Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Aviary.

On Sunday evening I finally had the chance to visit The Aviary. It seems silly to say 'finally,' as it has barely been open for business a full week, but I've been anxious to tour the menu ever since the Absolut Sensory Evaluation seminar I attended in November.

I had a great group of drinkers with me: Ira Koplowitz and Nick Kosevich of Bittercube Bitters, Sterling Field of Sable Kitchen & Bar, plus Eric Henry and Shelby Allison of The Whistler. Between the six of us, we were able to taste every drink on the menu, plus a few more.

The Menu:
Listed from sweet to dry, with birds in flight representing levels of complexity.
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Craig Schoettler started us off with a little bit of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Bourbon (in one of the most beautiful tasting glasses I've ever seen), served alongside a Miller High Life tallboy.

The next 'course' was a shot of Heaven Hill's Virgin Bourbon with a pickle back (complete with a seriously delicious house-made pickle). So good that it disappeared before we could snap a photo.

The Amuse: Beefeater 24, Cocchi Americano, rhubarb juice, Peychaud's Bitters, lemon balm garnish, and a straw that seemed to be crafted from some sort of floral stem.

Round One:
Shelby ordered Pineapple, served in a conical glass with ice frozen to its interior surface. Reminiscent of the Chartreuse Swizzle and with a slight bitter component from San Pellegrino's Sanbitter soda, this may have been my favorite of the evening. I had Tiki, also a terrific drink. It had little cinnamon-flavored ice pebbles stuck to a metal straw that slowly melted and allowed the cocktail to become spicier.
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Eric chose Hot Chocolate, which had a smokey flavor from the El Tesoro tequila, though none of us were able to detect the flavor of Fernet. Topped with a tobacco-infused foam.
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Ira went with In The Rocks. As he said it, "Someone had to do it." Overall, a solid Old Fashioned made with Eagle Rare bourbon.

Not pictured: Nick's Sassafrass (very cool; a completely colorless cocktail with sassafrass-vanilla-licorice root flavored ice cubes) and Sterling's Banana.

Next came a few off-menu cocktails, courtesy of Greg Buttera. A classic Brooklyn with Amer Picon, and a Havana Club 3 Year Daiquiri; both were excellent.

Round Two:
Sterling ponied up for the $28 Truffle. The photo on the left is the full pour, which felt a little short compared to the other cocktails we had. Despite earlier reports I heard, the truffle was not terribly overwhelming.
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Shelby's Martini, presented as a flight of three: a la minute (far right), one aged two months in a Tuthilltown barrel, and another aged three months in a Tuthilltown barrel (far left).

Nick's Blueberry, which changed with every sip as it infused in the canteen-like vessel.

I chose Rooibus, which had a pretty show-stopping presentation.

Ira chose Popcorn.

Eric's Martinez went un-photographed, as it arrived just as Snack Time began. Every bite was delicious, and the kitchen was kind and patient enough to do a couple of amazing vegan items for Shelby and me.

Round Three:
I had a well-executed Rittenhouse Sazerac (not pictured), and Shelby chose Ginger, which is a Moscow Mule variation swizzled by the drinker. Also, perhaps the most interesting glassware of the evening.

Sterling's Scots Pine.

Eric's Cranberry, which is their take on a classic New Orleans cocktail, The Hurricane. This was one of my favorite cocktails of the night, though I was a little confused as to why it was called Cranberry. It had three types of rum, one of which was a funky Batavia Arrack, and had a great balance between sweet and tart.
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Nick went with El Diablo; Ira's Lemon came in a paper bag-wrapped brown bottle and was a tongue-in-cheek preparation of a classic Tom Collins.

To share: Sidecar and Coffee (pictured, with milk frozen to one side of the glass; their rum-based interpretation of a White Russian).

A Bourbon Flip mignardise and a bit of El Tesoro 70th Aniversario finished the evening.

In Conclusion...
My recommended 'must order' cocktails: Pineapple, Cranberry, Ginger, Rooibus, and Blueberry. If you're looking for wild, Alina-style presentation, go with Rooibus, Ginger, Blueberry, or In The Rocks. The classics were, for the most part, presented just that way: classically.

I think the way we approached the menu was perfect: as a group of six, everyone sharing with one another. Our table was perfect for our crew, and though we (and the few other tables nearby) started off the night a little on the quiet/nervous side, by the end of the evening the entire place had a festive energy.

A fun time was had by all, which, in the end, is the most important thing about drinking with friends.

1 comment:

  1. Great review! We finally got to try it last night and had a wonderful time.

    Oh, and just because I have to ask this every time we talk... when is "Cocktails 201" coming? I want to learn more! Thanks,