What We’re Into Right Now

A monthly installment covering what, where and how the editors of PUNCH are drinking. This month, an island oasis in Queens, a coffee cocktail in Mexico City, a next-gen dressed can 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.

Il Toccasana Negro | Talia Baiocchi, Editor in Chief
I recently picked up a vintage bottle of this amaro (hailing from Piemonte’s Langhe region) from Chambers Street Wines. The bottling, which dates roughly to the launch of the brand, in the 1970s, is the perhaps the best example of alpine-style amaro I’ve tasted: full of sage, mint and juniper with a lean astringency courtesy of gentian. Time has buffed out some of its edges, making it dangerously drinkable (we nearly polished a bottle between five people, and after plenty of wine). It’s also a fine reminder that being able to drink all of this affordable vintage amaro is a real privilege, and one that is finite. Get it while you can.

Paradise Lounge | Chloe Frechette, Associate Editor
With rattan lamps, a growing collection of vintage rum decanters, tropical flora and no shortage of booze-related paraphernalia—much of which comes from owner Austin Hartman’s personal collection—Paradise Lounge effortlessly channels the relaxed atmosphere of an island oasis. The new Ridgewood bar offers a tight cocktail menu, with an “Island Traditional” section featuring house renditions of Caribbean standbys such as Ti’ Punch and Wray & Ting, as well as “Modern Classics” and a few “Paradise Originals.” The beautiful backbar, a holdover from previous iterations of the space—most recently a Polish dive—stands as testament to the bar’s longevity as a neighborhood hangout, and under its current guise it’s sure to remain so for years to come.

Loaded Tecate 2.0 | Allison Hamlin, Social Media Editor
‘Tis the season for build-in-can beer drinks, and there’s no better template to work from than the OG: TJ Lynch’s Loaded Tecate. It’s simple, savory, refreshing, low-ABV and, best of all, there’s virtually nothing to clean up when you’re done. (FWIW: It was also one of the most popular drinks on PUNCH this summer.)  I’ve been “improving” on the classic template with a series of subtle adjustments: Swapping in Modelo for Tecate, yuzu for fresh lime and Jalapeño Tabasco for Cholula. The result is a brighter, greener take on the original, perfect for seeing yourself through the a long weekend.

Kraken Cru | Lizzie Munro, Senior Editor
As part of a midweek sojourn during a trip to Montreal, I decided to spend 24 hours further north, in Quebec City, where I wound up finding the neighborhood haunt I’ve always dreamed of, but never knew existed. Anchored by a 12-seat horseshoe bar, Kraken Cru follows the lead of its owners’ original outpost, L’Affaire est Ketchup, and cranks out its entire menu on a tiny, four-burner electric stovetop—as in, the kind you hope to graduate from when you move out of your first apartment. But unlike at L’Affaire, you come to Kraken for the raw bar, plus seafood-centric small plates (easily the best meal I had in Canada), and for plenty of improbably good wine in an ultra-casual setting. It’s the sort of place that you can roll into wearing a T-shirt, grab a glass of whatever’s open (in this case, Muscadet from Jo Landron and a rosé pét-nat from Vouvray producer, Domaine du Facteur) and inevitably wind up toasting your neighbors over a round of shots—which the bartenders tend to dole out quickly, and in volume.

G.D. Vajra Rosabella 2017 | Megan Krigbaum, Contributing Editor
I absent-mindedly passed this bottle to my dad and then watched him suck down two glasses before I nearly wrestled it from his hand. I’ve been a fan of Giuseppe Vajra’s wines, his generous nature and wide smile for at least a decade, and every time I think I have a real grasp on what to expect from his corner of Barolo, I get caught off-guard. Such is the story with the 2017 Rosabella. A blend of mostly nebbiolo, with some barbera and dolcetto, this rosé is the definition of mouthwatering, all salted watermelon and orange zest and tangy cherry Jolly Rancher.

The Wise Man at HMS Bounty | Jon Bonné, Senior Contributing Editor
This finest of dive bars—certainly in Los Angeles, perhaps anywhere—has been a Koreatown staple long enough to be woven deep into the city’s history. There’s probably nothing wise about this $6 combo of a shot (whiskey or tequila; get the tequila) and a Tecate. No matter. When you’ve had your fill of LA fancy, and even worn out the pleasures of the nearby Prince—whose banquettes have graced the screen in “Mad Men,” and whose Mai Tai is a tribute to the glory of 1950s grace in the city of Angels—well, you repair to the Bounty. And if you don’t find wisdom, at least you’ll find the satisfaction of a drink with absolutely zero bullshit. In the dim shadows, toast the model of Fletcher Christian’s would-be ship.

Carajillo at Cicatriz | Jason Diamond, Deputy Editor
My rule of thumb with coffee cocktails is generally “When in Rome.” So, for instance, when I’m in Dublin and I need a second wind, I’ll gladly take an Irish Coffee, and when I’m actually in Rome, I’ll take a shakerato. But I generally won’t go out of my way, like I did on a recent trip to Mexico City, to try a caffeinated cocktail. It was there that I found myself taking an Uber with the express purpose of getting a carajillo at Cicatriz, after Michael Snyder’s story for us on the drink. I am still craving another.

Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon | Robert Simonson, Contributing Editor
Whenever I am in Louisville I stock up on this stuff; it’s an incredible bargain at roughly $15 ($10 at some stores) for a six-year-old whiskey. While I was there a couple people told me that Heaven Hill was discontinuing it, so I bought as many bottles as I could find. (Heaven Hill says this isn’t so, but better safe than sorry.) It’s not the most spectacular bourbon on the market, but it’s serviceable and mixable and fairly tasty. And, more importantly, affordable, which is what bourbon should be.

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