Tuesday, July 5, 2022

big in japan

2 oz St. George Baller Single Malt
3/4 oz Del Professore Chinato
1/4 oz Amaro Nonino

Stir with ice, strain into a rocks glass, and garnish with lemon oil from a twist.

I had recently learned that Brick & Mortar had expanded their schedule to include Tuesdays, and I was excited to go. Previously, it had been impossible for my work schedule at Drink is the same Wednesday through Saturday that theirs was; I had been recommending the bar to my guests with the caveat that I assumed that it was as good as it had always been. When I walked up the stairs and approached the horseshoe copper bar two Tuesdays ago, I was surprised to see a familiar face who greeted me by name. Bartender Nic Mansur had worked at Brick & Mortar from 2013 until mid-2015 when he left to become the bar manager at Shepard, and when he was recently looking for opportunities, he contacted Brick & Mortar's owner about returning. For a first drink, I opted for the Big in Japan; the drink name alone reminded me of the "I'm an ass" (this was the description that bar manager Sam Gabrielli had in the new drinks notes) menu item at Russell House Tavern that partnered Yamazaki 12 Year, sweet vermouth, and orange bitters with Fireball in early 2014. Instead, this tribute to a Tom Waits song (at least Sam's was that) was much more elegant utilizing a chinato instead of a vermouth and Amaro Nonino instead of Fireball. While the whisky was not Japanese, St. George makes great products, so I was willing to let that slide especially since the price point and availability for the foreign stuff is very different than eight years ago. As an additional side note, the Fireball appeared on the bar after we all went out after a brunch shift at Russell House Tavern to Charlie's Kitchen, and the round of Fireball shots had my bar manager smitten for a bit. The product did not remain on our shelves long, but long enough for me to generate an OnTheBar menu item of a Fireball Fizz in a Ramos style that eventually found its way into Matt Rowley's book Lost Recipes of Prohibition: Notes from a Bootlegger's Manual. (I found it funny that I could sell it to friends for $7 as a $4 pour with $3 cocktail up-charge). Indeed, the years that Nic and I working at Brick & Mortar and Russell House Tavern, respectively, were a zany time.
The scene was a bit more sedate than some of the wild years nights on this Tuesday shortly after open with a handful of guests already having staked a claim to seats around the hairpin turn of the bar. The Big in Japan that Nic made me began with a lemon and grape aroma. Next, grape and caramel notes on the sip flowed into whisky and orange herbal flavors with a hint of smoke on the swallow. Overall, it was definitely great to be back in the space after a three year absence and to have an amazing drink there again.

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