Cocktail recipe: East River Defense


My article, Your Cocktail’s Been A-Saltedappears in the March/April 2013 issue of Arrive Magazine, which –for once!– I got to read in hard copy format as I trundled along from NY to Baltimore and back again last week on Amtrak.

Gotta love any publication that lets me get away with a pun like that in the headline!

I’ve been looking forward to showcasing the East River Defense cocktail in the photo above ever since I first went to Northern Spy, a sweet little locavore spot in the East Village about a year ago.  I was there to interview Co-owner and Beverage Director Chris Ronis for a Wine Enthusiast feature about Aperitif Cocktails, and although it wasn’t part of the article, this was the drink I walked away thinking about — it had the strangest sweet-salty-tart-refreshing combination.

Northern Spy doesn’t have a full liquor license — they can serve only wine and beer. Luckily, that includes fortified wines (like sherry) and aperitif wines, so the drinks list still is robust and interesting.  In part, it’s that way because Ronis brought in mixologist Erick Castro to create the drinks. (If Castro’s name sounds familiar, perhaps that’s because you’ve been reading about his buzz-y new bar in San Diego, Polite Provisions.)

Although Ronis told me that this is based on a classic Cobbler, I think it’s even closer to the Paloma, a tequila drink made with grapefruit soda. Either way, it’s a perfect cocktail to transition into early spring.

East River Defense

Created by Erick Castro for Northern Spy ((New York, NY).  Nubbly “sea-salted ice” plus briny Manzanilla sherry gives the drink a refreshing salt-air tang.

1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

3 ounces Manzanilla sherry

1 ounce lemon juice

1 ounce simple syrup

3 dashes Scrappy’s grapefruit bitters

Soda water

Scoop ice into a Collins glass, and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. In a cocktail shaker, combine sherry, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters. Shake well, and strain into glass over the sea-salted ice. Top with soda water. Garnish with a grapefruit wedge and serve with a straw.

Cocktails at EN Japanese Brasserie

Last week, I spent the afternoon at EN Japanese Brasserie. It was a fun afternoon for a journalist:  essentially, I watched from the sidelines as other people did all the heavy lifting on a photo shoot; asked impertinent questions between photos (they were all relevant to the article I’m working on – sorry, can’t tell you more just yet), and finished up by sipping some lovely drinks made by mixologist Gen Yamamoto.

Two special cocktails to share:

The Daikon Cocktail. If you liked the Daikon Green-Tini, this one is for you. Gen (that’s a hard “G,” by the way) makes a refreshing version with muddled daikon, shochu and lots more grated daikon on top.

Still life with Daikon Radish and fennel

Gen in action behind the bar

Daikon Cocktail

Tomato Cocktail: So if a traditional (or non-traditiona) Bloody Mary is more your style, this is closer to that category. However, this is one of the lightest, sweetest versions of a Bloody I’ve ever had. It was also crazy addictive.

Gen makes this drink with a combination of fresh cherry tomatoes and sweetened, house-made tomato preserves, as well as Rain vodka.  He also has a fabulous technique for seasoning the drink:  he rims the glass (but only half of it!) with salt, and then sprinkles finely ground pepper on the surface of the drink. Simple, but elegant and effective.

Tomato Cocktail

Don’t you love the glassware? It’s his own, hand-blown and brought in from home for the photo shoot. I was honored to be allowed to drink from this glass — and to be honest, terrified that I might drop it and break it! I swear it made the drink taste even better, though.