Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Day Bar-nanza

May 1

I promised Adam Ramsey that I'd try to stop by Phil Ward's new tequila and mezcal themed spot Mayahuel this week. And I also needed to stop by Dutch Kills since I received a text message from Richard Boccato that folks should show up at 9:30pm to enjoy the official opening of Dutch Kills. It was time for a twofer evening.

I almost walked past Mayahuel on 6th street, until I noticed that I was walking past a structure I hadn't seen on that street before. It looked like the outside of a wooden shack, if a wooden shack were to be well-made and finished with a dark stain that is. I paused and stared at it from across the street before informing an NRN co-worker accompanying me, "I think that's the place."

Sure enough, a small unassuming framed sign hung on the doorpost simply said, "Mayahuel".

It cozy interior was decorated a plenty with mosaic, glass tiles and the Virgin of Guadalupe candles.

Our bartenders for the evening were Adam and Rob. Besides tequila and mezcal, Mayahuel's cocktail menu also features a beer cocktail section so I started off with an El Jimador's Shifty (pineapple infused mezcal with lime, sugarcane and Negra Model with spiced salt rim). What I liked about this was the beer's flavor wasn't lost in the mix and instead worked with the very slight underlying fruitiness and sweetness of the pineapple infused mezcal and sugarcane. You could taste all the ingredients in the drink without too much fuss. I asked Adam what the spiced salt was made of and he informed me it was a mixture of salt sugar and cayenne. Even though it was light and refreshing, at the same time the spiciness from the cayenne with a little smoky mezcal gave it an oomph in the "is this substantial?" column.

The next drink I ordered was from the section of the menu featuring drinks incorporating tea. My Git Ur Lapsong Souchong (Smokey Tea infused Blanco tequila, lime, agave nectar and tamarind soda) got a "mmm" of approval from my companion.

I stole a sip off of my fellow tippler's Division Bell (Joven mezcal, Aperol, Maraska and lime). The bitterness from the Aperol bounced off of the mezcal in an interesting way.

As soon as the Division Bell was done with Rob had a Raspberry Charade, a drink made with raspberry tea infused tequila, ready because he had overheard my companion say that she would order that next. We both gave our thumbs up to this amazing display of attentiveness and timing.

Adam treated us to an R'Cobbler (Blanco tequila, Campari, Carpano Antica, Punt e Mas with xocotatl mole bitters), which he said was a favorite of his from the menu. The closest flavor comparison I can make is that it reminded me of a bar of dark chocolate with orange zest/candied rinds in it.

I had asked Adam earlier if Phil was going to be in and Adam said that he was floating around, sure enough Phil came in and was busy bustling to and fro, greeting people at the door, getting people settled with an air similar to that of an anxious, yet proud dad pacing in front of the delivery room and handing out cigars.

I congratulated Phil on the new place and asked him when it had officially opened. From what I'd heard, technically May 1 was the official open date, with a sort of soft opening type set up fro the past week or so.

"That's what we've been telling people," Phil answered. "But I consider we've been open since we started accepting money."

Speaking of money, for those of you thinking of stopping by, keep in mind that Mayahuel is cash-only at the moment.

The rain that drizzled, then came pouring, once again turned to drizzle and finally stopped and I decided to take advantage of the break in the weather to make my way towards Queens to visit Dutch Kills.

I went from damp and drizzling to melting away in the humid heat inside of Dutch Kills. I overheard someone say that the air conditioning would be in place in three days. Despite the wilting humidity, the place was full of people, and at the same time the almost oppressive damp heat lent an odd bit of atmosphere to the place with its tile floors and wooden fixtures. You almost felt like you really were sitting in an actual speakeasy or juke joint. The the scent of fresh varnish lingered in the air as a testament to the newness of the place.

People were crowded around the bar in the back. I hung around the edge of the crowd and witnessed a lone Richard Boccato manning the bar, working like a drink-making automaton. I was hoping to lean over the bar to give my congratulations, but I felt like an interruption and loss in concentration at that moment would just be a danger to him and the people around him. He was in a groove.

There was one other service bar, and I could see several servers, including familiar faces like Vito and Sasha Petraske moving back and forth hurriedly with their trays to serve the crowd.

Alex Day managed to find me amidst the people gawking about the bar. I hadn't seen him in forever and I crashed his table of friends and family. I ordered a Queens Park Swizzle (rum, mint, sugar and angostura bitters) and was very happy with my choice when it arrived. It was in a tall sweating glass filled to the brim with crushed ice with three distinctive layers. The bottom, a green undergrowth of muddled mint, the middle a pale golden glow of light rum and lime, and the top a soft mahogany sfumato of angostura brown. I know I sound like I'm describing Shangri-La, but I think in that heat you can't help but get hyperbolic over something looking that cool and inviting.

Everyone at the table fell in love with the menu's design. The wooden cover was inlaid with patterned and finished paper while the actual, replaceable paper menu looked like a page out of a store's log from the early 20th century with the company's logo and product art. At the same time it was editable by hand since the menu had spots where drinks and their description could be handwritten.

Other drinks on the menu (written in and dated May 1 by Sasha it looked like):

Astoria Cocktail - orange bitters, gin, dry vermouth

Flushing Cocktail - vermouth, brandy, Angostura bitters

Holland Razor Blade - Holland gin, lemon, cayenne pepper

Steinway Punch - whiskey, curacao, lemon, sugar

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