Around the late 90s, Manhattan was gaining prominence as a “drinks wasteland.” With little variety, the art of making and inventing cocktails had taken a backseat. A Cosmopolitan was as sophisticated as it could get before the Appletini came along. In a time when men dominated the scene behind the bar, a woman made her way to the forefront and revolutionised the art of making craft cocktails. Her name was Audrey Saunders.
In a world satisfied with flavoured vodka, she gave gin prominence. Bitters found their way back and fresh juices replaced the widely prevalent pre-made mixers. She was the one roasting fresh tomatoes for a Bloody Mary and grilling pineapples. After working at various bars, Saunders’ opened Pegu Club in 2005. Located on West Houston Street, it became her laboratory and Little Italy was one of her creations.
Little Italy was one of the cocktails she crafted to re-introduce rye whisky which was gradually disappearing. It is a concoction of rye whisky and two classic Italian aperitifs, vermouth and Cynar. This cocktail is strong with a bitter edge. It has a herby taste and the bitterness is refreshingly surprising. Little Italy is the perfect balance of sweet and bitter with the right amount of whisky, leading to a dense flavour.
For the classic drink, combine 30 ml rye whisky with 15 ml Cynar and 22.5 ml sweet vermouth. After a good stir along with some ice, strain it into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with two maraschino cherries with a little extra syrup. For an interesting add-on, you can try a flamed wide strip of orange zest. It finishes the drink off pleasantly.
When the Austrian maestro, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composed a comic opera by the name of The Marriage of Figaro in 1786, he took inspiration from Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’s 1784 play of the same name. Little did he know that it’d find a namesake in a suave whisky cocktail.
You may have been saved from terrible hangovers if you have always followed the “liquor before beer” advice. But, then you have inevitably missed out on some of the best bomb shots. For all the risk takers out there, here’s a tip: try the Irish Car Bomb. The Irish Car Bomb, unlike any other cocktail, is a drink that welcomes you with a split reputation dictated by nationality entirely.
A drink named after a prima donna of an opera company from Ontario, supremely popular in the 1900s but forgotten in the coming years, that’s Mamie Taylor for you. The very popular singer-actress, Mamya Taylor is rumoured to have requested a ‘long, hard drink’ after one of her performances at a downtown bar. And the bartender in charge was only too eager to please the princess.