After closing for the summer, the massive block-long Brasserie 44 in the Royalton Hotel has reopened as simply Forty Four. It's no longer a restaurant, just a cocktail bar (with a lounge food menu served after 6 p.m.) But this isn't just a cocktail bar; it's an homage to the classic hotel bars of yesteryear, with an exceptional drink menu from six cocktail craftsmen who've formed a six-headed hydra of mixology they call The Cocktail Collective. Richard Boccato of Dutch Kills, along with cocktail consultants Willy Shine and Simon Ford represent New York on the menu; they're joined by Misty Kalkofen of the Drink bar in Boston, John Lermayer of Miami’s Florida Room, and Eric Alperin of L.A. speakeasy the Varnish.
Shine recently walked us through the drink menu, which is split up into "Classics," which pay homage to the famous hotel drinks like the Singapore Sling, conceived at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The standout from this pack is the potent Vieux Carre from the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans: Rye whiskey, cognac, and sweet vermouth with Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters and a Benedictine rinse on the glass, served with a twist over a hand-cut rock of ice. The other half of menu are "Originals"; classic cocktails the team has reworked with their own style. Shine's drink, The Stone Place, is a knockout. A twist on The Ward 8, it's made with aged Jamaican rum, fresh squeezed organic lemon and orange juice with house made grenadine, shaken, and served up with a dusting of nutmeg. (The name comes from the street where Shine's parents, who were big Ward 8 imbibers, used to live.)
These drinks are not cheap (in the $15 range) but high quality; each one is fastidiously made with the freshest ingredients, mostly house-made, even the grenadine. All the fresh-squeezed juice comes from a company in Long Island City called Organic Avenue. There are five different types of ice for all the different drinks, and all the glasses are frozen (at least, when they're supposed to be). The food menu, from Royalton’s Executive Chef Scott Ekstrom, includes items such as Duck Confit Flatbread, Black Garlic Hummus, Pork Belly Soft Tacos, and Parmesan Risotto Poppers. Try the tasty Warm Shrimp Cocktail with blood orange curry glaze and black lime, and wash it down with Boccato's stiff Reconciliation (a nod to John Patrick Shanley's play Italian-American Reconciliation). It's made with Rye whiskey, Amaro Lucano and a scant portion of house made orgeat, with a sambuca rinse on the glass. Served in a double rocks glass with a giant chunk of ice, the potent flavor mellows and evolves as the ice melts, and the drink seems to have no bottom. Shine calls it "the everlasting gobstopper of cocktails"; we call it worth a trip to midtown.
44 West 44th Street, (212) 869-4400