Exploring the Borough

February 23rd, 2010

While I’m a firm believer in not having favourites, there are a number of cocktails I find myself turning back to again and again when I’m looking for familiarity and guaranteed liquid delight. A crisp Martini is a great pre-dinner palate sharpener, and a well made Old Fashioned is a wonderful drink to sink in to at the end of an evening. However one of my favourite go-to drinks is the somewhat overlooked Brooklyn cocktail.

A Manhattan variation that swaps sweet vermouth for dry, and adds a little Maraschino and Amer Picon, I fell in love with the cocktail after having my first one served to me at the Pegu Club as a bartender’s choice from St. John Frizell. Since then I’ve enjoyed it with great regularity, but also enjoyed mixing up the many variations on the drink, all named after Brooklyn neighbourhoods, that New York bartenders have been creating since Vincenzo Errico created the Red Hook at Milk & Honey in 2004.

Below are three of my favourites, and I’ll be posting another three – the Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Bushwick – soon. I’m sure there are others too, so if you know of any other Brooklyn variations please do let everyone know in the comments below!

Red Hook cocktail

Red Hook

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Named after the poor but rapidly gentrifying Red Hook neighbourhood, former home of Lenell’s, Vincenzo created the Red Hook as a 21st-century answer to the Brooklyn. While the recipe may look like a simple Manhattan/Brooklyn variation, its simplicity belies the wonderfully complex and balanced result. The Punt e Mes helps give the drink a bitter edge which makes the Red Hook a little less elegant than the Manhattan. However the Maraschino tames it enough to prevent the vermouth overwhelming, allowing all three ingredients to show their finest qualities. I probably drink more of these than I do regular Manhattans, and while it is superb (if rather indulgent) with its namesake Red Hook rye the drink works great with cheaper mixing ryes like Rittenhouse Bonded.

Greenpoint cocktail


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So popular was the Red Hook that is spawned several additional variations, Michael Mcilroy’s Greenpoint being one of the first. Playing on name of the north-Brooklyn neighbourhood and the hue of Chartreuse, the Greenpoint takes the basic rye + vermouth template and adds a herbal twist with yellow Chartreuse. Combined with the bitters and lemon zest this results in a brighter drink than the Red Hook, and then rye and Chartreuse play off each other to great effect.

Bensonhurst cocktail


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Chad Solomon, another (now former) Milk & Honey bartender created the Bensonhurst as “a tough-guy drink”, and it indeed packs a manly punch with the rye taking a more dominant role than the drinks using sweet vermouth above. One of the few Brooklyn riffs that calls for the traditional dry vermouth, the fortified wine helps take the edge of the whiskey while adding a subtle floral undertone. Meanwhile the Maraschino and Cynar combine to provide a bittersweet funkiness that underpins the rye and vermouth base resulting in a strong, imposing drink with a subtle and complex background that reveals a softer side over time. Much like many tough-guys I’ve met.

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Posted in Aromatic Bitters, Chartreuse, Cynar, Maraschino, Orange Bitters, Recipes, Rye, Vermouth

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15 responses to “Exploring the Borough”

  1. the modern serf the modern serf says:

    and the williamsburg uses PBR in place of sweet vermouth, right?

  2. Camille hobby-limon Camille hobby-limon says:

    That red hook sound right up my alley! I’ll get Stuart to make one as soon as he’s in tomorrow…

  3. Filip Filip says:

    Great post jay, great minds think alike as I was thinking of doing a post about the Red Hook and it’s variations.

  4. Vodka & Co. | Alcool News #43 says:

    [...] géographique des vins d’appellation via Internet > Vitisphere • Exploring the Borough > Oh Gosh! • Vinisud 2010 : grands projets en schistes pour les vins de l’appellation Faugères > [...]

  5. Eric Eric says:

    Add to this the Park Slope: 1 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey, 3/4 oz Punt e Mes, 3/4 oz Apricot Brandy. Given the the Punt e Mes, I use apricot eau de vie. But if you have a sweet tooth there’s always the Rothman & Winter style apricot brandies too.

  6. The Brooklyn « The Barman Cometh says:

    [...] cocktail, the Bronx cocktail, Audrey Sander’s Little Italy, Enzo Errico’s Red Hook, the Greenpoint and Besonhurst…but what do we get in the Bay Area, a veritable ground zero for cocktail drinking ever since [...]

  7. Victor Nordelöf Victor Nordelöf says:

    maybe its not a Brooklyn neighbourhood but a great twist on a Manhattan (and what I usually prefer ovar a Manhattan) is “Remember the Maine”which you already have made a post about here on Oh Gosh, I usually go for Punt E Mes making that and let the bitterness balance against the thick and sweet flavours of Cherry Heering, the absinthe I usually just rinse in the glass for the aroma.

    Twist on a Manhattan that doesnt have a name yet is

    50 ml Rye
    20 ml Lillet Blanc
    5-7 ml St. Germaine
    Dash of Orange Bitters
    Dash of Cynar

    is something that I’ve been serving to my Manhattan loving customers. Let’s call it the “Montrose Avenue” after a block I spent 10 days in 2008. Enjoy!!!

    Great post by the way!

  8. Robert Simonson Robert Simonson says:

    I published something on this trend in Time Out New York back in January 2009. Did you happen to read it?

    Robert Simonson


  9. Jay Jay says:

    Eric – I’ve never been so much of a fan of the Park Slope, but I’ve never tried it with eau de vie, just apricot liqueur. Will have to give it another shot.

    Victor – I adore the Remember the Maine, and your Montrose Avenue sounds pretty good too.

    Robert – Your article may well be what first turned me towards the recipes after trying a Red Hook from the sheet that came with my Red Hook whisky, and a Green Point on my visit to Milk & Honey NY last year. And I know for sure your later article here definitely turned me on to the recipes from the Death & Co. guys. So thanks!

  10. max max says:

    i been drinking the Red Hook for few years now, when a good friend of mine Andy Penny introduced to me, i know Enzo personally from time spent in london, i think is an amazing drink, my personal twist is simply swap amaro Ramazzotti for the Punt & mess that’s all, try out and let me know ciao…..

  11. Red Hook Cocktail « Cold Glass says:

    [...] some cases, “tweak the Brooklyn“), as each section of that borough now seems to have a cocktail named after itself, all playing off the Manhattan and Brooklyn [...]

  12. Creating the Ultimate Manhattan Cocktail Variation says:

    [...] this I am salivating just thinking of sipping on one or one of its variants … can I get anyone a Greenpoint, a Red Hook or the [...]

  13. Finding the Best Manhattan Cocktail in Manhattan | Manhattan Challenge says:

    [...] to the table a short time later presenting us with two riffs on the Manhattan, a Vieux Carre and a Bensonhurst. Consumed, the judges all agreed to try a second round in order to better align the experience to [...]

  14. gaz regan gaz regan says:

    Just stole these recipes and edited them so you’ll never catch me. Thanks Robert!

    gaz regan

  15. 1.21.11: Luigi, Greenpoint « liquor is quicker says:

    [...] Greenpoint (Oh Gosh!): [...]

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