NYC, February 15, 2008

Kind of a day of missed opportunities mended.

Another person I’ve met electronically through my various dealings on eGullet is Audrey Saunders. Last year some time she’d been in town for a Gin Syposium and we had just missed one another.

I really wanted to go to the bar she runs, The Pegu Club, as Mrs. Underhill and I had just missed its opening by a couple weeks the last time we were in New York.

I thought, what the heck, I’ll send her an email and tell her we’ll be at the Pegu early tonight, and maybe get a chance to say, “Hi!”

The other thing I really wanted to do the last time we were in New York was to go to Prune Restaurant. So much so, that we had reservations the night we arrived in town. Unfortunately, we ended being delayed just past their last seating deadline and missed the chance by about 15 minutes. Ah well, probably for the best. Hint: Restaurants are never really good those last few minutes, as the cooks and wait staff are ticking away the time until they can start cleaning and get out of the place. “A la chingada,” as my Latin American co-workers used to say.

Mrs. Underhill called and got us 8 PM reservations at Prune. What a wife!

The last thing I really wanted to do while I was in New York was to go to LeNell’s in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. As a spirits geek, one of my favorite things are Amaros, and LeNell’s has one of the best selections of these bitter elixirs in the world.

I’d heard that the commute to Red Hook was a little hairy. An hour or so. As someone who spends at least an hour and a half on 3 forms of public transportation every week day, this really didn’t seem so bad. So I looked up the directions. Subway to Brooklyn, Bus to LeNell’s. It was practically door to door service, from our hotel at West Broadway and Chambers in Tribeca to LeNell’s. Piece of cake!

It all went really well, I got to Brooklyn no sweat. Then I started looking around for a bus. It had said I should catch the bus at a certain intersection, but I didn’t see the line number. I did however, see it across the street. So I walked over there and jumped on the B-61 to Long Island City. New Yorkers will realize that I was going the wrong way, and should have in fact been looking for the B-61 to Red Hook. I did not really realize this, and work up the courage to ask to get off, until I was in what appeared to me to be a bit of a dodgy neighborhood. So I rode it out. I am embarrassed to admit I rode it out all the way to Bed-Stuy. I guess, I was wondering just how far the bus went, was it a local like one of the buses I take, the SF MUNI 67, which runs in a small loop, or a long route like the SF MUNI 23. Sneaking a couple looks at the map at the front of the bus, it appeared it would be a very long way to the end of the route. I got off, walked a block, and got on a bus which miraculously appeared, attempted to pay my $2, and was given a free ride. Just sort of a note, unlike the Buses here in San Francisco, for whatever reason, in New York, buses do not take dollar bills.

Finally getting a ride in the correct direction, I rode the bus out to nearly the end of the line in Red Hook.


Finally, an Amaro paradise! Amaro Cora!

An Americano I’ve never seen before!

And a Barolo Chinato (they had 4, Count them, 4 Barolo Chinatos!)

Anyway, as a sort of bonus public transportation round, one of the inbound buses seemed to be missing from the route, and I spent about 45 minutes waiting for the next B-61 to finally show up going back to the station! Standing room only! Packed in like sardines! Goodness, I felt like New York Transit Authority had arranged this special to make me feel at home!

Got back to the hotel room, had a lie down, changed and then we headed out to the Pegu Club.

What a beautiful and elegant bar! The design looks classic and modern at the same time. Comfortable enough to wear a dress shirt and jeans, or go in a suit.

In a bit of a coincidence, one of the bartenders who had been working at PDT on Wednesday was behind the bar at Pegu. Artemio was a wonderful bartender and thrilled Mrs. Underhill by suggesting she try a Last Word, only her favorite cocktail in the world, as her second drink. As we were chatting, Artemio mentioned that Audrey Saunders was in the bar, working on her computer. I thought, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot. So I went over to her table and introduced myself. I wasn’t sure if I’d done the right thing, but she said she would come over and chat for a while after she finished the email she was writing.

Anyway, we had a wonderful time chatting with Audrey. She and Mrs. Underhill especially seemed to hit it off. I got in a few interesting and technical questions about bartending. She was a wonderful and gracious host and introduced us to her head bartender (whose name I’m afraid I have spaced on.  Anyone know?) He had amazing technique.  It was a pleasure to watch his graceful style behind the bar. I was just amazed at how he seemed to split every ice cube perfectly with minimal effort. Far too soon, it was 7:45 and time to head to Prune for our dinner reservation.

At Prune, perhaps emboldened by our several cocktails at the Pegu Club, I decided we had to have the Marrow Bones. Wow. I dunno, there is just something wrong about smearing the fat laced unctuous marrow on toast points. Yet so right. More wine was drunk, courses were ordered, stuff like that.

Somehow we made it back to our hotel room, where we collapsed, exhausted and satiated, into bed.

Astoria Cocktail

Astoria Cocktail

1 Dash Orange Bitters. (Regan’s)
2/3 Gin (1 1/2 oz Beefeater’s Gin)
1/3 French Vermouth. (3/4 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth)

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Serve with stuffed olive.

Yer basic Dry Martini. Get used to it, there are about a million of these in the Savoy Cocktail Book. Interesting to note that the Astoria Cocktail in Crockett’s “Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book” is composed of, 2/3 dry vermouth, 1/3 Old Tom Gin, and 2 Dashes of Orange Bitters. Guess it lost some weight crossing the Atlantic!

This post is one in a series documenting my ongoing effort to make all of the cocktails in the Savoy Cocktail Book, starting at the first, Abbey, and ending at the last, Zed.