Sunday, May 6, 2012
The PDT Cocktail Book
PDT (Please Don't Tell) is a faux-speakeasy bar in New York City. It is accessed by entering a phone booth at the back of Crif Dogs and dialing the appropriate number, which causes the door to open. I'm sufficiently plebeian to find the idea of a bar that semi-intentionally hides itself to be a little off-putting, but I will admit that they've put out a rather nice book for use at the less exclusive place I like to call home.
The book is written by Jim Meehan, one of the bartenders at PDT, and illustrated by Chris Gall. The book opens with a set of suggestions for setting up a bar, ranging from design to equipment and supplies. There's a fairly strong slant towards professionals rather than the home bar, but much of the information is still applicable. The recipes are laid out in a standard alphabetical fashion, interspersed with recipes for any specialized ingredients (infusions, syrups, etc.). There's also an index in the back that lists all of the drinks by base spirit. Near the end there are sections with suggestions for varieties of spirits, liqueurs and other ingredients, a section talking about how to build seasonal cocktail menus, and finally a list of other books that will be useful to an aspiring bartender.
Overall I think this book is a reasonably good value for money. It's not the first book I would suggest to someone looking to set up a home bar (The Joy of Mixology wins hands down), but for those with a handle on the basics, the selection of recipes is broad and doesn't too often require fussy home made ingredients. One of my main quibbles with publications like Imbibe is that a too-large percentage of their recipes require making infusions or syrups that may not have a significant amount of utility except in that one drink, which is fine for a bar, but less useful at home. The PDT Cocktail Book does ask for some of them, but the percentage of recipes requiring that is fairly low.
And just to give you a taste of the kinds of drinks contained in this book:
1.5 oz Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy
0.5 oz sweet vermouth
0.5 oz Bénédictine
0.5 oz Cherry Heering
0.5 oz lemon juice
0.5 oz ginger beer
Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and pour unstrained into a chilled rocks glass.
This is a deliciously complex drink, evolving in stages across the mouth. The initial sip is only slightly sweet, with the liqueurs gaining force towards mid-palate, along with a hint of fresh apple flavor. The herbal notes of the Bénédictine come in strongly, leading smoothly into the finish. The finish is a wonderful melange of the sweet vermouth's bitter wine notes coupled with dark, dry cherry from the Heering and the oaky apple of the applejack. With time and dilution the bitter notes of the vermouth become somewhat more subdued, giving way to the applejack. A certain nuttiness also appears, which, when combined with the wine flavors of the sweet vermouth, remind me a lot of a good oloroso sherry. Overall this is a taste roller coaster.