New York City has an abundance of acclaimed craft cocktail bars but the East Village’s Mister Paradise (opened in early 2019) makes a compelling case as one of the most clever thanks to its new menu. Though impeccable drink options range from inventive to exuberant, one cocktail on the menu embodies Mister Paradise’s signature marriage of playfulness and superb quality. It’s called the Face/Off and it arrives as two separate mixed drinks (which can also be ordered separately): the Travolta and the Cage. A nod to director John Woo’s 1997 thriller, the fruit-forward filmic cocktail is actually a Miami Vice riff composed of two different milk punches.
“A Miami Vice is one of the raddest cocktails out there, but generally it’s made with piña colada mix and strawberry daiquiri mix,” Will Wyatt, the owner of Mister Paradise, tells COOL HUNTING. “I see a lot of cocktail bars nowadays creating their own twists using fresh ingredients and cool variations on the layered drink model. I had the thought to create a milk punch variation with some reworked elements, but had to figure out a way to really create a difference in density between the two drinks without making one feel too thin or the other feel too decadent.”
A solution presented itself, “to essentially work with the same balance of ABV, sugar content, acid and lengthener between both drinks, but use more fat and concentrated sugar in the Travolta—the piña colada riff,” Wyatt says. “The first change I made was using canned sweetened coconut cream to make a dulce de leche, thickening the cream and caramelizing the sugars. The second element was using a combination of skimmed coconut fat and whole milk curd to clarify the punch. This resulted in a richer final product simply because of the density of the fat and sugar, while not differing in balance on the palate.”
“The Cage,” he continues, “is a much more straight forward milk punch, using strawberries blended directly into a homemade chicha morada—a Peruvian beverage made with purple corn, pineapple skin and baking spices—that is simply combined with whole milk, lime, lemon and a mixture of three spirits to meet in the middle between a Pisco sour flavor profile and that of a classic strawberry daiquiri. The two resulting milk punches—the Cage and the Travolta—layer perfectly, but are arguably in their best form once mixed together, if the guest decides to give it a stir.”
It’s with this same careful consideration, attention to flavor and desire to encourage responsible fun that Mister Paradise introduced two of the most delicious and unexpected shots: the Good Idea and the Bad Idea. These aren’t for tossing back; rather, they’re meant to be savored. “The older I get as a bartender the more my tastes change,” Jack Sullivan, Mister Paradise’s Head Bartender, says. “These days I drink predominantly amaro and génépy or anything bold. Fernet and green chartreuse have always been favorites of bartenders so we combined them together in shot form: that’s the Bad Idea. It’s a big punch of flavor with so much depth, and in a day and age where a lot of younger drinkers are trying to navigate a vast landscape of drinking trends, it invites conversation.”
The Good Idea parallels this. Within, one finds yellow chartreuse and Cynar. “The subtle honey of the yellow chartreuse and the bitter sweet and earthy notes of Cynar play beautifully together,” Sullivan says. “And they’re fun—the Bad Idea is one dollar more than the Good Idea because a bad idea will always cost you more.” Guests often debate whether they’re the same, as the menu description for both only says: chartreuse, amaro. A careful nose and thoughtful sip reveals the distinct differences.
“I think it’s funny and thankfully so do our guests,” Sullivan adds. “Also, I hope these shots encourage any drinker to try spirits outside of their comfort zone. I just think it’s important not to limit our willingness to try new things with the spirits world constantly growing.” The team at Mister Paradise does an exceptional job of introducing unexpected spirits, flavors and layers in a way that’s downright delectable.
Images courtesy of Mister Paradise