re all little neighborhood joints, actually. That’s just how it works in New York. Next stop was the Clover Club (World’s Best New Cocktail Bar, Spirit Awards, 2009), where I enjoyed a cocktail aptly named for Brooklyn’s Park Slope district: the Slope.
I greedily snagged some stools at the bar, and we crowded ’round. A hulking, wooden back bar loomed over the bartenders’ workspace, cluttered with arcane tinctures, dropper bottles of bitters and homemade syrups. This ostentatious displaying of the wares has become the calling card of mixology bars, as if to say, “good things mixed here!” But it was better than good, and I loathed having to leave.
At the more low-key Brooklyn Social, an old Italian social club, I had a serviceable Rum Crusta. Then it was on to Henry Public gastro-pub for a Patience cocktail and sweet fried dough. Finally, we rounded out the evening (and put the nail in my coffin) at Weather Up, where bartender Gabe Harrelson helped us to Aviations and Corpse Revivers, as well as my ah-ha moment of the night; he was the first New York bartender to say something to me other than “What’ll y’have?” At least in Vegas I can get some convo with my cocktail.
Still, Friday was just supposed to be the warm-up; I have the A-listers lined up for tonight—PDT (Please Don’t Tell), Death & Co. and Mayahuel. But this is officially my worst hangover ever. Trembling, I nearly tumble over when I bend down to blow-dry my curls. Must … make it … to PDT! There’s a website out there that might label this night an “Epic Fail” in the making, but when cocktails are on the line, failure’s not an option.
We have 8 p.m. reservations for the 2009 World’s Best Cocktail Bar award winner, and I’m not gonna effing miss it!
Through the driving, stinging, icy snow we trudge all the way from cab to curb. (Okay, it’s two steps, but it hurt!). From the basement Crif Dogs, we enter the phone booth, pick up the phone, and per our instructions, hit the one available button: Call. A woman picks up. “Yes?” But before we can get out that we have a reservation, the back wall of the booth opens.
It’s everything I imagined: uncomfortably small (fit for maybe 60 slender patrons), a little too dark and possessed of an incredibly complicated cocktail menu/history book. A glorified boiler room with a few cramped booths and a tidy, attractively lit back bar: I’m home! I’m still unsteady but the menu has me salivating for Benedictine, Chartreuse, Luxardo, homemade bitters and gin, boozy classics and daring new concoctions served in dainty stemware and sturdy cups.
Then there are the gutter-gourmet hot dogs from the bar’s beard next door, which, according to the menu, threaten to arrive smothered in kimchi or deep-fried mayo. It would surely be the death of me. Sadly, I order a restorative Stoudt’s Scarlet Lady Ale and a bacon cheeseburger. Sacrilege. But I do take a tentative sip of B’s Silver Root Beer Fizz, silver fizzes being a specialty of PDT owner Jim Meehan. It is balanced, light and sweet, like a visit from the root beer fairy. I swear a silent oath to return and practically weep for my one perfect sip. But please, don’t tell.