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.
The Cocktail List at Ernesto’s | Chloe Frechette, Senior Editor
At Ernesto’s, the brand new Basque restaurant from chef Ryan Bartlow, bar manager Sarah Morrissey has created one of the most exciting cocktail menus in New York City. No small feat, it’s made all the more impressive considering each of the 12 offerings are low-proof (the restaurant currently only has a license to serve beer and wine). Even within these constraints, the menu has something for everyone, even the Martini drinker. The 5 Finger Martini is made from sherry vermouth (Gonzalez Byass Vermouth La Copa), palo cortado sherry and Mancino bianco vermouth. It’s dry, slightly saline and a standout rendition of the drink that would hold its own against any full-proof version.
Chichibu 2011 Ichiro’s Malt Cask #3303 | Talia Baiocchi, Editor in Chief
Japanese whisky nerds will know Ichiro for the Ichiro’s Card Series of 58 impossibly expensive—and impossible to buy unless you are on the Sotheby’s circuit with six figures to burn—whiskies bottled from the defunct Hanyu distillery. Ichiro Akuto, whose family owned Hanyu, founded a new distillery, Chichibu, in 2008 and quickly turned those new whiskies into collectors items in their own right. I had a chance to taste this bottling at Golden Promise in Paris, which is home to the largest collection of vintage / rare whiskey I’ve certainly ever seen—all of it available to taste. This bottling, aged in beer casks, is part of a series bottled for La Maison du Whisky featuring label art by Tay Bak Chang. It’s stunning inside and out: grainy, mineral, high-octane, but elegant.
Bar Goto Niban | Kaitlin Bray, Director of Audience Development
Bar Goto Niban, the eagerly anticipated outpost from the Bar Goto team, recently opened up in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. Tucked away on a quiet stretch of Bergen Street, the dark, gold-accented space is a respite from the surrounding chaos of the Barclays Center. Similar to its Manhattan counterpart, the focus is on craft cocktails and Japanese comfort food, but it’s not a carbon copy of the original. There are plenty of new cocktails and snacks to explore, but I couldn’t resist ordering the Sakura Martini. Swapping sake for vermouth, and a salted cherry blossom for olives, the subtly floral cocktail goes down easy. Next time, I’ll venture into their Brooklyn-only offerings, but it’s comforting to know that the house Martini holds up, even in a different borough.
Veintiuno at Llama San | Lizzie Munro, Art Director
There is so much to like about the recently opened Llama San, and we haven’t exactly been strangers to covering Natasha Bermudez’s menu of wholly original cocktails. Last year, her Flaming Creatures (a savory Old-Fashioned variation made with cacao shell-infused Japanese whisky and smoked with palo santo) made us question whether smoked cocktails are cool again; More recently, we highlighted her bartending style in four drinks as part of our Bartender in Residence program. On a recent visit, I opted for Bermudez’s Veintiuno, a shochu- and amontillado-based rocks drink that’s sweetened with Aperol and walnut liqueur and soured with sudachi citrus juice. Bermudez says that, despite its wildcard ingredients, this is a drink akin to a mezcal-based Margarita, though I’m not so sure I’d agree. The Ventiuno, like many of her drinks, is inherently difficult to categorize—and in this case, that’s a very good thing.
Purity Wine “Quench! (Strawberries)” Grenache Oakstone Vineyard Nevada County 2017 | Allison Hamlin, Partnerships Manager
If Lizzo’s “Juice” were a wine, this would be it. Quench! is wearing a full spandex bodysuit and doing Jane Fonda-inspired leg lifts. It’s party wine, post-yoga wine, 11 a.m. wine (yes, I did that, but it’s also great with goat cheese and spiced short rib penne, if you care about those sorts of things). Unapologetically sheer with an acidity that’s off the charts, it lands with a profile of Red Zinger tea, hibiscus, pink peppercorn, slight cranberry tannins and obviously, hints of early spring strawberry.
Thai-Style Michelada at Balloo | Tatiana Bautista, Assistant Editor
On a recent trip to Miami, one drink immediately caught my eye on the Balloo menu: the Thai-style Michelada. It’s made with a local blonde ale from Wynwood Brewing, but more interesting to me was the fish sauce and soy sauce component of the drink. I’ll admit that the first few sips were a bit of an umami overload, but as dinner went on and it began to dilute, it became the perfect mix of acidic and savory—an ideal antidote to the sweeter, fruitier drinks I’ve been indulging in poolside.
Knappogue Castle Single Malt 12-year old | Robert Simonson, Contributing Editor
Whiskey disappears from my house in this order: bourbon and rye, which are in a virtual dead heat; then Japanese whisky; and finally Irish whisky and Scotch, which tend to hang around like Spanish moss. It’s not that I don’t like or respect the latter two categories, they’re just not my personal preference. But there is one Irish whisky that routinely bucks the trend: Knappogue Castle 12 year old. It’s triple-distilled and aged in bourbon casks. It’s an independent, sourced whisky, but boy do they know how to source. I’ve never had a bad experience with the line, but the most recent bottling—a “special barrel release” matured in a single cask and bottled at a higher-than-usual 46 percent ABV—is a gem. It’s light, honeyed, fruity, delightful and utterly companionable.