Buying Barware on the Bowery (and on the cheap)

10 04 2011

So you want to supply your home bar? Excellent! It’s easier and cheaper than you think, provided you live in NYC.

The go-to area for bar supplies, and really any restaurant equipment, is that long strip of Bowery between Hester and Houston. Nearly every other storefront is selling lights or bar stools or slicers or random plumbing that you can’t really identify.

It’s easy to get lots among all the choices, and the seediness can be intimidating, so I’ve put together a guide of some of the better places for getting your jiggers and shakers, coupes and highballs, squeezers and strainers. It all starts at Sang Kung Rest. Equipment Co. located at 110 Bowery between Grand and Hester.

Sang Kung – Glasses, Glasses, Glasses!

This is one of the friendlier restaurant supply stores, not too cramped and with all the good stuff up front. Just walk in and turn immediately to the right aisle where all the glasses are on display.

Spend a couple minutes taking it all in because there are a LOT of choices. You can go a little bit nuts getting everything from flutes to old fashioneds to cordials to martinis. If you just want to get the standard coupes that you see at just about every cocktail bar these days, head for the Libbey 3773.

Libbey 3773 Coupe, $42 / dozen

This is a 5.5oz glass, which is a little big for some cocktails but more versatile than the 4.5’s (Libbey 3777). They’re a bit sturdier than the smaller ones and harder to spill, so I generally stick with these. At just over $3 / glass, this is about as cheap as you’ll find in NYC. Other stores typically have them for between $4 and $6, so stock up!

The 3.5oz and 4.5oz coupes, pretty but a little impractical

Next grab some highball glasses for all the fizzes and bucks you’ll be making as the weather warms up. All you’re looking for here is a 10 oz, straight sided, tall glass. Most tumblers you have in your kitchen cabinet are going to be 12-16oz, which is too big for most tall drinks.

There are a lot of different options here, so pick one you like in your price range. The size/price are on stuck to the bottom; I like the 10z Libbey that’s only $23 / dozen.

I want them ALL!

When you’ve picked out the glasses you want, bring them up to the cash register and tell them how many you want. The prices are listed by the dozen and by the case, but you can buy them in 4’s or 6’s or however many you want. They’ll write down the item #’s and run back to grab them for you. (Update: they’ve started charging extra for ‘loosies’, getting 6 coupes will only save you $10 over a full dozen)

One great thing about this place is that they’ll let you look at all the glasses before they wrap them up so you can make sure they aren’t chipped or warped. For the coupes, I recommend just circling your finger around the rim to quickly check for bumps.

JCC Restaurant Supplies – It’s raining dollar jiggers

JCC is a small one just off the Bowery at 354 Broome St. They’re a touch less personable here than at Sang Kung and didn’t want me taking pictures, so I’ve only got one of the outside. The main reason to go here is jiggers. They have just about every size: 2ozx1oz, 1.5ozx1oz, 1.5ozx0.75oz, 1ozx0.5oz and 0.75ozx0.5oz. At only a dollar each, you can afford to grab as many as you want.

After this, you may want to take a break for lunch. Go across the street to Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Inc (formerly Banh Mi So #1) and get a $4 torpedo of spicy pork.

Win Restaurant Supplies, Inc. – OMG, they have everything!

Ok, not quite everything, but close to it. Nearly every piece of stamped metal you seen in a bar is made by Winco, which this place’s basically an outlet for. Their stuff isn’t fancy, but it works and it’s cheap.

Walk past the guy on the first floor giving you dirty looks (just because I have a camera doesn’t make me a tourist, thanks) and head upstairs.

Keep going straight into the first aisle, but prepare to lose your shit. They have shakers, strainers, muddlers, jiggers, barspoons, ice picks, and juicers and all of it is ridiculously cheap. Well, except for the jiggers. They’re double what they cost at JCC!

Two dollars! What am I, made of money?

All the pretty things

Two-piece tins are just $6.75

This place is heaven, and if you have time try and wander through all the aisles. They have odd little gems everywhere that, if you’re like me, you won’t be able to pass up. I mean, they’ve got Tiki mugs for $3.50! I spend that much on coffee!

Between these three places, you can pretty much cover all your basic home bar needs. If you’re willing to spend just a little more cash though, it’s worth it to head over to Amor y Amargo for some nicer odds and ends.

Amor y Amargo – Drink while you shop

Part of the whole Cienfuegos / El Cobre complex and started as a partnership with Bittermens, this place is just absurdly cool.

The hours are still in flux so it’s a good idea to check their website or give them a call to see when they’ll be open. It’s also very very small, so get their early and spend the afternoon drinking and nerding out with the people who make Bittermens.

