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More hot booze to keep you warm

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you all had fun-filled holiday festivities full of friends, family, and food.

Judging by my site stats, it looks like everyone’s been on the prowl for some warming winter cocktails as of late. I’m with you. I’ve been buying apple cider in mass quantities at Whole Foods and heating the cider with cinnamon and whole cloves before pouring mugs of the stuff and adding shots of Captain Morgan’s or Wild Turkey and topping with whipped cream and a dusting of ground cinnamon. And sure, while it’s fun to make yourself some hot drinks at home, sometimes you want just a little something extra, and you’d rather pay someone else to make it for you. It’s time to update my “Hot Alcoholic Drinks to Keep You Warm in the NYC Cold” post, so I have been doing extensive, ahem, research for you New Yorkers. I know. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

After the blizzard aka Snowpocalypse or Snowmageddon 2010, it seems like pretty much every bar with a chalkboard is offering your standard hot toddies and such. Maybe Usher was onto something. I haven’t been able to try every hot boozy beverage in the city, but I have tried a few, and I can comfortably recommend the following bars/drinks without hesitation:

Summit Bar (Alphabet City): The Road Well Traveled, Driving Ms. Davies (cold), Like Water for Chocolate (???)
How did this warm, sexy bar go unnoticed (by me) for so long? I’d walked by it several times thinking it’d be just like any other East Village bar, but I was wrong, because partners Hamid and Seider are two of the coolest cats around. Case in point? Like Water for Chocolate. (More on that later.) I liked the three separate bar islands, the eclectic sightly mismatched track lighting and chandeliers, and the long expanse of exposed brick punctuated with small walls of richly patterned wallpaper. There are a couple of couches for limited group seating, and we’d recommend arriving early as the place fills up around 11/midnight. I showed up on Thursday night around 9 with a friend and ordered their holiday punch, The Road Well Traveled ($12?), a hot brew of spiced apple cider with bourbon, walnut liqueur, cinnamon agave, lemon juice, and chipotle powder. It was kept in one of those metal soup warmers, and I was concerned that the alcohol might evaporate since it had already been added to the mix, but they maintain the temperature at a warm but not boiling temperature so fear not, the alcohol is very much present. We also ordered the Driving Ms. Davies ($12), a cold winter cocktail served with Templetown rye, gingerbread syrup, cardamom infused agave, and orange and whisky barrel bitters. I was especially impressed with the ice cube. Yes, singular. Ice cube. A large, single 2×2 ice cube from a special ice cube mold designed to cool your beverage with minimal dilution.

Driving Ms. Davies at the Summit Bar

The attention to detail here is impeccable. I started chatting with Hamid about my quest to find a proper (spiked) Mexican hot chocolate with my friend the day after the blizzard, and he mentioned the movie Like Water for Chocolate wherein Tita whips up a chocolate mole sauce so full of passionfor her lover Pedro that it incites in her guests all sorts of amorous urges. I told him I wanted that, but in hot chocolate form. Hamid introduced me to his partner Seider – a mixology savant with a culinary background – who was also intrigued. Moments later, they sent someone out to pick up some whole milk and Lindt dark chocolate. I like to call the drink Seider concocted that night Like Water for Chocolate, but it may very well never make its way onto the Summit Bar menu, living only in my memory and in urban legend as the best boozy hot chocolate in New York City. There were three layers there: one layer of dark chocolate melted with a little milk, having the consistency of drinking chocolate; another layer of whipped milk with gingerbread sugar, cinnamon, chipotle pepper powder, and sea salt; and finally the addition of Ilegal Reposado mezcal tequila – smoky and spicy, but still smooth. And he just threw that ish together, just like that. Color me impressed, Greg Seider. Duly impressed. I’m coming to Summit Bar with some chocolate bars and milk in hand this week. See you again soon! Winter hours: Sun-Wed 5:30 pm to 3 am, Thurs-Sat 5:30 pm to 4 am.
The Summit Bar
, 133 Avenues C between 8th St. and 9th St.; no phone – e-mail

