What We’re Into Right Now

A monthly installment covering what, where and how the editors of PUNCH are drinking. This month, a '70s-era Chicago tavern, natural vermouth, a new English gin 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.

Queen Mary Tavern | Chloe Frechette, Assistant Editor
With its original ’70’s-era Brunswick bar and slatted wooden ceilings built to match, Chicago’s Queen Mary Tavern—opened by Heisler Hospitality in 2015—manages to recall a bygone era without feeling dated. In part, this owes to the quality of the beverage program helmed by Dan Smith, formerly with the help of Mony Bunni, which draws inspiration from British maritime drinking. Naturally, the spirits lean heavily on gin, rum and Scotch, with many classic-inspired concoctions such as the Circus Horse, a mellow Martini variant calling on Sipsmith VJOP, en rama manzanilla, extra dry vermouth and orange bitters.

Partida Creus Ver-Muz Natural | Talia Baiocchi, Editor In Chief
I kicked off one of three dinners at Bar Brutal in Barcelona with the excellent Ver-Muz (h/t J Bonné) from Catalunya’s beloved natural wine duo, Partida Creus. It’s often easy to forget that vermouth begins as wine—because, well, most commercially available examples of vermouth feel divorced from their base (which, to be honest, often isn’t all that high in quality anyway). But this is a vermouth that tastes firstly like great wine—just off-dry with bracing acidity and a plush, almost carbonic fruitiness to it that both pays homage to the classic Spanish style of vermouth, and reconsiders it. There’s a reason it comes in IL bottles.

Vesca Negroni at Fitz’s | Allison Hamlin, Social Media Editor
Nestled in the newly opened Principal Hotel in London’s Russell Square, Fitz’s is a lush art-deco-meets-steampunk cabinet of curiosities. But nothing in the room is more curious than their Negroni variation. A combination of Fords Gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco and Dolin Blanc vermouth, the Vesca Negroni is studded with a giant cube of frozen strawberry puree infused with rose hip, coconut and aloe. As the ice melts, the base changes from a standard White Negroni into something more playful. It’s a great example of how to turn a full-proof cocktail into a more contemplative affair without sacrificing quality or temperature to ice melt. Or, more simply, a perfect excuse to linger a while longer over your drink.

2017 Dönnhoff Oberhauser Keistenberg Nahe Riesling Kabinett | Jon Bonné, Senior Contributing Editor
One thing about the nit-picky taxonomy of German wine is that you’re supposed to have a sense of which wines are better—or more important—than others. Late-picked spätlesen are meant to be “better” than earlier-picked kabinett, and so on. That view comes from a world in which ripeness was often deficient. Which, not so much today. And so I’ve been wondering if kabinettpicked at normal ripeness, slightly fruity with a touch of sugar—has gotten the shaft. At its best, kabinett reveals wine’s sultry magic: fruit and savory tones and crackling minerality that catalyze perfectly, It is the most mystic and inscrutable of wine styles. And here’s kabinett at its best: From the arid, extraordinary 2017 vintage, and one of the best winemakers in Germany, harnessing cooler clay-slate soils and the morning sun of a southeastern exposure. It provided me a moment of renewed faith, in the belief that wine has a near-magical ability to transport our senses.

Art in the Age’s Eau de Musc | Jason Diamond, Deputy Editor
The person at the end of the bar said what we’d all been wondering when he sat down and said, “I’m here to try the beaver testicle whiskey.” His wife grabbed him by the arm, “No, honey. It’s beaver butt whiskey.” Whichever one it was, the couple was also at Philadelphia’s Art in the Age to try the same thing: Eau de Musc. The truth is that the 88-proof bourbon made by Tamworth Distilling and Mercantile in New Hampshire is infused with oils extracted from beaver castor sacs that are located just below the tail. The result is a peaty bourbon with hints of vanilla and berries. It’s got an interesting backstory that’s just weird enough, but most importantly: it’s good stuff.

Hepple Gin | Robert Simonson, Contributing Editor
The northeast United States recently received its first shipments of Hepple Gin, a new spirit created, in part, by Nick Strangeway, one of the leading forces in the London cocktail revival, and Chris Garden, who was for five years the head distiller of Sipsmith, the gin that kicked off the new gin boom in the U.K. Like Sipsmith, Hepple is another solid entry in the gin category, taking advantage of the natural botanicals and water in northern England, while hewing closely to a classic London Dry gin profile. It makes a great Martini and Gin and Tonic—what more do you want from a gin?

Septime La Cave | Lizzie Munro, Senior Editor
Of all the places I discovered on a recent trip to Paris, Septime La Cave is the one I still find myself dreaming about. Part wine bar, part retail store, it’s equipped with a short, no-frills menu of terrines, olives, charcuterie and smoked radis beurre, all served with thick slices of toasted bread, plus an impossibly cheap and incredibly satisfying wine list. I found myself there on no fewer than three occasions in the span of a week, sampling my way through multiple glasses of Nicolas Reau’s Attention Chenin Mechant and Domaine Bobinet’s Du Rififi à Beaulieu (a seriously crushable pét-nat), both priced at around €6 per glass.

The Cellar List at Popina | Megan Krigbaum, Contributing Editor
Brooklyn’s Columbia Waterfront District has never really been known for wine. Pok Pok and pints of watermelon Margaritas, yes. Wine, no. Year-old Popina, an Italy-meets-the-southern-U.S. restaurant, is nonchalantly switching things up. Wine guy James O’Brien’s main list is spot on, with most bottles ringing in under $100, but its his cellar list—six different bottlings from Bérêche, an approachable list of Burgundies and vintage Barolo balanced with $45 chenin blanc from Loire star Le Rocher des Violettes, and so on—that will have me trudging down to the cargo ships. I’m determined to make the restaurant’s backyard, with wooden picnic tables and a big ol’ shady tree, my summer clubhouse.

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