This is one of the 'Originals' on the menu, a creation of Chris Bostick. The name comes from the legs of the Barolo Chinato, a fortified wine. Alperin adds Salers, a liqueur made with gentian root, which has “very grassy, grassy notes.” Last but not least comes Beefeater gin. All this is stirred slowly with ice and garnished with a twist of orange peel. “The great thing about the Nice Legs,” Alperin says, “Being Negroni-style, served on a big rock of ice, is that you can just really relax with it, chill with it. Ice is like what we use to cook our cocktails.” The resulting cocktail is “bitter, refreshing,” says Alperin. “It kind of dances on your palate. It doesn’t beat you up too much, it’s a nice drink to start off the evening, especially before a meal.”
“This cocktail is an old one from David Embury,” says Alperin. The "blood" in this cocktail is Appleton Estate VX rum, shaken then strained with fresh lime juice, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. Alperin says that the Appleton VX is “not too funky. I treat it a little bit more like a whiskey—it’s kind of like a new style rum with an old style process.” He adds, “It has a very clean finish even though it is an aged rum.”
Before Tom, there was John. “John was the original name, and it was made with Genever,” Alperin explains. “Genever is old Holland gin…it still has juniper in it, but it’s a lot more malty. It’s a little like white whiskey.” Lemon juice and soda go into the mix, and Alperin adds a Luxardo cherry as the final touch. As for the origins of the Tom Collins, Alperin gives his own rendition. “It was a joke—‘Hey, Tom Collins is around the corner! He’s got some beef with you, man!’ ‘What? Who? Who’s Tom? What, you tell Tom!’ ‘No, you go and tell him yourself!’ And then he’d run out, and the guy would be left there, saying, ‘I’ve got this drink.’ That was the hoax in the late 1800s.”
“This one is by Marcos Tello,” Alperin says, explaining that Tello was one of the original bartenders at The Varnish when it opened in 2009. He adds, “It’s actually like a riff on the Penicillin by Sam Ross—one of my good friends and mentors from New York. [Ross] created that one day when he came into work and he wasn’t feeling so hot.” The Medicina Latina is similar, says Alperin, but it’s made with tequila and mezcal instead of Scotch. Tequila Pueblo Viejo is shaken with housemade ginger syrup, lime juice, and honey. After straining the ingredients into a chilled glass over ice, he spritzes a thin layer of mezcal over the top and adds a garnish of candied ginger.
Alperin explains that the bar's house spirits are narrowed down carefully: “We want them to have backbone, to have flexibility. They have to have good flavor and odor when they’re served neat.” The Pueblo Viejo, he says, has “soil, earth notes, which I’m a big fan of.”
Just a Spritz
Alperin uses an atomizer to spritz a layer of mezcal over the tequila-based cocktail to give a smoky edge.
Maryland Mint Julep
The Maryland Mint Julep is Jerry Thomas’ “whiskey variation on the brandy original,” Alperin explains. “David Wondrich, our historical oracle, was writing about Maryland preferring rye juleps,” he says, hence the name of the cocktail. Alperin begins with a “very scant” amount of simple syrup then a gentle muddle of mint. “You don’t tear [the mint] for two reasons,” he stresses. “First off, you don’t need to. Secondly, if you were to tear the mint, what would you get? A lot of torn up mint.” Smith and Cross rum and Old Overholt rye are added next, followed by crushed ice. Alperin swizzles the ingredients together to cool them down. After that comes a mound of crushed ice and a sprig of mint. “This is a very minty, boozy, refreshing cocktail,” says Alperin.