Elsa (Alphabet City): Sweet Potato Cider, Cortez the Killer, Elsa’s Toddy
Elsa is my favorite under-the-radar neighborhood cocktail lounge (it’s a little closer to me than Summit Bar, and those 5 extra blocks do make a difference). If a guy were to take me here on a date (without my suggesting it), he’d be one step closer to another date. Elsa has a sweet, faux speakeasy vibe with its white parquet walls, cozy tables and booths, and soft but not dark lighting. After all, you do want to be able to see your date, don’t you? Here, you have three choices of hot booze. The Sweet Potato Cider ($12) is filling, but incredibly satisfying. Made with hot organic apple cider, Jack Daniels, a housemade sweet potato puree, and spices (likely cloves and cinnamon), it tastes like a cross between sweet potato pie and apple cider with a hint of whiskey. I’d recommend this if you are drinking on an empty(ish) stomach, as it drinks like a meal. If you’re in the mood for a spicy Mexican hot chocolate, get Cortez the Killer ($13), which is made with Mast Brothers hot chocolate, ancho chilies, and silver tequila. If you like some tea with your whiskey, you can’t go wrong with the Elsa’s Toddy ($10), which is generously spiked with rye whiskey, lemon, maple syrup, and, surprisingly, mint. Also a bonus: they actually take reservations for Sunday through Thursday.
Elsa, 217 East 3rd Street (between Avenues B and C); 917-882-7395.

Sidewalk Cafe and Bar (Alphabet City/East Village): Makers Hot Toddy, Peppermint Patty, Apple Jack
You get your choice between three hot drinks at this unassuming Avenue A bar (attached to the Sidewalk Cafe), and each hot drink is $10. The Makers Hot Toddy is made with Makers (duh) Mark bourbon, hot tea, lemon, honey, and cinnamon. I’m not sure if it’s because I went in the day after the blizzard or what, but this was one of the best hot toddies I’ve had in my life, and I’ve had a few. Strongly recommended. Also delicious is the Peppermint Patty, a hot chocolate fortified with Stoli vanilla vodka, peppermint schnapps, and topped with a bit of whipped cream. It’s sweet, and you can barely taste any booze, so this is the best choice at Sidewalk for non-whiskey drinkers. The Apple Jack is a hot apple cider spiked with Jack Daniels and sprinkled with cinnamon. Sidewalk is open 24 hours on the weekends and until 2 am on Sunday nights and until 4 am on Monday through Thursday nights. When you walk in, you feel like you’ve walked into a bar. Nothing more, nothing less. Of note: is one of the live music venues that launched antifolk superstar Regina Spektor. Two-for-one happy hour daily 2-8 pm, though I don’t recall that we were given a second drink when we went in around 4 on Monday afternoon. Pint and any shot for $9 after 8PM.  Rumored to have an all-day-long happy hour at the bar on Tuesdays and Sundays.
Sidewalk Cafe and Bar, 94 Avenue A at 6th St.; (212) 473-7373.

The Redhead (East Village): Hot Chocolate Car Bomb
I just saw the Hot Chocolate Car Bomb featured in the Serious Eats Best Winter Cocktails slideshow and nearly choked on my coffee. You will find me at the Redhead very soon to try out the hot cocoa laced with Jameson, Guiness, and topped with Bailey’s Irish Cream marshmallow fluff. Irish car bombs: not just for the violently drunk on St. Patrick’s Day anymore.
The Redhead, 349 E. 13th St. at 1st Ave.; 212-533-6212.

Huckleberry Bar (Williamsburg): Ixcacao
I haven’t actually been to Huckleberry in Williamsburg, but when I read about the Ixcacao on Refinery 29, I knew it had to be in this post. My friend Kim and I had actually gone into several bars and restaurants asking if they could serve us Mexican hot chocolate spiked with silver tequila, and couldn’t find any (this was before I remembered Elsa, doh!). The Ixcacao ($10) at Huckleberry is apparently named after the Mayan goddess of chocolate and combines house-infused peppermint tequila with blood orange liqueur and home-made hot chocolate with a kick at the end. Follow Huckleberry Bar on Twitter for daily specials – they’ve featured hot fig mulled wine ($5 a glass!), homemade gingerbread, and other toasty goodies recently.
Huckleberry Bar, 588 Grand Street (between Powers and Maujer streets); Brooklyn; 718-218-8555.

