Service Journalism, or Excuses to Drink Expensive Booze

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In the interests of educating my reading public, I went down to the Flatiron Lounge, a new, rather swanky bar on 19th Street that's rapidly looking like it's becoming the latest 'in' spot.

It's a very pretty space -- lots of deco touches, from the antique bar itself to the elegant, nearly enclosed banquettes. It's the kind of bar that looks like it should have Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald singing "Stormy Weather", accompanied only by a solo piano at a glacial pace, playing over the sound system.

Of course, they were playing the Beastie Boys instead.

Anyway, the drinks themselves are very, very good (if somewhat pricey). It's a bar that specializes in sophisticated drinks and it shows on the menu. The look of horror on the mixologist's face when a clueless fratboy type asked for a Red Stripe (which is not one of the featured beers) was indescribable. One of the featured drinks on their menu is the Sidecar, which is, I would have to say, probably my favorite cocktail (when made correctly, which is rare, which is why I end up drinking so many Manhattans).

The classic Sidecar is two parts cognac (or brandy), one part Cointreau (or triple sec), and one part fresh lemon juice; they serve their version in a cocktail (aka a martini) glass rimmed with sugar. It's a elegant balance of sweet and sour; the tang of the lemon juice floats above tha alcoholic sweetness of the Cointreau with the cognac providing a nicely complex base. Sidecars made with Rose's Lemon water are invariably cloyingly oversweet; they're far more like the dreaded and far-overrated Cosmopolitan than anything else.

I also tried a Nicky Finn, which is a sidecar with a teaspoon of Ricard (or absinthe, or other licorice-based alcohol) slipped into the mix; the extra bitterness of the liqueur gives the drink a surprising depth that you didn't know was missing. I'll have to have that again.

What was, perhaps, most impressive was the fact that Julie, the proprietor, made an excellent Americano -- one of the more obscure cocktails around -- without prompting or pausing to look up the recipe. An Americano is Campari, sweet vermouth, ice and soda water in a highball glass. It's a bitter, complex drink that almost nobody makes anymore; the sort of thing that's perfect for slow sipping in a seersucker suit on a hot, slow, lazy summer day.

Don't know why
There's no sun up in the sky
Stormy weather
Since my baby and I ain't together
Keeps rainin' all the time

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Probably my biggest coup of this week was winning the bidding for the rights to lunch with Paul Frankenstein, editor-n-publisher Read More


if i didn't know better i'd think part of your was a romantic.

so americano can be something other than the caffeine concoction, interesting.

Isn't that the bar that's owned by Chris Noth of Law & Order/Sex & the City fame?

Ya know, it's always struck me as a shame that while it's common to see the work of wine writers and food writers, booze writers are vanishingly rare.

That was lovely.

Positively poetic, Paul.

Man, it sounds great...except for the freakin' Beastie Boys. You kids and your music.

The Flatiron Lounge is owned by head-bartender Julie Reiner and several partners that I have not yet met.

Most classic Sidecar recipes specify equal parts of Cognac, lemon juice and Cointreau, but the it's really a matter of personal preference. I find the classic proportions a tad on the cloying side, especially since the classic presentation of the Sidecar is in a cocktail glass with a sugar-coated rim! Another proportion worth trying is Dale DeGroff's (he uses these proportions for pretty much every kind of sour): 1.5-2 oz Cognac, 3/4oz oz lemon juice, 1 oz Cointreau.

Thank you for the wonderful review. We do in fact play the classics most of the time, but as the night goes on we pick up the pace a bit with more ambient music. I can promise you that you did not hear the Beastie Boys at flatiron as we do not own or play any rap music. For a more classic experience please come by Monday through Wednesday, as we are not nearly as crowded.



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