Last night’s opening bash at the Astor Center was an amazing event – there was ibérico ham, hip-hop violinists, and Joey Campanaro, Josh DeChellis, and Seamus Mullen cooking hors d’oeuvres. But what people will remember will be the mixologists. A veritable cocktail hall of fame was present, and we managed to get them all together at once for an image that makes us thirsty just looking at it.
Astor Wine and Spirits isn’t content to just be the place where the rich denizens of the East Village buy their Priorat reds; now the store has spawned a state-of-the-art culinary facility, Astor Center, above its Lafayette Street shop. Lesley Townsend, the director, is quick to ward off comparisons to other recreational cooking programs around. “We’re not a cooking school. We’re not a wine school,” she says. “We’re going to be a host facility for events and symposia and conferences and panels.” Like Dale DeGroff’s Beverage Alcohol Resource (BAR) program, at which the King of Cocktails teaches five-day exhaustive master classes for aspiring mixologists.
In what will surely become mixology’s version of Yankees Stadium's Monument Park, Jill DeGroff, wife of “King of Cocktails” Dale, has sketched caricatures of a dozen “cocktailians” and included them in a calendar that’s going for $17.95 (about the price of an overpriced drink!). Some of the local drink-slingers whose recipes and rosy-cheeked mugs are featured: Audrey Saunders from Pegu Club, Julie Rainer from Flatiron Lounge, and Sasha Petraske from Milk and Honey. Our favorite part, though, is the page on which a pants-less John Hodgman gives his preferred synonyms for booze.
Details are starting to trickle through the strainer about the bevy program at Keith McNally’s new joint Morandi. As with McNally’s others, Dale DeGroff is training the bartenders, and we’ve heard that while the menu is likely to include concoctions like a bloody bull as well as rum and tequila drinks, chef Jody Williams has requested a special list of Prosecco cocktails that don’t contain spirits, liqueurs, or syrups (with the possible exceptions of honey and agave). Those drinks will consist solely of the sparkling wine, fresh fruit like pineapple, and muddled ingredients like basil and mint. “I was very influenced by Jody,” was all the King of Cocktails would tell us. Daniel Maurer
Related: Fall Preview: Keith McNally and Jody Williams
Sasha Petraske of Milk and Honey recently put his stamp on the drinks menu at the Carlyle Hotel’s Bemelmans Bar, but let’s face it, the place still isn’t what it was when it was helmed by legends Dale DeGroff and, later, Audrey Saunders. Brian Van Flandern, former head mixologist at Per Se, hopes to change that. Within six weeks, the star stirrer, known for making his own ginger beer and tonic water at Per Se’s stand-up bar, will unveil a revamped menu. Along with holdovers like DeGroff’s Whiskey Smash and Saunders’s Gin Gin Mule, it will include cocktails like a variation of his Flaming Dutchman a concoction of cognac, sherry, gin, lemon juice, and bitters (finished off with a spectacular shower of lemon juice over an open flame). It's the same drink that prompted a Dutch company to rank him the No. 2 bartender in the world. And rest assured, the murals by Ludwig Bemelmans aren’t going anywhere, nor are the bartenders who’ve been there for years some of the drinks may actually be named after them. Daniel Maurer