The selection of barware here is small, but it’s all great.

Gimme gimme gimme!

The shakers here are a must have. They cost twice as much as what you’d get at Win, but are so much better. Unlike the standard issue Winco’s, the small tins here have a wider mouth so they sit much higher up.

Muddle and shake

The mixing spoons here are also a steal starting at $8. The omnipresent red-tipped Winco spoons will work, I guess, but the marginal increase in coolness is worth the $4.

The ones on the left side are $8, $22 for the fancier ones on the right.

And while you’re here, why not get some bitters too? They have all of the regular Bittermens line for cheaper than places like The Meadow (still LOVE their salt), and an Experimental line of new bitters in the making.

Sadly, they sold out of the Hellfire bitters

One last thing: virtually every supply store on or about the Bowery closes at 6P and won’t open at all on Sunday. Update: Except for the one on Bowery and Houston, as noted by Kathryn Yu

Places mentioned here

  • Sang Kung Rest. Equipment Co. – 110 Bowery btw Grand and Hester (map)
  • JCC Restaurant Supplies – 354 Broome btw Bowery and Elizabeth (map)
  • Win Restaurant Supplies, Inc. – 318 Lafayette btw Houston and Bleecker (map)
  • Amor y Amargo – 443 East 6th btw 1st and A (map)

Recipes: Split Turkay

30 03 2011

Update: According to David Wondrich, “Turkay” was originally “Durkee”. It “seems to have been invented by I.D. Gilmour at the Grand Hotel in Cincinnati, as the “Durkee”: Jamaica rum, lemon, curacao and fizz water. That was around 1879. By 1887, it was in Chicago, as the “Split Durkee,” with some brandy thrown in. Somehow, by the time it reached NYC, rum had become gin, curacao vermouth, and Durkee Turkay. Drunks.” I guess that settles that! Disregard my musings below.

The “Split Turkay”, probably a misspelling of Split Turkey, is not a terribly popular drink. The recipe can be found towards the end of George Kappeler’s century-old Modern American Drinks, sandwiched between the Whiskey Sour and the Stone Fence. Stuck in the middle of those famed beauties, it’s easy to see how this one got ignored. Kappeler’s description of it as a “pleasant ladies’ drink” couldn’t have helped either.

From what I can tell this is the first, last and only surviving documentation on this drink. In modern terms, this translates to

Split Turkay (serves 2)

  • 1 1/2oz Old Tom Gin
  • 1 1/2oz sweet vermouth
  • 1/2oz lemon
  • 1/4oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white

It’s pretty easy to see where this drink is coming from; it’s just a Silver Fizz with less lemon and added vermouth. The name, on the other hand, is bewildering. What’s half a turkey got to do with it? There are precious few hints as to what this could mean, but I can still make silly speculations.

Maybe it looks like a turkey, or worse, a split turkey? Nah, if you scroll down it’s hard to picture that. The colors are vaguely Thanksgiving-y, but that’s a bit of a stretch. Tastes like turkey? No! And yuck! As near as I can tell, the turkey really has nothing to do with it and the split just refers to splitting the drink between two glasses. That, or Kappeler was smoking the ganj.

To be as historically accurate as is easy, I’m using an Old Tom style gin rather than Plymouth or a London Dry. Feel free to use either of those instead, but up the simple syrup to half an ounce.

First combine the above ingredients into a shaker, no ice. I’m actually pretty terrible at cracking eggs, so I like to separate the egg white in the small tin first. This way I don’t have to dump the drink if I mess up, which I invariably do.

The white meat and the dark meat

Shake the ingredients without ice for a good 15 seconds to thoroughly combine them, then add ice and shake some more. Strain the result into TWO glasses, my preference is for champagne flutes:

Slowly top them off with soda water to build the foam up to the rim, and enjoy!

It's like beer!

Wellllll …. not quite. As is, the drink is kind of bland. That’s not to say it’s bad, at 9AM it’s probably quite pleasant, but after downing the first one I had trouble convincing myself to drink the second. It’s only got half the lemon as an ordinary Silver Fizz, so it lacks that crispness, and the sweet vermouth quiets out the gin’s distinctiveness.

But it’s not all bad! Recipe books of old can be a bit incomplete. A dash here, a garnish there, they might not bother to mention every last detail. Assuming that Kappeler just ‘forgot’ to mention a swirl of bitters and a lemon twist, I added them to the other half of my Split Turkay.

Gobble Gobble!