If you are more of a DIY type, I suggest you order some Ibarra Mexican chocolate pronto – it’s not the highest quality Mexican chocolate out there, but it sure beats Nestle Abuelita and is still easy enough to order or to find at your local grocery store in the Mexican/International food aisle.  Typically, Mexican chocolate is made with roasted and ground cacao nibs, sugar, and cinnamon. Depending on the chocolatier, it may also include nutmeg, allspice, and chilies. Chop or grate the Mexican chocolate and stir it into hot (but not boiling!) milk on the stovetop until fully dissolved. Pour the hot chocolate into individual mugs, and if you have a frother (I use my Aerolatte), froth away: Mexican hot chocolate is usually served with a bit of foam. If desired, add a shot or two of tequila, and enjoy.


Mesoamerican grilled corn on the cob
July 15, 2010, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Cook, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When I think of grilled corn on the cob, I think of summer and barbecues and I get all warm and fuzzy inside. So it follows that as I wandered the streets of the beautiful colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala, I found myself drawn to the Mayan woman selling corn over a steaming hot grill in the square near La Merced.

The corn shown here is different from the sweet yellow (and white) corn we find in the US. It’s denser, more glutinous; chewier, and not as sweet. It is very similar to corn on the cob that I’ve tried in Korea and other parts of Asia, a varietal that brought memories of night markets flooding back for my mother. Here, it was served simply with a dollop of salt on the side and some lemon.

Every culture has its version of corn on the cob, and my personal favorite to date is the preparation I’ve had at Cafe Habana (SoHo/Brooklyn) and in Mexico City (similar flavor combinations, but with the kernels removed and stewed in a pot with spices). Below is a grilled corn on the cob recipe that fuses these flavors.

Grilled Corn on the Cob (Yields 8 appetizer/side dish servings)


  • 8 ears of corn in husks – I prefer sweet yellow corn, but this is a matter of taste
  • 2-3 limes, quartered into wedges
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup grated cotija cheese or queso blanco
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt – If you use cotija, salt to taste at the end as cotija is inherently salty
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Optional – If you like richer flavoring, feel free to add a squirt of Kewpie (or other) mayonnaise. In Mexico City, they added a huge dollop of mayo at the end, along with chopped cilantro. Obviously, sans mayo is healthier and cleaner in terms of flavor, but this is up to you.


  • Peel back the husks of the corn without removing them and remove the silks, then recover the corn with the husks.
  • Soak corn, husks on and silk removed, in large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes.
  • While the corn soaks, prepare garlic butter by combining minced garlic with softened room-temperature butter. Combine cheese, salt, chili powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper on a tray and mix well. Pre-heat the grill to medium or medium-high.
  • Remove corn from water and shake off excess.
  • Peel back the husks and pat corn dry, applying a moderate coat of garlic butter to the kernels, reserving a third of the butter for service.
  • Close up the husks and place the corn on the grill. Close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Unwrap corn and slather with remaining garlic butter – mayo optional.
  • Roll in cheese and spice mixture and serve hot with lime wedge(s).

Buen provecho!

Tongue tacos
June 15, 2010, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , ,

I was returning to the city after visiting a friend and her beautiful twins out in Norwalk, and found out that the 6 pm train was skipping the East Norwalk train station completely due to some kind of electrical failure. It was windy and the next train wasn’t for another hour, so Suki and I sought shelter nearby and found a little Mexican restaurant and bakery called Galicia. We figured we’d order coffee and kill some time.

Once inside, I immediately noticed that all the signs and menus were written in Spanish – Jackpot! There’s a good chance that this place caters to a largely Spanish-speaking clientele.

