Masaharu Morimoto's Iron Chef tenure has made him quite the icon. At last night's event, the host demonstrated remarkable patience, posing for a seemingly endless series of photo ops with eager fans.
Dowager's Brew, from barmini by Jose Andres
José Andrès and team pulled out all the stops for this dramatic, billowy concoction. (There are about eight steps between seeing this drink and drinking it.)
First things first, the ingredients. A golden-hued mixture of Bombay Sapphire East, Nigori sake syrup, Lillet Blanc, and green apple juice is portioned out in a pitcher. Then, with a practiced flourish, the bartender gracefully pours it through a bag suspended from the lip of the glass. At which point a whole lot of mist roils forth which you watch, thoroughly mesmerized, while counting down the 30 seconds you've been told to wait before proceeding. Oh, also, the liquid has turned red—but you may not have noticed, due to the writhing clouds cascading down the side of your glass. Then, after your 30 seconds have passed, you sort of squinch the bag shut and hold your index finger over the remaining gap while tipping your head back and attempting to drink the relatively small pool of liquid that has accumulated at the bottom of the glass. (While hoping that none of that sub-sub-zero ice is still hanging out in the bag.)
Ultimately really good—refreshingly tart and well-balanced. A bit elaborate given the stand-up-and-mingle nature of the venue, but the witch's brew bit is campy and fun.
More Dry Ice!
The Experimental Cocktail Club was rockin' the dry ice scene, too, with this bucket o' milk punch.
Penang Milk Punch, from Experimental Cocktail Club
I'm not sure if this would've tasted quite so exceedingly medicinal if it had come in a regular glass, but that thought's in your head before it even hits your lips. Bombay gin, Battavia Arrack van Oosten—a sugarcane spirit traditionally used for punch, made from fermented sugarcane and Javanese red rice—Cameron Highland green tea, pineapple juice, lemon juice, clarified milk, and a Malaysian herb- and spice-infused coconut water...all packed into that tiny little bottle!
It was a beautiful night for a cocktail feast, and the Bowery Hotel's rooftop patio was packed with partygoers soaking up the view (and, of course, their fair share of cocktails).
Drunken Dragon's Milk, from Macao
Thai green curry meets mojito, this was my favorite cocktail of the night. Grey Goose vodka was paired with a young coconut purée and lime juice, for a satisfying, chalky-in-a-good-way texture. Pandan leaf syrup and Thai basil delivered a minty sweetness, blending beautifully with the lingering notes of nutmeg, clove, and cardamom.
Pomegranate Gin Fizz, from Whiskey Soda Lounge
Bubbly soda water, a hit of lemon, and a touch of sweetness from Pok Pok Som Pomegranate Drinking Vinegar gave this cocktail a bright, tart bite, but the booze—Bombay Sapphire East—was barely detectable. A good mid-evening pick-me-up, and probably a perfect fit for those averse to strong drinks.
Pok Pok Som Drinking Vinegar
Pok Pok's 'Som' line was on display at the Whiskey Soda Lounge bar—no surprise considering that they share owners. The vinegar-based syrup is made from cane sugar, cane vinegar, and various fruit infusions.
Ya Naam Peung, from Whiskey Soda Lounge
Parenthetically dubbed "Honey Medicine" on the menu, this was another favorite of the night. A seductive current of smokiness ran through the mix of Dewars 12 whiskey and gently acidic Pok Pok Som—this time infused with honey—rounded out with ginger syrup and a squeeze of lemon.
Morimoto's Yellowtail Taco
If, like me, you think raw yellowtail and olives don't sound terribly compatible, Morimoto is here to show you you're wrong. With some wasabi- and ginger-spiced guacamole to counteract the brininess, this may be the first time I've been able to wholeheartedly endorse a product of the 'Asian taco' movement.
Morimoto Photo Op
Feeding a Bombay Sapphire East cocktail to one of the Bombay Sapphire East girls...
Morimoto's Steamed Lamb Buns
I ate an inappropriate amount of these guys. The lamb, braised with soy sauce and sake, was tender and flavorful. Dressed with raita—a South Asian yogurt sauce seasoned with cumin, coriander, and mint—and topped with pickled daikon radish, it was intensely satisfying.
Koh Tao, from Experimental Cocktail Club
There was some serious blender action happening for this smoothie-style cocktail. Mango-infused Cazadores Reposado tequila and a Thai mango sticky rice custard were puréed with a squeeze of lime juice and a splash of young coconut cordial. I expected cloying sweetness, but was pleasantly surprised to encounter a smooth, citrusy balance. The finishing touch? A slightly out of place, if pretty, sprinkle of goji berries.
Silk Road, from Anejo Tequileria
The description for this cocktail—Corzo Reposado tequila, Lillet Blanc, jasmine agave, lemon juice, rosemary, and Thai chili—suggested something complex and layered. An initial sip proved somewhat more one-dimensional... until I caught a little surprise crescendo of heat from the Thai chili and was thoroughly impressed.
The Cotton Tail, from B Flat
Despite Campari's bitterness, this cocktail verged on cloyingly sweet and fruity. Apricot liqueur, orange juice, and orange bitters came close to overwhelming the Italian aperitif. The saving grace was a dose of roasted green tea-infused 42 Below vodka, which brought a warm earthiness to the formula.
Morimoto's Tuna Macarons
Is it a dessert? Is it an appetizer? I'm still not sure, but I'm definitely a fan. Tossing back tiny sandwiches of tuna tartare and sweet, chewy macarons may seem like a leap, but it's one well worth taking.