East of Eden
“It’s a weird time of year—it’s spring and yet it’s still freezing outside. I can’t make all fruity drinks, and I also can’t do all heavy, dark boozy sippers. I’ve found that things like herbs, amari, and bitters do a good job of bridging the gap between the seasons,” explains McCarthy. This herbaceous sipper certainly fits that theme, featuring Gran Centenario reposado tequila, Yellow Chartreuse (“It’s great in little amounts to add another level of flavor”), basil, housemade celery bitters, and a splash of soda. “As a finishing touch I add a couple dashes of aromatic bitters, which have a more cinnamon-focused profile, to tie it all together.”
“This is for the person who wants bubbles,” says McCarthy of this riff on the classic French 75. Tart and refreshing with a prickly effervescence, the cocktail mixes Brooklyn Gin with fresh ginger, rosemary-infused honey syrup, housemade lavender bitters, and a splash of Valdo Prosecco.
“I’m a huge mezcal fan—mezcals tend to have a real terroir about them, really express where they come from,” explains McCarthy. Here, he opts for Fidencio (“a lot of times with mezcal you get too much burnt tire and gas, but with theirs the agave really comes through”), pairing it with fresh grapefruit juice, Cynar, and orange bitters. “Again, this is a drink that speaks to the season—I don’t want to go fruity, but vegetal is working. Also, I just love Cynar,” says McCarthy of this bitter refresher.
“This one’s for the geeks,” proclaims McCarthy of this intense, bitter cocktail. Featuring Campari, Bols genever, and Kümmel (a caraway, cumin, and fennel liqueur), the cocktail is stirred with ice and then poured over a single large cube. To complete the drink, he garnishes with a lemon peel, explaining, “You have to express the oil right over the glass, otherwise it defeats the point.”
McCarthy’s own “fire water” bitters star in this Scotch-based sipper. “I was working at another bar and people kept asking me to make them something spicy, so I started developing something that I could use just a couple drops of to give any drink a little heat.” The “fire water” is made with ingredients that range in heat levels—habanero, peppercorn, mustard seed, cinnamon—in order to give a more layered spice profile. Here, the lasting, back-of-the-throat heat is tempered by the drink's supporting ingredients: smoky Black Grouse blended Scotch, lemon juice, and honey.
McCarthy got some sweet inspiration for the flavor profile of the “red hot syrup” in this cocktail: the classic candy, Red Hots. To make it, he infuses a Demerara-based simple syrup (“the raw sugar adds more body and depth”) with cinnamon, cayenne, and ground ginger. Clove-infused Johnny Drum bourbon slides in alongside the sweet, spiced syrup, and to garnish, McCarthy adds an expressed orange twist and star anise. “There’s no star anise in the drink but you get a whiff with your first sip, and it’s the last nuanced detail that brings the whole drink together.”
“I wanted to make an accessible vodka cocktail,” explains McCarthy of the inspiration behind this bright, clean Collins variation. A combination of vodka, cardamom syrup, lemon juice, and soda, McCarthy says that the cardamom is key to keeping things from getting too sweet. “I find that people who might not be familiar with cardamom or who think they don’t like it, end up loving it—the flavor is almost mentholated, very cool and dry. You need the sugar in the drink to act as a binding agent that brings the flavors and ingredients together, but by infusing it with cardamom the sweetness is taken away.”
“I really wanted to do a dark rum and sherry drink and this particular brand of rum goes really well with sherry,” explains McCarthy of this concoction, which features Brugal 1888. Clean, light, and super-dry, Lustau Oloroso sherry gives the cocktail a nutty profile, while Ramazzotti amaro acts as the subtle sweetener. Finally, herbaceous Bénédictine is floated on top.