We had just finished a massive meal, so we weren’t hungry, but when I saw the tacos de lengua (tongue) on the menu for $3, I couldn’t resist. I’d never tried tongue before, but I know it’s quite popular in Mexico City, and I was feeling dangerous. Like Andrew Zimmern with an attitude.

It was a damn good decision. Juicy, moist, and tender chunks of unassuming meat – had I not known what it was, I never would have guessed it was once inside a cow’s mouth. The texture was quite smooth, the flavor beefy with a hint of pleasant gaminess, the radish a perfect palate cleanser between each lime-drizzled bite.

And who can say no to cilantro?

Galicia also had my favorite guava juice soft drink: Boing!

Had I not been quite so full, I would gladly have sampled their sopes and their especiales. I get the feeling that this place does Mexican food right. If you’re ever near the East Norwalk train station, give it a shot!

Eat: Galicia Restaurant and Bakery (Norwalk, CT) 218 East Avenue at Fort Point St., Norwalk, CT 06855. (203) 854-9277

NYC Michelada Roundup
May 20, 2010, 1:38 pm
Filed under: Drink | Tags: , , , , ,

[tweetmeme]Hallelujah, it’s sunny again! And you know what that means… cervezas all around! One of my favorite summer beer cocktails is the michelada, as some of you might remember. But for those who are too lazy to track down the Maggi Jugo and Tajin Clasico Seasoning, or too frightened to buy your own Clamato juice, you can simply make your way to the following bars and restaurants to check out their takes on the Mexican bloody mary.

Dear Brooklynites: don’t hate me but I’m not familiar with your individual ‘hoods so I’ve labeled all Brooklyn establishments as “Brooklyn.”

These are grouped by neighborhood, but I have highlighted my personal favorites in bold.

  • Cafe Habana (SoHo) 17 Prince St. at Elizabeth St. (212) 625-2002. This wildly popular Cuban/Mexican restaurant serves up Michelada Coronas for $5.95. Be prepared to wait, as the food here is delicious and cheap so there is always a line. Get the Mexican corn slathered with mayo, rolled in cotija cheese, sprinkled with cayenne pepper, and doused in fresh lime.
  • Cafe El Portal (SoHo) 174 Elizabeth St. at Spring St. (212) 226-4642. Michelada with your choice of beer. A little salty but not bad for $6.00. The real draw here is the food, which is cheap-ish and authentic. Tongue taco, anyone?
  • La Esquina (SoHo) 114 Kenmare St. at Lafayette St. (646) 613-7100. Mexican beer served over ice with lime, chipotle, puree and salted rim $7.00
  • Elizabeth (SoHo) 265 Elizabeth St. between Houston & Prince St. Their Michelada sounds a little shishi, and it’s priced accordingly. I don’t really like that, so I haven’t tried their Michelada Hoegaarden with cucumber, homemade hot sauce. $11.00
  • Hecho en Dumbo (NoHo/Bowery) 354 Bowery between 3rd St & Great Jones St. (212) 937-4245.
  • Barrio Chino (LES) 253 Broome Street at Orchard St. (212) 228-6710. This beloved LES restaurant and bar is known for excellent Mexican food as well as innovative cocktails, and it is always ALWAYS busy. While I’ve only tried their margaritas (excellent), I have the utmost confidence that they make a stellar Michelada. Sexy, cozy (read: tiny) interior, but don’t try to roll up with your entire posse… unless your entire posse is you and one other person. Continue reading

Michelada Recipe for Cinco de Mayo
May 5, 2010, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Drink | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Photo credit:

When I was in Mexico last November for a friend’s wedding, I was introduced to a fantastically refreshing beer cocktail called a michelada. I drank several over the course of the week in various parts of Mexico: Acapulco, Mexico City, and Veracruz. Each one was slightly different from the last, but we did pick up a shortcut from our bartender in Veracruz: Maggi Jugo.

