What We’re Into Right Now

A monthly installment covering what, where and how the editors of PUNCH are drinking. This month, an amaro toddy, Catalonian wine, a drinking den in Boston and more.

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.

Amaro Caldo at Fausto | Chloe Frechette, Assistant Editor

At the newly opened Fausto in Park Slope, Joe Campanale’s beverage program is as exciting and thoughtfully executed as chef Erin Shambura’s menu. Unsurprisingly for a spot that bills itself as a “Brooklyn restaurant with an Italian soul,” amaro steals the show as the protagonist of a tasteful list of aperitivi and digestivi (including vintage expressions) as well as an enticing cocktail list. While the Amarcord—a mix of two types of bitters, Italian pastis, tonic and prosecco—is one of the best spritzes in recent memory, it was the amaro caldo that won me over on a recent visit. An amaro-based toddy, it’s a sure antidote to February blues.

Jacquesson Cuvée 740 Extra Brut Champagne | Jon Bonné, Senior Contributing Editor

Sometimes you need a reminder that the old way of doing Champagne—buying grapes from various places as a négociant, blending them together to show their best side—can have a moment amid the post-modernism of 2018. Although that doesn’t quite describe what brothers Jean-Hervé and Laurent Chiquet of Jacquesson do (they own much of their own land, as do some of the best large Champagne houses today), their numbered cuvée is a forward take on the old ways in Champagne. Blended from several parcels on both sides of the Marne, a mix of all three major Champagne grapes, each cuvée represents a different base year—the 740 corresponds to the generally awesome 2012 vintage. This is the technique (versus the terroir) of Champagne at its finest: dark plum and black walnut in one moment, chalkiness and lift the next. The Chiquets keep proving you don’t have to be a lone farmer, and you don’t have to be a multinational—that there’s a third path to beauty in Champagne.

Drink, Boston | Allison Hamlin, Social Media Editor

It’s no secret that Barbara Lynch’s empire is an undisputed pillar of Boston fine dining and drinking. From deftly coordinating bar reservations with their sister restaurant, Sportello, above, to an extremely qualified set of cocktail servers, the entire experience at Drink feels carefully calibrated, nimble and not at all pretentious. You would think that the bespoke cocktail trend would have run its course, but, under GM Ezra Star, somehow the thrill is still alive and well. At the risk of blowing up my own spot, I also have it on good authority that their low-key Japanese whisky collection is alone worth a trip (perhaps on someone else’s tab).

Japanese Wines | Bianca Prum, Managing Editor

I expected to drink my way around Japan in the form of whisky, gin, sake, highballs… but wine? Not on my radar until I spent an evening at Bunon, a natural wine bar-cum-izakaya where I encountered a domestic pét-nat whose only discernible details of origin were that it was “from the north.” Bone-dry and delicately floral, it was just what the tempura and fermented vegetables coming out of the kitchen demanded. Later, in the Yamanashi region, I asked for something local and was recommended another sparkler, this one from the oldest family-owned wine producer in the country and made from the traditional koshu grape. Again, it was dry and crisp, and the ideal companion to the heavier dishes of the meat-centric region. I flew home two days later still thinking of it—and lamenting that more of these tasty bottles aren’t available outside of Japan.

2015 Oriol Artigas La Rumbera | Megan Krigbaum, Contributing Editor

Perhaps it has something to do with recent political tumult in the region—or maybe the wines are just more attention-grabbing now—but there’s more and more chatter about wines from Catalonia these days. In particular, I am all about what’s coming out of Oriol Artigas’s little plot in Alella. This is what you want to drink in the winter: Its peach-blossomy fruit is fleshy and ripe, and its salinity is almost shocking, just in the way these cold snaps in the air have been.

Sphinx Cocktail at Karasu | Lizzie Munro, Senior Editor

There are a number of tempting drinks to be had at Karasu, the Japanese-style cocktail bar located behind Walter’s in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn—but, being a creature of habit, I zeroed in almost immediately on a strong and stirred gin number called the Sphinx, which is served chilled, in a rocks glass, with no ice. Essentially a reworked Gibson, it’s bolstered with umeshu, a liqueur made from still-green ume plums, rather than vodka, then brightened with akajiso vinegar, made from red shiso leaves. It’s both funkier and sweeter than the drink on which its based, but surprisingly delicate, too. Or at least it pretends to be; standing in for the cocktail onion is a hefty umeboshi, a salty, pickled plum that makes just about every other Martini garnish feel lightweight by comparison.

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