After an inexcusable 3-week absence, I headed back to Petworth Citizen’s beautiful Reading Room for Graham Greene weekend, the latest installment in the bar’s awesome Literary Cocktail series. Frankly, I was surprised to be let back in after that display of disloyalty! Determined to repair my tarnished reputation, I launched into Chantal Tseng’s great menu with gusto. It was also a nice trip down memory lane, as I read several Greene novels in college. Always fun rediscovering stories and your youth through alcohol.
We started the fun with my favorite Greene story “The Quiet American” with Navy strength gin, pastis (an anise-flavored spirit from France), green chartreuse, coconut water, ginger, lemongrass, mint, and ice. This was the standout of the evening for me, and not just because of the uber-cool tiki glass! The drink has this clean, straight-forward, mint/herbal taste, which is quite the accomplishment given the range of ingredients. The gin hits hard up front and sticks with you as you sip. Really loved it. Then the timely “Our Man in Havana” with rum, PX, branca menta (a herbal minty liqueur) and lime. I also really enjoyed this one – I loved the influence of the branca menta, which Ms. Tseng was kind enough to describe to me. It lends this rich, almost chocolate chip mint taste to the rum and lime, making this a really enjoyable tropical-ish drink. And the nutmeg gives the whole mix a great fragrance.
We lit up with “The Comedians” with light and dark rums, grapefruit, luxardo maraschino, allspice dram, and demerara sugar. Oh and FIRE. Very resonant and enjoyable, I picked up on the dram and demerara, which lends a nice hint of sweetness. The taste is consistent and features a prominent cut off of the luxardo, but not too overwhelming. I loved the aura and scent of the burned citrus as well. Good stuff. Next, the moustachio’ed “The Captain and the Enemy” with Irish whiskey, contrabandista amontillado, pineapple, lemon, sweet Peruvian tea, and bitters. This was a strong drink with a citrus overtone and a standout whiskey flavor. All of this is nicely scented by the Peruvian tea, which lends a good herbal kiss to the taste. Nice.
Down the homestretch with “The End of the Affair” with Isle of Skye scotch, Fino inocente, Benedictine, Pimms No. 1, oleo saccharum (sugared oil!), lemon, and starfruit. A pleasant, scotch heavy taste, I liked the citrus influence here and the pungent, savory impression of the Benedictine. Also became interested in oleo saccharum, which you can read all about it here. Finally, “The Power and the Glory” served hot with Vecchia Brandy, Sangre y Trabajadero Oloroso (sherry), Contratto Rosso (vermouth), mezcal, rosemary, and a nice bite of dark bread. I’m a huge fan of Ms. Tseng’s hot drinks – this one was really wild, with a strong belt of brandy and mezcal. Not as relaxing as most warm drinks! A complex affair worth sipping slowing because of its intriguing mix of sweets and heats. And you even get some bread to soak it all up!
As usual, good times at the Reading Room! I promise not to wait three weeks until I return!