We sip in an age when cocktails are approached with as much artistry as stretches of canvas, forcing bartenders to seek out curious components from around the world. The quality of ingredients—from spirits to spices—is at an all-time high. Practices, like those employed for Santina‘s wintry, clarified piña colada, tease multiple senses. And so, with artist and editorial illustrator Paul Tuller, we made our way through many of NYC’s best bars—and beloved Miracle pop-ups—to document the most inspiring of the lot. As with our similar story in December 2016, the unifying factor is seasonality. Some are surely holiday cocktails, others act as more of an exclamation point on a year unlike any other. Tuller captures all their beauty, but each should be sought out.
701West’s Purple Noon
Within The Times Square EDITION—perhaps the premiere (or only) reason to find yourself in the crowded neighborhood—Michelin-starred chef John Fraser’s 701West presents one of the most enthralling cocktail menus in the city. Each mixed drink has been imagined without limitation. Flavors dazzle. Presentation impresses. And the Purple Noon—which arrives in two parts to be assembled before your eyes—reflects the best of it all. Sultry and smoky, the tipple complements the chef’s vegetable dishes, too.
.5 oz black currant syrup
.5 oz lime juice
.5 oz beet juice
.25 oz Yellow Chartreuse
.5 oz Moonshine
1.5 oz Flor de Cana 4-Year-Old Rum
Shake, fine-strain and pour table-side into a capped sphere glass of hickory smoke.
The Modern’s Barrel-Aged Egg Nog
For anyone quick to dismiss or diminish egg nog, take a moment to acknowledge that The Modern—at MoMA—has two Michelin stars, something bar director Patrick Smith must have been well aware of when crafting the extravagant, elegant Barrel-Aged Egg Nog they have on their menu. Smith began preparations back in May by sourcing an ex-BERTOUX Brandy barrel which was filled with the ingredients. The Modern team uncorked the barrel in November and the delicious, finessed liquid delivers a dream sequence of desirable egg nog flavors. Behind the bar, they’re also serving up last year’s vintage and, at the end of this season, they’ll refill their barrel and begin the world’s first Egg Nog Solera.
Barrel-Aged Egg Nog
1 part Giffard Vanilla Liqueur
1 part Demerara syrup
2 parts BERTOUX Brandy
2 parts Appleton Estate Rum
2 parts Gonzalez Byass “Alfonso” Oloroso Sherry
2 parts Dalmore 12yr Single Malt Scotch
4 parts water
10 parts Crème Anglaise
Combine ingredients and age in wood. When serving, garnish with a homemade gingerbread cookie.
Katana Kitten’s Neko Arashi
Awarded best new bar opening by the World’s 50 Best Bars organization, the West Village’s Katana Kitten—helmed by Masahiro Urushido—brings the best of Japan to NYC, including an on-tap Suntory highball. From their Lucky Kat Christmas menu, the fruit-forward Neko Arashi unfurls to reveal unexpected, international flavors.
1 oz Bacardi carta Blanca (infused with strawberry hibiscus tea)
1 oz Dassai 50 junmai daiginjo sake
1.5 oz yuzu-passion fruit sour mix (1/2:1:1 yuzu to passion fruit puree to simple syrup)
5 dashes of Dale’s pimento bitters
Q ginger beer
Shake all ingredients with 1/2 full Kold Draft, pour into Lucky Kat mug and top with crushed ice and Q ginger beer. Garnish with mint sprigs.
Miracle on 9th’s YIPPIE KI YAY MOTHER F****R!
From its Die Hard-referencing name to its kitsch, charitable glassware, the Yippie Ki Yay Mother F****R! embodies the beauty in stopping by any Miracle Christmas pop-up or Sippin Santa’s Surf Shack. Of course there is the abundance of spirit and vintage holiday decorations, but there are also several meticulously crafted cocktails, this one—envisioned by Mace‘s Nico de Soto—included. We went to Miracle on 9th Street, otherwise known as The Cabinet, but now in its sixth year, Miracle has 100+ pop-ups around the US, Mexico, Canada, Europe and New Zealand.
.75 oz Barbados rum (Plantation Barbados Rum)
.75 oz caçacha (Yaguara Ouro)
.5 oz overproof rum (Plantation O.F.T.D.)
1.25 oz purple yam and coconut orgeat
1 oz acid-adjusted pineapple juice
Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and dry shake. Strain into the Santa Pants mug and fill with crushed pebble ice. Garnish with mint sprig, cocktail umbrella and dust with powdered sugar.
Dromedary Urban Tiki Bar’s Mezcaltoe & Holly
Inside Bushwick, Brooklyn’s Dromedary Urban Tiki Bar, celebratory island spirit pours through the menu. Accordingly, their end of the year cocktails, like the Mezcaltoe & Holly, hold on to the hope of summer sunshine while imparting something distinctively seasonal. Here, mezcal smoke plays off of coconut and creme de menthe in a delicious tongue-twister of flavors, but the homemade raspberry whipped cream exclaims decadence.
Mezcaltoe & Holly
1.5 oz Bahnez mezcal
1.5 oz coconut juice
.5 oz creme de menthe
Homemade raspberry whipped cream
Combine all ingredients. Strain. Garnish with homemade raspberry whipped cream, several cranberries and a pineapple wedge.
Quality Meats’ Christmas Sweater
A trip to Quality Meats transforms into a wooded adventure with their seasonal Christmas Sweater. For this cocktail, the high-design steakhouse incorporates not one but two custom concoctions: house-made cinnamon syrup and Christmas bitters. Together with bourbon, these spiced components come to life. This was, without a doubt, one of the most successful and transportive liquid experiences of our year.
2 oz bourbon
.25 oz cinnamon syrup*
2 dashes house Christmas bitters**
Stir, strain into a festive rocks glass and garnish with rosemary and cherries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
6 cinnamon sticks
Simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes. Strain out cinnamon.
1 cup vodka
.25 cup dried pine needles
1 tablespoon whole cloves
Infuse for 48 hours. Strain.
Dante’s Autumn 2019
This year’s best bar in the world (according to World’s 50 Best Bars), Dante‘s cocktail menu is a treasure trove of the unexpected, exemplary and mouth-watering. With the boozy trifecta of Calvados, Sauternes and pear eau de vie, the Autumn 2019 tastes like an orchard in its prime. Countering the fresh fruit flavors, bitters and spice complete the seasonal treat.
1.5 oz Calvados
1 oz Sauternes
.5 oz Regal Rogue Daring Dry
.25 pear eau de vie
1 barspoon of Smoked Maple Syrup
1 dash wormwood bitters
1 dash Dale de Groff bitters
3 dashes of apple cider vinegar
Mix all ingredients together.
Bemelmans’ Maple Leaf
An icon of the Upper East Side, Bemelmans continues to epitomize the sophisticated hotel bar—and the nightly live music reminds all who visit that a piano accompanies a cocktail better than any garnish. With their Maple Leaf, the bar team doubles down on the rye whiskey, though egg whites and maple syrup lend a gentle creamy sweetness.
2 oz Michter’s rye whiskey
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz maple syrup
2 dashes angostura bitters
Egg whites from 1 egg
Mix all ingredients together—shake vigorously and serve into a coupe glass.
Garnish with one drop of angostura bitters in the middle of the glass and one nasturtium leaf.
Illustrations by Paul Tuller