The dark and discreet cocktail lounge The Randolph at Broome was deemed one the top ten bars of 2007 by the nightlife editors at Citysearch. But co-owner Hari Kalyan wasn’t satisfied with all the buzz, so he shut down for renovations and reopened in May with an even darker, more mysterious aesthetic, livened by a piano player, DJs and an excellent specialty cocktail menu from Matty Gee, a bartender from the Milk & Honey school of high-end drinks. Gee recently answered our questions about what sets his cocktails at The Randolph apart, and also divulged one of his favorite drink recipes, the Strawberry Cucumber Fizz. Pictured after the jump, it does look appealing, but if you happen to stop by The Randolph don't miss The Gershwin – made with their signature cold gin, it's one fancy cocktail that manages to justify its steep price.
Can you tell us about the temperature-controlled aspect of the liquor? We freeze all of our spirits, use Kold-Draft and hand-cracked ice to shake and pour our drinks, and freeze all of our glassware, basically giving us the coldest cocktail around. In short, the theory behind this process is essentially to create the greatest differential between the temperature inside the mouth and the cocktail.
When a cocktail is at its coldest, the organic molecules making up the cocktail are moving very slowly and, as the molecules approach a speed of zero (which never really happens as they are always vibrating somewhat) their positively charged nuclei begin to attract the electrons of surrounding molecules, hence the transition from a liquid state to a solid state. We freeze our booze to a temperature right before the point where this transition occurs, so it is still in liquid form.
As the cocktail rapidly heats up in the mouth and on the tongue, the organic molecules making up the drink (liquor, fruit, condiment, etc) begin to speed up. As the molecules speed up, they begin to collide with each other with increasing frequency (exponentially, compared to a smaller temperature differential) causing all sorts of chemical reactions. This results in a much more intense experience in terms of the flavors the tongue picks up.
Okay, but your summer cocktail menu doesn't have drinks with whiskey and scotch; why are those spirits considered unappealing for summer cocktails? They’re not unappealing at all. I would assume that most people don’t associate scotch whiskey with summer drinking because of its smokier flavor. However, I can think of a number of cocktails that would be great, such as a Bourbon Smash (bourbon, muddled mint, lemon juice, simple syrup). Similarly, most people don’t know how good gin is in cocktails (which is our standard base).
What else makes the cocktails at The Randolph worth the price? Organic ingredients, fresh produce and exclusively top shelf spirits. Our drinks are expertly prepared by a friendly and knowledgeable staff. We also have great music and atmosphere, very little pretense, and a really good looking downtown crowd.
Can you share one of your favorite cocktail recipes for summer? Strawberry Cucumber Fizz (Pictured.) The ingredients are: gin, lime juice, simple syrup, muddled with cucumbers and strawberries, served over ice with soda.
You’ve been very involved with Milk and Honey; how does The Randolph differ? Milk and Honey is the measuring stick for high-end cocktail bars. Sasha [Petraske, owner of Milk and Honey] is a genius and we have and do defer to him on everything we do here. We are different first because we freeze our booze and use Kold-draft. Also, we are a little more accessible to people who might not know a lot about high end cocktails. We are also a little more high energy. Instead of strict jazz (swing, be-bop, etc), the music here mixes a lot of genres, like classic rock, country, r&b, reggae/ska, and oldies. And, unlike M&H, you are allowed to talk to and hit on girls (we tend to get a lot of them in here).
I noticed there are no stools at the bar; what’s up with that? There are stools during the week but we take them out on weekends to accommodate the crowd… It does get pretty crowded in here on weekends
Besides the bars you’re involved with, where do you like to go for a recreational drink? Pegu Club, Death and Company, Lucky Jack’s, Gold Bar, The Rusty Knot, Trout (on Smith Street in Brooklyn), Kingswood, PDT.
The specialty, meticulously-sourced cocktail trend has really exploded, with places all over town like Hotel Delmano, Clover Club, and restaurants like Elettaria getting in the “mixology” game. Is the trend in danger of getting a little too precious, or played out? Offering proper product that you can be proud of is never a bad thing. I think it’s a good thing, as long as people pay attention to details and don’t cut corners.
How did you get involved in this style of cocktail? I started at East Side Company then moved to Milk and Honey. At both places I was trained by Sasha. I was also at Gold Bar until recently (they have a fantastic cocktail program and an awesome scene…we consider them family as well).
How are things going at The Randolph? Is it too crowded on the weekends? Do you have suggestions for getting in? Things are great; exceeding expectations in every regard. We do tend to get pretty crowded on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday – even with our host Shane filtering people in and out. I would suggest making a reservation or coming during the week. We pride ourselves on being polite and courteous, but often we can’t let guys in without girls on weekends.