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.
Critical Theory Cocktails | Chloe Frechette, Senior Editor
“Tempting us with transcendence, both cocktails and critical theory share a number of remarkable traits,” begins Aggie Toppins in her four-volume series, Critical Theory Cocktails. A graphic designer by trade, Toppins marries cocktails recipes and bite-size philosophical themes (subjectivity, transcendence, aesthetics) in vintage-inspired recipe pamphlets. Juxtaposing, say, the Suffering Bastard with Michel Foucault’s notion of biopower, Toppins offers a playful and digestible means of understanding complex texts, while also painting cocktails in a more conceptual light. Among my favorite entries is one for the Old-Fashioned, of which she notes: “Heidegger did not see time as a linear progression, but as the unity of past, present and future dimensions. This drink, perhaps the most classic of classic cocktails, is delicious no matter what temporal state you’re in.”
Pascal Doquet “Cœur de Terroir” Mesnil-sur-Oger Grand Cru 2005 | Leslie Pariseau, Features Editor
In the Côte des Blancs, Pascal Douquet has been making some of Champagne’s most delicious wines since 1995. An initiate to Douquet, I discovered him earlier this week when my very generous upstairs neighbors (both of whom work for wine importers) shared this Grand Cru with me at an impromptu dinner party. What makes him so special, they said, is his dedication to environmentally sound growing practices and his family’s historic parcels, which he maintains beautifully with cover crops and low impact cultivation. In this “coeur de terroir” cuvée, Douquet uses the best lots from old vines in his “champ d’Alouettes” and “Les Migraines” parcels. Certified organic and aged for 10 years before disgorgement, it’s simply stunning—and was a totally unexpected accompaniment to the red sauce party I was throwing. I am lucky to have such benevolent brownstone neighbors.
Valkyrie | Robert Simonson, Contributing Editor
I’ve been to Valkyrie, the premier cocktail bar in Tulsa, Oklahoma, three times since it opened in 2012. Each time, I’m more impressed but the sure-footedness and solidity of their program, and they seem to only get better. Recently, I had two drinks: the Turf Club-esque The Trees Have Eyes, which blends two gins with aloe liqueur, Drambuie, maraschino, génépy and grapefruit bitters; and the Margarita/Daiquiri-like Pan Am, which pairs tequila with Cachaça, ginger, lime juice, grapefruit liqueur, absinthe and green Chartreuse. The former came on a big cube, the latter on crushed ice. Both read as very fussy on the page, but held together as a unified front inside the glass. I found no faults with either.
Sempuku Shinriki Junmai 85 | Jon Bonné, Senior Contributing Editor
Following on my “sake that doesn’t play any of your reindeer games” theme this year, here’s the latest appearance of a sake that follows a low-polish practice—that is, most of the rice kernel is left, providing more character and substance, even if it’ll never manage to be the daiginjo that Mom hoped for. The number 85 is the giveaway here, as in the amount of rice left after polishing. From the Miyaki Honten brewery in Hiroshima, this uses rare Shinriki rice, an archaic variety revived in the mid-2000s. It also relies on the kimoto process (the very old-fashioned way of mashing rice and koji to create lactic acid; kind of yamahai but even more traditional) and is also muroka (minimally filtered) and genshu (with no water added). In other words, it is sake in a time capsule back to the turn of the 20th century: forceful, meaty and with an almost ginger-like kick, though never heavy, the complete opposite of those polished-within-an-inch-of-their-lives daiginjos. Thus it was my choice for a very yakitori-filled evening not long ago, and also just the thing for those first signs of autumn chill.
Le Vin Papillon | Kaitlin Bray, Director of Audience Development
I had a rare restaurant experience in Montreal recently, where every single thing was on point—food, drinks, ambiance, service. While the city is packed with restaurants deserving of your time, money and attention, I had my sights set on dinner at Le Vin Papillon. Located fittingly in Little Burgundy, the natural wine bar is the sister of nearby Joe Beef and Liverpool house. The menu and drink list are scrawled on a chalkboard wall, making it difficult to see from approximately 99 percent of the restaurant, which I now suspect is intentional. The servers will kindly walk you through the menu (even in English, without attitude) and help guide your selections—though I doubt you could go wrong. Even if you think you know what you want to drink, your server will reappear with multiple bottles and urge you to taste each one before committing. That’s how I went from trying to order a gamay from the Loire Valley to ending up with a standout glass of Itata El Túnel 2016 from the Chilean producer, A Los Viñateros Bravos. Drink the wine if you can find it, but more importantly: go to Le Vin Papillon and just let them do their thing.
Ringo Soda | Allison Hamlin, Partnerships Manager
One of my favorite things about the PUNCH Bartender in Residence program is finding bartenders’ signature cocktails on menus in the wild. Case in point: Orlando Franklin McCray’s (our debut BIR!) Ringo Soda at the newly-opened Nightmoves in Brooklyn. A combo of Mizu shochu and force-carbonated Gala and Granny Smith apple juices, this modern highball is more complex than the sum of its parts (the bubbles give a sneaky sensation of amplified acidity). Other familiar favorites on the menu include his Old Hatian, a riff on the Old Cuban made with clairin, and Smoke Flowers, a highball topped with Fever-Tree’s smoky ginger beer—cocktails that prove, yet again, McCray is a bartender to watch.