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The Liquor Authority

Ssäm Bar gets cocktails and big ice, but don’t plan to meet there for drinks.

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A few things Don Lee wants you to know about Momofuku Ssäm Bar’s purported new bar, which he launches this week: (1) It isn’t a cocktail lounge. It’s a curated selection of 40 brown spirits, ranging from $9 to $50 a pop, and served neat, on the rocks, in a Manhattan, or in an old-fashioned. (There’s only one gin, for martini purposes.) (2) The focus is on the food, not the booze. The only way you’re getting a drink is if you’re there to eat (or if you’re waiting for a table at Milk Bar next door). (3) Ice is an essential cocktail ingredient, and should be recognized as such. Lee sources his perfectly clear, superdense, supercold two-inch-by-two-inch cubes from a Queens ice-carving studio, where they’re whittled down from 300-pound blocks. They cost Lee a dollar a cube, and if your drink comes on the rocks, they’ll cost you the same. Okay with all that? You should be. Lee’s an inventive and exacting mixologist who last plied his trade at PDT, where he gained renown for infusing bourbon with bacon. He sees his role at Ssäm Bar as liquid line cook, down to the white-dishwasher-shirt uniform, working closely with the kitchen and, in true Momofuku fashion, never going off-menu. Up first on his evolving list: a dirty martini with pickled ramp brine, and a sesame-infused-Cognac old-fashioned (above; 207 Second Ave., at 13th St.; 212-254-3500).


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