Gothamist fought the stinking heat Tuesday to...sit in only marginally less heat at Florence Gould Hall (we sat among people who did not bring the smell of the 6 train, but there was no AC). The gracious staff of the French Institute/ Allaince Francaise were very accomodating, though, and kept things on-topic with the personalities and finesse of Audrey Saunders of Bemelmans(The Morning News included Bemelman's in a great, if somewhat dated, article about hotel bars) and Anthony Giglio, author of the new book Cocktails in New York and restaurant critic for the New York Sun. And the Tantris Sidecars.
We're not getting dirrty with you, promise- the Tantris Sidecar is a signature drink of Ms. Saunders' and it's amazing. Tantris, she explained, was the original name of Tristan of Tristan and Isolde and with a Sharpie and lecture hall issue 3 X 2 foot white pad, she graphed what made up the cocktails we enjoy. Clearly, the math aspect of graphing was intimidating. But we perservered, fanning ourselves with the newest issue of New York magazine, and graphed drinks in three parts, sour (in the Sidecar's case- lemon juice), sweet (Cointreau- a name brand Triple Sec, an orange liquer) and strong (brandy). The difference between the standard and the Tantris is more than finesse-it's tweaking the ingredients within the categories, splitting the same quantity of liqour between sour (lemon and pineapple), sweet (Cointreau and simple syrup)and strong (cognac, Calvados-a brandy with apple infusion- and a smidge of green Chartreuse- a very herbal, very strong potion of a liqeur made by Carthusian monks in France. And only four monks know exactly what is in it- monks always have all the fun).
After the jump, some rules that Audrey and Anthony agree on for drinking in and out of the home.
1. If you are more partial to the sweet side of drinking that doesn't mean you have to drink apple martinis- just ask for a Sidecar, say, with more Cointreau and less brandy. It's the same kick, more of what you like and gives you more options.
2. Anthony talked about cocktail the way sommeliers talk about wine the top notes and mouthfeel, but the taste should really hit you and then leave so that you can taste your meal or, in our case, your next drink. He likened it to "being siphoned away by a Zamboni". If we wanted to keep tasting the strongest tastes after the first sip, we'd still be spiking Slurpees.
2. Ice can make or break a party- especially when your guests come sober and, well, observant- so keep ice in your apartment and use the biggest
sauce pasta pot you have for ice. Conversely,if you are at a bar and see a bartender put a glass directly into the ice, walk out. If he's done it once, he's done it a hundred times and that ice could be full of glass chips. You drink a cocktail with a chip of glass and it will be your worst happy hour ever.
Cocktails in New York (Rizzoli, 2005)is available in bookstores now and online.
Visit Audrey Saunders (and her well-trained staff) at
The Carlyle Hotel
35 East 76th Street at Madison Avenue
And look for her new bar, Pegu, on Houston near Wooster, opening soon.
Photograph courtesy of Veronica Davidov.