Basically, a michelada is a savory beer cocktail. It is always served in a glass with the mix at the bottom and the beer on the side, and you pour the beer into the glass when you are ready to drink. In some ways, it’s a lot like a bloody mary. It seems to be more of a daytime drink than a dinnertime drink, and some bars serve the mix with Clamato juice.

There’s no single right way to make a michelada, as it varies by region and by establishment, and it all comes down to personal taste. We experimented with different proportions at home, and this is what we came up with:

  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle Mexican beer – it’s a michelada claro if you go with a light beer like Sol or Corona, and it’s a michelada obscura if you choose a dark beer like Negra Modelo or Indio. I prefer the obscura, but it’s all a matter of preference.
  • 3 key limes, juice of – juice of three regular lime wedges will do just fine, too.
  • 1 tablespoon of Clamato or other tomato juice (OPTIONAL – In Veracruz, they didn’t use any tomato juice at all) – my buddy Jason swears by Mr. & Mrs. T’s Bloody Mary Mix.
  • 1 tablespoon Jugo Maggi seasoning – this magical michelada sauce tastes a little bit like soy sauce and worcestershire sauce mixed together, but lighter and more spiced. If you don’t want to go out to the grocery store and pick up a bottle of this stuff in the international foods aisle, you can substitute 1/2 tbsp worcestershire, 1/2 tbsp soy, and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  • Tabasco (or other high vinegar hot sauce) to taste

I like to make my micheladas look pretty by rimming the glass with lime juice and dipping it in Tajin Clasico Seasoning, which is described by the manufacturer as a powdered salsa with salt and lime. It’s a little spicy, it’s tangy, and it’s salty. I like to rim beverages with it, or sprinkle it on fresh fruit or black beans or anything that could use a little zing.


  1. Rim chilled tall glass with lime juice
  2. Dip rim of glass upside down into small dish of Tajin Clasico Seasoning (or celery salt, if you prefer)
  3. Combine all ingredients except beer in bottom of glass and add ice
  4. Garnish glass with a lime wedge and/or a peeled cocktail shrimp, if you’re feeling fancy
  5. Serve glass and bottle of beer separately, allowing guest to add beer as they drink

I understand that Mayahuel in the East Village serves an excellent and spicy michelada, though I haven’t personally checked it out myself. They use a sangrita as the base (spicy drink mix made with tomato juice, orange juice, and spices) plus lime and Negra Modelo. $9. They also serve cheladas, beer cocktails with lime and salt. $7. Cafe El Portal in SoHo also serves micheladas and cheladas for $6 a pop.

Happy Cinco de Drinko!

Snow days = soup days
February 28, 2010, 1:06 pm
Filed under: Cook | Tags: , , , , , , ,

When it’s cold and snowy outside, it makes me want soup. Today, I was feeling mighty nostalgic about sopa azteca, a Mexican soup that I have only tried once at the food court in the airport in Mexico City. Yes, I said airport food court. And yes, it was actually quite delicious.

Sopa Azteca is a creamy tomato soup spiced with chiles, onions, lime and cilantro, served with slices of avocado, crunchy tortilla strips, and a fatty-crispy piece of chicharron, finished with a squirt of Mexican crema.

The following recipe for Sopa Azteca Tortilla Soup With Pasilla Chile comes from Rick Bayless’ Topolobampo restaurant in Chicago. Both the restaurant and this pasilla chile-accented tortilla soup are favorites of the Obamas. I am not going to be frying my own tortilla strips because I do not have that luxury in my apartment. I would substitute store-bought tortilla chips, crumbled. Continue reading

Fancy East Village cocktails guessing game
January 16, 2010, 10:00 am
Filed under: Drink, Go | Tags: , , , , , ,

In the mood for a drink that makes you go, “Damn, that’s good!”? Here are 3 of the most buzzed about mixology meccas in lower Manhattan. 3 photos – you name the bars. Answers after the jump.

They’re all popular East Village watering holes with reputations for making impeccable drinks. Have your guesses ready? Click “more” for the answers. Continue reading