Each month, we pull together a selection of drinking-related items that have, for one reason or another, grabbed the attention of PUNCH’s editors, who spend pretty much all day, every day surrounded by booze. Here’s what we’re into right now.
Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters by Derek Brown with Robert Yule | Chloe Frechette, Senior Editor
There’s no denying that Derek Brown knows his cocktails. Not only is he the owner of several of Washington D.C.’s most-lauded bars, including Columbia Room and Mockingbird Hill, he was named the Chief Spirits Advisor at the National Archives in 2015, a position which he quips makes him “the highest ranking bartender in the U.S. government.” In his debut book, Brown takes a birds eye view of mixed drinks, tracing their evolution from so-called “paleococktails” to today’s liquid refreshments enjoyed in our current “platinum age.” Though the scope is undeniably broad, Brown handles it with aplomb, never veering too dry, offering instead a succinct and thoroughly entertaining chronicle of the American cocktail.
The Quiet Arc at The Rockwell Place | Lizzie Munro, Art Director
To be completely honest, the oddball combination of “Brennevín aquavit, vanilla, lime and Coconut Blast” wasn’t the first thing to catch my eye at The Rockwell Place in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. But if you’re a fan of coconut, which I very much am, The Quiet Arc will be one of the most crushable sours you’ll encounter this summer. It gets its tropical punch from one key ingredient, the aforementioned Coconut Blast, a highly flavorful tincture that can be incorporated into just about any style of drink, according to bartenders David Nurmi and Bryan Teoh. What’s more, if you’re looking to take the Blast for a test drive, this dead-simple tincture, essentially coconut oil-washed Everclear, takes less than a day to make. 31 Rockwell Place, Brooklyn, NY, 11217, therockwellplace.com.
Bar Pisellino’s Spumoni | Leslie Pariseau, Features Editor
Now that Bar Pisellino is open in Manhattan’s West Village, the leafy slice of Grove Street it bookends has become a bit of a Bermuda Triangle for me. Its sister restaurants Buvette and Via Carota both hold sentimental significance, and, over the years, I’ve found many excuses to wander over that way for olives, chocolate mousse, steak tartare and, now, a proper Italian afternoon aperitivo. All gold bar rails, penny tile and marble surfaces, Jody Williams and Rita Sodi’s long-awaited aperitivo bar headed by bartender Jon Mullen feels straight out of a Torino arcade. A couple of weeks ago, I sat outside and worked my way through a Negroni Sbagliato and then Mullen’s Garibaldi-inspired Spumoni. Sunset red with a thick wash of foam over top, it’s a ripple effect drink—one is dispatched from the bar, hits a table and triggers a dozen more orders. A bracing mix of Campari, pink peppercorn syrup, gin, tonic and Ruby Red grapefruit juice, Mullen’s Spumoni feels like a beachier, more crushable Negroni. Which, depending on your predilections, could be very dangerous. 52 Grove Street, New York, NY, 10014, barpisellino.com.
Nardini Mezzo e Mezzo Aperitif | Kaitlin Bray, Director of Audience Development
I recently visited Bassano del Grappa, a picturesque town just north of Verona, that’s home to Italy’s oldest grappa distillery. The Nardini’s have been producing grappa and spirits since 1779, and the business remains family-owned and operated today. While I still can’t claim I’m a grappa fan after a visit to their charming tasting room, I did come home with a suitcase full of their amaro and vermouths. My favorite is the Mezzo e Mezzo, a pre-mixed blend of equal parts Nardini Rosso and Nardini Rabarbaro. It’s bittersweet, herbal and only requires ice and a splash of soda, which is about as much effort as I can muster on a humid summer day.
Vignoble du Rêveur Pierres Sauvages Alsace White 2017 | Jon Bonné, Senior Contributing Editor
Oh, Alsace, always swimming upstream! But there’s a lot of history in the house of Deiss, one of the most iconic—and iconoclastic—producers in the region. Now Jean-Michel Deiss’ son Mathieu continues that tradition with his own label, Vignoble du Rêveur. Deiss fils combines his family’s important work, blending grapes together and making texturally dense wines, with the best of the new trends slowly changing Alsace, almost against its will: skin maceration and the like. Pierres Sauvages (“wild rocks”) is three pinots in a row: blanc, gris and noir. But pinot blanc is the majority, and again here’s evidence it’s Alsace’s great unheralded variety. There’s a subtle maceration at work, not quite orange wine but just something beyond white (there’s one-quarter red grapes after all), and a sense of sugar that’s never quite sweet, like maple sap, balanced by a flinty bite. New-wave Alsace at its best.
The Sazerac at Napoleon House | Robert Simonson, Contributing Editor
Whenever I’m in New Orleans, I stop at Napoleon House. And whenever I visit, I always get a Pimm’s Cup. Though I know they are equally as famous for their Sazerac, for some reason I have never tried it. But this time, sitting at the bar with three other hard-bitten drinks journalists, it seemed the correct order. I didn’t regret it. They make a solid Sazerac there—boozy, very dry and served in short, stubby rocks glasses that stand no chance of breaking. And then, of course, we had a Pimm’s Cup. 500 Chartres Street, New Orleans, LA, 70130, napoleonhouse.com.