Friday, July 11, 2008

Hudson River Cafe's new summer cocktail menu

The last time I stepped foot in the Hudson River Cafe, it was still partially under construction. It was a little over a year ago that I was shown around as I conducted an interview for a story I was writing about all the restaurant development happening along a particular stretch of West Harlem along the Hudson River.

It was easier to be in that neighborhood to pick up some Dinosaur BBQ back when I still lived up in the Inwood/Washington Heights Area, since it was on my way home on the uptown 1 train. However, even after the place was up and running I never got a chance to stop in. Now that I'm out in Astoria, it's kind of out of the way to say the least. So it was a bit of nostalgia to find myself on the uptown 1 again for the cocktail party debuting the new summer drink menu.

Walking past the Cotton Club and hanging a right, I passed by Dinosaur BBQ on the right and Fairway on the left under a scene probably not unlike the one under Knoxville's Henley Bridge that Cormac McCarthy described as a "long aisle of arches" in Suttree.

I entered the courtyard area of the Hudson River Cafe that was littered with building materials on my last visit, but was now filled with people and tables instead. I gazed upon...oh, bother, this is getting to be a bit much. Enough with the descriptive writing, on to what we're all here for — the drinks!

Mixologist Alex Ott, who's consulting Hudson River Cafe on their cocktail menu created this lineup of summer drinks. He was behind the bar somehow managing to mix up several a large amount of cocktails. He seemed to be able to accomplish this by attacking the situation in waves. Go through several glasses of one cocktail, break, then move on to the next.

Alex Ott is a busy man, telling me at one point he's working on about 150 cocktail menu deals all around the world as he was negotiating three different shakers at once. He said he created the drinks on the menu so that the could be paired with the food served at the restaurant; the lemongrass the Courtesan with ceviche or the wine in the Hudson River Caipirinha to go with beef, Alex explained.

The drinks were generally divided between fruity-up-front or the more subtle fruit-as-an-undertone categories. In the latter category, for example, I'd place the Lychee Fizz, and in the former, the Manhattanville.

The Harlem Renaissance, which is a dessert drink meant to be served "instead of dessert," according to Alex, came with a "virtual campfire" according to the menu. I didn't get to see it at the bar, but I did catch a glimpse of a red wine glass filled with smoke overturned on a platter brought out to one table, the glass lifted, then waved about. I'm guessing the smoke smelled like a campfire in some way. I didn't smell the smoke myself so I can only presume, but now I'm all kinds of puzzled as to what that's about. I didn't get a chance to ask since I didn't notice this detail until later. I tried to reason with myself that maybe its some kind of approximation of s'mores, but that doesn't sound right either.

Zacapa Rum, liquified honey, fresh lime juice

fresh strawberries, guava juice, Grand Marnier, Belvedere Vodka, lime juice

Ginji Sake, Svedka Vodka, fresh lemongrass, fresh ginger, fresh mint, soda

Little Bird
Ocucaje Pisco, fresh mango, egg white, fresh lime juice, cinnamon, lime zest

Harlem Nights
Patron Silver, Creme de Peche, fresh mango, fresh lime, fresh mint

Lychee Fizz
Svedka citron vodka, fresh grapefruit, fresh lychee, agave nectar, soda water

Hudson River Caipirinha
Merlot, fresh limes, agave nectar

Harlem Renaissance
Chianti, fresh raspberry, Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur, fresh whipped cream, 23 carat gold "Virtual Campfire"

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