Now that’s more like it! The bitters and twist liven the whole thing up and transform this “ladies’ drink” from insipid to pleasant. It even looks a bit like a Turkey, or um, something. I’m unlikely to have one of these after noon, but it is a mild and tasty way to cut through the morning fog. Also, the name makes me laugh :)

Cocktail Experiments: The No-Strain Ramos Gin Fizz

26 03 2011

The Ramos Gin Fizz is one of the most delightful drinks to come out of New Orleans, inadequately described as a foamy, alcoholic orange creamsicle. The balance and lightness comes at a cost though: this drink’s a pain in the ass to make! (click on the pictures for the full-size versions)

Nine, count ’em, nine ingredients!

Ramos Gin Fizz*

* This was the recipe used for the experiment, but it has too much citrus unless your lemons are really weak. Should be more like 1/2 an oz.
  • 1 1/2oz gin
  • 1oz lemon
  • 1/2oz lime
  • 1oz simple syrup
  • 1oz heavy cream
  • 1oz egg white
  • 3 drops orange flower water
  • dash vanilla (optional)
  • soda water

The RGF has no less than 8 ingredients (sometimes 9!) that need to be blended together into a light and airy drink. This means shaking and lots of it. Chris McMillian has a fantastic video on the history and traditional preparation, here, as part of his New Orleans’ Best Cocktails series. He uses more cream and less lemon than I prefer, but it is essentially the same.

  1. Combine all ingredients except soda water in shaker
  2. Dry shake to combine ingredients
  3. Add lots of ice and shake vigorously for a minute
  4. Strain into tall glass, add soda water and stir

This will produce a delicious Ramos Gin Fizz and doesn’t take too much care apart from remembering all the ingredients and shaking the shit out of it. The problem is when you strain it, you leave behind a LOT of foam in the shaker. And this early morning favorite is all about the foam.

A strainer is foam’s worst enemy

Since his video series was produced, Chris McMillian has come back around on this and came up with a way to preserve all that foam. Rather than using lots of ice and straining it out, use just enough so that it completely melts and no straining is required.

Well, so how MUCH ice?

This is a complicated question, and if you want to make it more complicated read the fantastic two-parter from Dave Arnold on cooking issues: The Science of Shaking (part II). The short version, which isn’t so short, goes like this. Cooling drinks is accomplished by transferring heat energy from the cocktail base to the ice it’s shaken with. Typical ice from the tray in your freezer is at -20° C and weighs 20-30 grams per cube. The two ways it absorbs energy from the base are through heating up and melting.

The larger cube is 29g, the smaller is 20g

In its frozen form, it takes 2.11 joules of energy to heat 1 gram of water up by 1° C (that’s the specific heat capacity), so with ordinary home ice that’ll be 42.2 joules per gram to reach it’s melting point. The additional energy it takes to actually melt the ice (enthalpy of fusion) is 334 joules per gram. Obviously, it’s all about the melting. Since it takes nearly 8 times more energy, it’s not going to matter THAT much the temperature of the ice you’re using so long as it’s actually frozen.


Don’t rush me!

Ok, if you’re bored it takes about 30 grams (1 – 1.5 cubes) if the juice, simple, and cream are pre-chilled and 50 grams (2-2.5 cubes) if everything is room temperature.  Happy???

If you’re still interested (don’t lie!), the first thing we need to define is how cold do we want the RGF to be? To some extent this is a matter of taste, and to a large extent it’s not. If the fizz is at 5° C / 41° F, that’s JUST TOO WARM! This is a cool refreshing breakfast drink, not a shower with a broken water heater.

As a benchmark, I took the temperature of an RGF made in the classic way with a shaker full of ice that is all strained out. This came out at -1.4° C / 29.5° F, or just below freezing, and feels absolutely perfect. A ‘short’ cocktail with 3oz ingredients, like a Negroni, will get down to about -7° C / 19 ° F with a moderate amount of shaking.

Imma Lay the Math Down on Ya’ll!

The ingredients of the RGF, given the above recipe, are 6 fluid ounces and weigh in at an impressive 190 grams / 0.4 lbs. My CRC Handbook didn’t list the specific heat capacity for the Ramos Gin Fizz (go figure), but we can get a back of the envelope estimate using the mass-weighted average of its ingredients.

The RGF’s specific heat capacity (Crgf) is somewhere around 3.68 j / g ° C, but keep in mind this is pretty approximate. My scale is only accurate to +/-1 gram and heat capacities of food items can vary quite a bit, so we’ll just call it 3.7 +/- 0.1.

From this, we can calculate how much heat (Qrgf) we need to transfer from the RGF in order to cool it down to our target of -2° C from room temp, 20° C.

