Two Perfect Cocktails for a Taste of New York City

Ariana DiValentino


There's nothing like a night out in New York, with all its promising possibilities. From lounging at a rooftop cocktail bar to thrashing along to live music in Brooklyn, an evening spent under the glow of the city lights holds a special kind of magic. If you're hoping to recreate a bit of that sparkle from the comfort of your home, wherever you may be, you're in luck. ASMALLWORLD connected with two seasoned bar professionals who each shared one excellent recipe for a cocktail that they think is quintessentially New York. Both bartenders ended up vouching for classic cocktails, which feels appropriate to the sophisticated and timeless spirit of New York. Read on to learn why they selected the cocktails they did, and their preferred methods for making each.

Meet Me in Manhattan

The Manhattan might be an obvious choice, but it’s an old classic worth revisiting. Tony Edgerton is the lead mixologist and beverage co-director of New York’s Festivál Cafe, a “farm-to-bar” concept spot at the entrance of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, just a few blocks east of the base of Central Park. After his years of designing and executing cocktail programs at some of New York City’s most prestigious locales, it might come as a surprise – or perhaps not – that his ultimate choice for the most New York cocktail dates back over a century.

“Obviously, the name helps, but this cocktail has withstood the test of time, not just in New York, but all over the world,” Edgerton said. He provides some background: “Rumored to have been created in the Manhattan Club in the late 1880s by Dr. Ian Marshall, this cocktail offers a deliciously balanced and elegant approach to any night on the town.”

Combining rye with other strongly flavored, boozy ingredients like vermouth and Angostura bitters produces a powerful, warming, slightly spicy and bitter beverage. Edgerton adds the liqueurs Benedictine and Amaro to amplify and round out that flavour with some herbal and citrus notes.

Edgerton particularly likes serving and sipping this drink during the colder months, which is appropriate considering its wintry, warming spice notes. Furthermore, with only bar ingredients required, this is a drink you can make even when there’s no decent produce in season.

“I’ve made many Manhattans and variations of Manhattans in my life,” he said, “and this is my personal recipe that I return to time and time again.”

Make it yourself: Modern Manhattan

60 mL Rye (Michter’s preferred)

15 mL Ramazotti Amaro

15 mL La copa Vermouth

1 bar spoon Benedictine

2-4 dashes of Aromatic bitters

Combine ingredients, stir, and serve up in a coupe. Express the oils of one orange peel over the cocktail and discard. Garnish with a brandied cherry.

Un Aperitivo, Per Favore

Italian-born New Yorker and bartender Michele Alfonso voted for the Negroni as the cocktail that best represents New York City, for its “bittersweet taste, same as the city.”

The classic cocktail, like Alfonso, hails from Italy, but has in its century-long life grown to international significance in the world of cocktails. “It is the drink that truly represents the concept of ‘aperitivo’ and a must in every worldwide bar menu,” Alfonso told ASW, pointing out that a search for the hashtag #negroni on social media currently yields over half a million results.

“Not only does it taste great, but also: who can resist that beautiful ruby color?” Indeed, the Negroni manages to be eye-catching with only three ingredients: gin, vermouth rosso, and Campari. The classic drink stands out among clear and brown beverages, which is befitting of New York, where style accompanies substance – and where classics will always be cooler than trends.

Alfonso recommends Carpano Antica Formula for vermouth, and for a base spirit he likes Plymouth Gin, “a London dry with a ton of spice, as it brings some balance between the bitterness of Campari and the sweetness of vermouth,” in his words. Finally, he prefers to garnish with lemon rather than the traditional orange peel, which might be due in part to his upbringing in southern Italy. He feels the lemon contributes more freshness than orange can.

As a final note, the most traditional way to make a Negroni is to build it directly in the drinking glass and stir, rather than shake. Alfonso prefers to stir the mixture with ice, then strain it into the drinking glass in order to allow the ice to melt a bit and balance out the drink.

“I personally choose the stir and strain technique every time because I prefer to give some dilution to the drink, in order to eliminate that bite that alcohol can give to your mouth.”

Make it yourself: Mulberry Street Negroni

30 mL London Dry gin (Plymouth preferred)

30 mL sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica Formula preferred)

30 mL Campari

Lemon peel for garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir, then strain into a glass over ice.

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