Wednesday, January 1, 2014

:: fred's picks for the top cocktails of 2013 (out) ::

In December 2010, someone asked me the difficult question of what was my favorite cocktail of the year, and I was a little lost for words for there were so many. In working out a post for this, I decided to sort it out by dividing the list down by month and also by whether I had them out at a bar or in at home. My choices were influenced by two factors -- tastiness and uniqueness; it had to be both memorable and worth repeating. The drinks were organized by when the drink post appeared and not when they were had. Since this list was very popular the past three years, here is the fourth yearly installment. Without further ado, here is the monthly breakdown for drinks I had out on the town for 2013 with a runner up or two listed. If I had to pick recurrent themes, Tiki and sherry pop out with amaro and grappa being new and old trends, respectively. Oh, and mezcal, plenty of mezcal.

January: For the best drink out, I am going to pick Backbar's Confederation Bridge which was their drink-of-the-week riff on the Prince Edward that was the combined work of a few of the bartenders. For the runner up position, the Blue Room's Nebbia di Garda; Matthew Schrage pairing of floral and herbal alpine amari that were softened by the citrus made for a wonderful libation; here, the modern flare of the amaro melded well with the classic feel of the cocktail's base.

February: Misty Kalkofen's Mistaken For Strangers at Brick & Mortar won with a grappa cocktail that had the feel of the Silent Order and Green Ghost. For a runner up, the simple elegance of Stoddard's Jack Frost crafted by Eric Cross  gets the nod at fit perfectly with the season.
March: This one I pondered over for a bit longer than others, but Ryan McGrale's Fishnets and Fangs at Tavern Road was pretty stunning with how well a large amount of Peychaud's Bitters was integrated into the drink. The beauty of Katie Emerson's Scotch-based Noble Order at the Hawthorne and Ran Duan's Appetizer l'Italienne-like Royal Flush at Sichuan Garden II share the runner up status for March.

April: Despite now working at Russell House Tavern now, Vic Pelegrin created his A Man About Town and I tasted the drink before that career move; a great riff on a Boulevardier. For runners up, No. 9 Park's riff on the Fog Cutter, the Bleeding Fog Swizzle, by Ted Kilpatrick, and Belly Wine Bar's sherry-laden Daley Fix definitely deserve mention.

May: For the nod, I opted for Stoddard's Mai Tai variation called I'm On A Boat; the Pegu Club-like phantom grapefruit combination of lime, orange liqueur, and Angostura Bitters was bolstered by actual grapefruit juice. Myers & Chang's blackstrap rum, Cynar, lime, and Coca Cola Fizz, the Black Snake, and John Nugent's rye Maximilian Affair-like Home Wrecker at Silvertone were the runners up for May.
June: The chocolate and herbal notes of Cory Buono's Bonatti & The Jets at Brick & Mortar get the win position for the month; they seem to have such a great touch with grappa there. For place and show, it seemed to be a cucumber toss up. In no order, there was Ran Duan's rum-Chartruese-coconut Lost in Laos at Sichuan Garden II and Sahil Mehta's mezcal-and-spice Garden of Good and Evil at Estragon. The wild card for the month is Will Thompson's Sherry Jungle Bird at Drink.

July: There certainly was a whole lot of sherry going around in July and all three picks contain one. Another tough decision, but Matt Whitney's Love in an Elevator had a delightfully rich complexity when it was served to me at Local 149. With a parallel style is Citizen Public House's Backyard Bitter; the other runner up is Katie Emmerson's Company Swizzle at the Hawthorne pictured below.
August: The month's winner was for a restaurant that had not even opened yet. Matt Schrage at Brick & Mortar had showcased the From the Hip that he was developing for the Ribelle cocktail menu and I was quite impressed. Deserving honorable mention are Sahil Mehta's room temperature Scaffa, the Coral Triangle, at Estragon and Franklin Café's Tiki number, Water Wings.

September: September was mezcal month. Katie Emmerson's Under the Volcano utilized it to an elegant equal parts style with sherry and amaro at the Hawthorne, and for a runner up, Ethan's 1940's era Zombie riff, the Oaxacan Dead at Deep Ellum was rather delicious.

October: I flagged more drinks of interest in October than any other month on the calendar especially with so many new programs visited. For a winner, I am picking Vik Hedge's Xocula at Sarma, a Negroni variation of sorts. For runners up, new comer Kirkland Tap & Trotter offered up the A Tale of Two Kitties via Tyler Wang; and relative old comer Backbar with a delightful nutty riff on the Bamboo, the Bamboozled, via Sam Treadway and Melinda Maddox.
November: Instead of picking a winner and two runners up, here are joint winners for the month. Josh Child's Bargellino at Silvertone reminded me of a Brooklyn cross with April's winner, A Man About Town. And Ryan Connelly's Upturn Flip at Belly Wine Bar had an alluring balance in spite of its inverse proportions.

December: Three drinks stood out for the month and I vacillated on which should get the tip of the hat. In the end, Mike Flemming's Hedy Lamarr with its fruity, floral, and herbal notes at West Bridge gets picked. For runners up, Deep Ellum's Penicillin-like Winter Cobbler and Lena Webb's 1919 sherry variation, the 1818 Cocktail, at Spoke Wine Bar definitely deserve mention.

So there are my 32 plus a wild card best drinks of 2013 that I had out spread out over 23 establishments across town. There were certainly ones that got edged out that I wish I could mention, but the scope of this post was kept tight. Although that is relatively tight for it is certainly a lot looser than picking a single drink or three for the year. Cheers!

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