We’re halfway there! Now we are going to translate -15,466 joules into grams of ice. The heat transferred to the ice is equal to the energy required to bring the temperature up to -2° C, plus the energy of the phase transition, plus loss from the shaker / soda. I’m using pre-chilled glasses, so there shouldn’t be any loss from heating them up.

Assuming no losses, we would need 41.6g of ice to chill a Ramos Gin Fizz down from room temp to -2° C. This goes up to 47 grams if you are using ‘wet’ ice starting at just below freezing.  Note that Qloss is a negative quantity (the heat transferred from the shaker/soda into the ice), so the higher the loss the more ice that you’ll need. If the shaker and glass were chilled in the freezer down to -20° C, and you wore gloves while shaking, it’s possible the Qloss could be positive.

If you start with pre-chilled citrus and dairy, the RGF base will start out at a lower temperature and require less ice. When I did this my base started out at 14° C, so we’ll just go with that. In that case, a minimum of 30 grams of ice is required.

Putting Theory into Practice

The ingredients were all measured by mass using a +/- 1 gram kitchen scale to match the specs in the above chart. Temperatures were measured using a cheap Oregon Scientific thermocouple ($6 at Target) that I wouldn’t trust to more than +/- 1° C, although it does display down to 0.1° C.

Weighing the lime juice

As noted above, my ‘control’ was a Ramos Gin Fizz made the classic way with a shaker full of ice (~180g) and strained into a glass. The starting temp of the ingredients was 18° C and I did a 15 second dry shake followed by a 60 second wet shake. Before pouring in the soda water, the drink filled about 8oz of a 10oz highball glass

So much foam, lost!

The final temp after adding the soda was -1.4° C, which felt just right to me.

Now for the fun part! The first way I tried this out was at just below room temperature (-19.6° C) and with 49 grams of ice (pictured above). The preparation was exactly the same as the classic style, but because I didn’t strain it at the end it filled the same glass all the way to the top.

The no-strain version barely fits in the glass!

This is before adding ANY soda! With the classic preparation, I had to add about 1.5 ounces of soda to build out the foam, but it took just 1/2 an ounce to make the no-strain version overflow. The result is more of the base ends up in the glass and with less dilution. Win win!

Soooooo delicious

-2.2° C is almost exactly what we’re looking for, though admittedly this was on my 3rd attempt after trying a few different amounts. According to our calculations, it should’ve taken no less than 41.6 grams of ice to chill the cocktail this much. We can attribute the additional 7.4g ice required to loss from the soda, shaker and my partially frozen hands. At about 85% efficiency, this is not bad at all!

Cooling down the drink from room temperature took 2.25 grams of ice for every degree celsius. I tried a couple more times with a 16.2° C base and a 14° C base (different levels of ‘pre-chilling’) and used 40 and 30 grams of ice respectively. The results were reasonably consistent, with the ratio of ice to chilling decreasing as the initial temperature of the drink went down. This may be explained as the result of less energy transferred to the shaker and my hands, since when using less ice you don’t have to shake the drink for as long. But it’s also well within the precision of our results, so it’s not terribly significant.


The foam is so thick the straw stands up with only an inch submerged

Using the no-strain method for the Ramos Gin Fizz gave us more foam with less dilution and less wasted drink left behind in the shaker. It takes more care and more work than the classic style, but with a bit of effort you can get a superior drink while still keeping the temperature cool. It’s impractical to measure your ice every time you make an RGF, but if you’re using regular ice cubes out of your freezer you don’t have to. Just measure a cube once and keep that number in mind, there isn’t going to be a lot of variation between cubes. Most trays will produce ice that’s between 20 and 30 grams / cube, and if you need a 1/2 cube just whack it with the bowl of a bar spoon.

As for the amount needed, it really does depend on what temperature you’re starting at. If most of your ingredients are room temp, except for maybe the cream, it’s going to be about 20° C and require 50 grams of ice. A bit more if your glass isn’t pre-chilled or your ice is wet. If most of your ingredients are coming out of the refrigerator, somewhere between 30 and 40 grams should do it. It’s better to err on the higher side because a warm RGF can be unpleasant, so I’d go with 40g when in doubt.

Recipes: Gordon’s Breakfast

15 03 2011

The Gordon’s Breakfast is a cocktail that has been making the rounds among the usual suspects this past year, but has gotten surprisingly little coverage. It’s a spicy/savory take on the Gordon’s Cup, a summer favorite with gin, lime, cucumber and simple syrup. A pleasant enough drink on its own, but it tends to feel like a salad in the winter and a wannabe Pimm’s during the summer.

