Of all the drinks I tried on PDT's new spring menu, I found myself liking The Rite of Spring very much. It had piqued my interest since Don described it to me at the Rhum Clement event, and I was looking forward to giving it a try. However, a close contender would be the Swiss Mist, which Jim let me try on Friday.
"I'm just here to kill two hours before I go see Iron Man," I reassured Jim when I stopped by PDT on Friday with fellow NRNer Elizabeth Licata. I didn't want them to think I was casing the place. Then again, I kind of totally was since I'd be lying if I said a little part of me wasn't there to find out for sure when the new menu was going to debut. Don had told me the week prior that the ETA was probably sometime around the weekend of May 2, but Jim said it was looking more like Monday would be the day.
So on Monday I flitted out of work at 5:40 pm and rushed on down to PDT. The hostess who greeted me at the phone booth told asked me if I didn't mind waiting a minute or two since the bar was trying to take it slow between people on account of the new menu.
Once I got in I kind of stared at the menu for a couple of minutes. Menu choices are always daunting because I'm terrible with decision making, and there were plenty of interesting-sounding items. The Rhubarbarita caught my eye because of the rhubarb puree...and, well, because it was Cinco de Mayo. The Rhubarbarita is made with Partida Resposado tequila, lemon juice, Grand Marnier, Veloce and the above mentioned rhubarb puree that is sweetened with agave nectar. It was a sweet start, with a bit of body added to the texture of the drink from the rhubarb puree.
If anything, the menu definitely was a show in seasonal ingredients and flavors. The honey liqueur in the Bee's Sip. A hint of berry with raspberry preserves ("until seasonal berries are available") in the Rose.
Also, to go with the light airiness of spring, there was some misting going on with the drinks. The Swiss Mist I tried on Friday is described as a "grapefruit accented silver gin sour" on the menu. Made with Gin, lemon, grapefruit syrup and egg white, the lightly sweet and foamy drink gets a slight spraying of Kubler Swiss absinthe from an atomizer.
Other drinks get a bit of misting too, but the mist goes in the cup before the drink rather than on the drink. For example, the Kin Kan (Beefeater Gin, lemon juice, kumquat syrup, St. Germain), gets a spritzing of St. Germain.
The the next drink I had to try the Rites of Spring. As someone who finds a swig of sour dill pickle juice straight from the jar or spicy tangy pickled kimchi brine with some cold noodles most refreshing a hot summer day, the mention of "pickled ramp brine" had me salivating as I read the description on the menu. Pickled ramp brine from Momofuku Ssam Bar, Tanqueray Gin, and Vya dry vermouth combine to create a surprisingly not all that sour drink. More clean on the tongue for a dirty martini, the tangy pickled ramp flavor mostly kicks in as an aftertaste.
"It's not as sour as I thought," I told Don.
"Did you try the pickled ramp brine on its own? It's pretty intense," Don said.
I asked for a taste and it was good. Sour, but sweet with a bit of heat. I probably could've just had a glass of that all evening long. Keep in mind though, that the person writing this enjoys eating lemons and limes (besides the pickle juice drinking mentioned above). My tooth enamel cries for me.
"How's the new menu going?" I asked Don who was going through the ingredients with a checklist as Jim informed him of inconsistencies on the behind-the-bar recipes list.
"Ask me again in four hours," he answered.
I tried The Mariner next mostly because I found the cardamom syrup intriguing. Again, I was surprised by how light the flavors were, even with the combination of Compass Box Oak Cross malt scotch whisky, pineapple juice, lemon juice and smoked cardamom syrup.
I tasted the cardamom syrup on its own. You got most of the spicy almost medicinal cardamom-ness (it's a word if I say it is) when you smell it, but when you taste it, that's where the smokiness hits. If you hold it against the front of your tongue, it gives off a slight burn as well.
The interesting thing was, no matter how complex, everything still managed to be light and not overbearing. Cardamom? In a syrup? Smoked? with malt scotch whisky AND pineapple juice?"
It's definitely smoky and a little sweet, but on the whole The Mariner isn't weighed down as a cocktail.
Even spirits-based drinks like the Rites of Spring, manage to come across as airy spring drinks. I asked Jim what I should try next and he mixed me a Hotel D'Alsace, which again, sort of took me aback at how light and sweet it was. Bushmills, Cointreau, Benedictine and rosemary came together as a slightly sugared herbal drink. Jim said that people found this drink to be their new favorite, but it wasn't going to unseating Rites of Spring or the Swiss Mist for me anytime soon, but that's just me.
It came down to the Bee's Sip (Chamomile Infused Barsol Pisco, Masumi "Okuden Kantsukuri" junmai sake and Barenjager Honey Liqueur) or The Kin Kan for me to choose for the last drink, and I went with the former. And the name fits. If bees drank alcohol this is what they'd probably drink. It tasted and smelled like honey and flowers.
I did make it a point to try the new addition to the food menu, The Wylie Dog. A deep fried Crif Dog with tomato molasses, shredded lettuce, dried onions and...battered deep fried mayo. Let me let that sink in with you for a moment.
OK, so when it came out I thought to myself, "Does that bun have two hot dogs on it?" If you think so, no, you're mistaken. And don't feel bad, I seriously thought that too. That second "hot dog" is the deep fried mayo. A stick of deep fried mayo. I like to think I'm not too shabby when it comes to describing things, but the only notes I have from last night about The Wylie Dog is, and I quote verbatim, "Deep fried mayo is EFFIN' delicious." Apparently I managed to lose all sense of using profanity to this hot dog.
(Download the full Spring Menu from PDT, here.)