The best comforts transcend seasons: a soft scarf, pie a la mode, a good Bloody Mary. At Mayahuel in New York's East Village, the warm-spiced Black Star is one such year-round pleasure. "This became part of what I called my Indian Winter menu," says Philip Ward, co-owner and bartender, who added the Black Star to the menu as spring started to creep in. "We've been selling the bejesus out of it."
Ward breaks down the method to his mixing into three steps. First, he called on the template of a buck—ginger, lemon and booze—subbing in ginger syrup for the usual ginger ale or beer.
"Another thing I like to do is split hairs," Ward explains, referring to the practice of using, say, one ounce each of two types of liquor instead of the two ounces of one liquor a recipe calls for. Here, Ward uses one ounce of reposado tequila and one ounce of bourbon.
Much like Mos def and Talib Kweli, Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Pueblo Viejo Reposado have a natural chemistry. "Pueblo Viejo is aged, with hints of wood," notes Ward, "So I knew it would go well with bourbon." And just in case the two needed a bridge, Ward drew on the notes of cinnamon in both spirits with a homemade cinnamon bark syrup.
Ward sticks to the classic addition of lemon, but—the third trusty trick up his sleeve—adds something to the "naked template:" apple butter. A little goes a long way, adding both texture and a deeper, sweet and lightly autumnal flavor to the cocktail.
Garnished with an apple slice for subtle aroma, the Black Star is complex yet soft and approachable. Those first few sips bring a lot of cinnamon and spicy sweetness up front, booze on the exhale. And while it's almost dangerously drinkable, that bit of apple butter adds a sumptuous, savorable heft you won't find in your average buck.
Indian Winter or early summer, I'd drink the bejesus out of this one.