The addition of tabasco, worcestershire, salt and pepper to this drink makes it a competitor to the Bloody Mary for your brunch time affections, and if you’re like me, a go to for that first sip to wash away the day.

Gordon’s Breakfast

  • 2oz gin
  • 1/2oz simple syrup
  • half lime, cut into 6ths
  • 2 slices cucumber, peeled
  • dash tabasco
  • dash worcestershire
  • sprinkle salt and pepper

First, drop the two slices of cucumber into a shaker and muddle them. There’s no need to do a ‘Bacardi Guy’, just breaking them up a bit is fine.

Separately, put the lime slices into the bottom of a Tom Collins glass and muddle them thoroughly. You want to get all the juice out from limes and have it spread around the inside of the glass so that you get a really strong lime fragrance when you first sip the drink.

Lime goes in …

juice comes out.

Back in the shaker, add the gin, simple syrup, tabasco and worcestershire. A little tabasco goes a long way, so try out a few drops of each first to see how spicy and vinegary you like it. There’s no shame in adding more later; it’s certainly better than looking like a wimp when you complain your drink ‘tastes like burning’.

Add ice to the shaker and give it a few good back and forths, then put some cracked ice into your glass and strain the shaker into it. Stir it up a bit to combine the lime juice at the bottom with the rest of the drink and finish it by sprinkling salt and pepper on top.

And there you have a Gordon’s Breakfast. For the variant called the Custer, core the other half of your lime and drop in an egg yolk with tabasco and worcestershire, then rest it on top of the glass. You might remember the egg yolk shot (called a Prairie Oyster) from the Electric Current Fizz recipe.

Preview of Things to Come

14 03 2011

I’ve fallen off a bit lately getting new recipes and experiments up, and for that I apologize. My 9 to 5 makes it tough to keep up my 5 to 9 ;) The Daily DrAT!, though fun for me, is probably of limited general interest.

The Custer, as in Custer's Last Stand

I’ve got a few posts in progress now and should have some new content up later this week. To give you an idea of the direction, they include

  • Recipe for Gordon’s Breakfast
  • Guide on making clear blocks of ice for a perfect old-fashioned
  • Experiments on balancing Ramos Gin Fizz foam, temperature and dilution
  • Less trodden pre-prohibition recipes (think Burned Brandy, Egg Phosphate, Chocolate Punch, Snowball)

If there are any recipes in the Daily DrAT! you’re curious about, or have an idea for an experiment, drop a note in the comments. I’ll respond as best I can, and if it’s a particularly interesting or poorly documented subject, I may put up a post for it. Thanks!

Recipes: Electric Current Fizz

10 03 2011

Today’s cocktail is an old one that’s been brought back to light by the crew at Dutch Kills. Given the name of this drink and its apparent absurdity, I assumed it was just something they’d made up for the idiot (that would be me) ordering a drink with an egg yolk.

Looking back, the first reference I can find to this drink appears in George Kappeler’s 1895 cocktail tome, Modern American Drinks: How to Mix and Serve All Kinds of Cups and Drinks. Like some of the other classic cocktail books, it has fallen out of copyright so you can read it for free through Google Books.



You might be wondering a few things after reading the original recipe, like “what’s a silver fizz?” or “do I really want a shot with vinegar?” or “am I going to vomit?” I can only answer the first question, the other two are up to the individual.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recipes: Genever Blue

8 03 2011

The bar Weather Up comes up a lot on this blog so it’s fitting the first recipe I publish should come from one of their former bartenders. This is one of the first, if not the first, properly made cocktails I was exposed to. It’ll always be special to me for that reason and its connection to the bartender who made it, James.

This cocktail uses Bols Genever as the base, a Dutch style gin that bears little resemblance to the standard London Dry. It’s similar to an Old Tom in that’s it sweet, but a bit more complex than that. If you want to make a drink with it, the easiest thing to do is pick a whiskey recipe you like and replace it with Bols. Old Fashioneds in particular work very well with this.

The drink in question today is the Genever Blue: a genever sour with blueberries and black pepper. A good drink year round, but obviously more suited towards summer when you can get fresh blueberries and are in the mood for something fruitier. The proportions given here are based on the blueberries I was using. As with any fresh ingredient, they can vary widely in terms of size, sweetness, bitterness, etc … so this is a drink where it helps to taste as you go.

Genever Blue

  • 2oz Bols Genever
  • 3/4oz lemon juice
  • 1/2oz simple syrup
  • 4-6 blueberries, depending on size and preference
  • fresh ground black pepper

Read the rest of this entry »