Thursday, January 1, 2015

:: fred's picks for the top cocktails of 2014 (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. Here is the fifth yearly installment with my monthly breakdown for drinks I had out on the town for 2014 with a runner up or two listed. If I had to pick recurrent themes, fortified and aromatized wines like sherry and Pineau des Charentes were rather big, as were Swedish Punsch, Tiki, lower proof aperitif-style drinks, and Manhattan variations.

January: For the best drink out, I will go with Barrel House in Beverly's Cooper; the combination of Pineau de Charentes and Averna made for an excellent complement to rye in this Manhattan variant. For runner up, the nod goes to another Pineau de Charentes drink, the Pinky Ring from Kirkland Tap & Trotter. While it was described as reminiscent of a Chrysanthemum, it looks more like a Pineau de Charentes-based Puritan.

February: My nod for February goes to a simple but elegant number with a strange name of numbers, the 11+2/12+1 at the Citizen Public House. Two ingredients that balance each other so well plus bitters and a twist; the post explains the bizarre name. For runners up, I was torn between the subtleties of the Hawthorne's Cardo Bendito's lightly herbal tequila Manhattan of sorts and Estragon's sherry Tiki, the Fangataufa.
March: A Swizzle with Madeira and Campari caught my attention for March, namely Brick & Mortar's Red Duster Swizzle (pictured above). For runner up, I chose another Campari libation, Eastern Standard's Mela Rose which smooths out the bitter Campari with egg white and fruit notes.

April: I narrowed the month down to three contenders, and I selected the Laughing Boy at Deep Ellum; Fernet and Meletti pair well together here and are softened over time with salt done Little Giuseppe style. For runners up, I chose a pair of Swedish Punsch drinks. Merrill & Co.'s Battle Over Dutch worked the punsch between sherry and cacao notes, and Russell House Tavern's Poppin' Tags worked the punsch into a Negroni-Americano hybrid of sorts.

May: My pick for May was also Tales of the Cocktail's pick for the year, Backbar's Hurricane Caesar; the drink prospered from the Campari-passion fruit pairing that integrated over time via a Campari float. The choice for runner up was tougher with Kirkland Tap & Trotter bringing a Tiki-Rum Corpse Reviver #2 mashup called the Tidbit.
June: Another challenging month to pick a winner, but Fairsted Kitchen's Giuseppe's Lady (pictured above) elegantly merged a a Little Giuseppe and a Pink Lady. The secondary honors go to the Baldwin Room at Sichuan Garden II with a tropical take on the Room With A View called the Mother of Turin and to the Barrel House in Beverly's equal parts number, Against the Strain.

July: Instead of choosing a winner, I'll give co-top honors to Sarma's riff on the Prizefighter called the Pugilist (pictured below) that successfully beats down Fernet Branca into an unsurly ingredient and to Estragon's complex and floral Hurricane-like Tempest.
August: The most notable drink of August was The Murder of Dutch Schultz at Stoddard's. This tribute to Murder, Inc. utilized sherry to great effect to tie together Genever and cacao-Curaçao flavors.

September: Torn between two for top pick. Estragon's Zaragoza paired Campari-cacao flavors that were de-bittered by a pinch of salt and Barrel House of Beverly's Manhattan variation the Killing Floor that vaguely reminded me of a Brooklyn minus the Maraschino. For runner up, another Negroni-Americano hybrid of sorts caught my taste buds, No. 9's Torino Retiree in a crushable summertime delivery.

October: My nod for October goes to a crafty room temperature cocktail at Backbar dubbed the Missing Link. As a second place for the month, I'm picking a Tiki drink that reminded me of a Mr. Bali Hai and a Pago Pago fused into one, Citizen Public House's Jungle Madness.
November: Honors for the month go to "Fall in a glass," also known as Alden & Harlow's Port of Call (pictured above) with apple, Madeira, and spice notes in the mix. For runners up, the quirky, earthy, and herbal Maximo Blue at Bronwyn and the Viale house Negroni riff, the Eldridge were notable.

December: Top honors for December go to the Baldwin Room at Sichuan Garden II with another drink that pairs passion fruit and Campari except here accented by yuzu in the Forbidden Fruit. The two runners up fall to the Independent's Rainy Dayz and West Bridge's Sinnerman.

So there are my 29 best drinks of 2014 that I had out spread out over 21 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 not as tight as a top 12 would have been). I am looking forward to what 2015's list will bring. Cheers! 

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