Spirit of a city: five cocktails that encapsulate New York

This article is part of a guide to New York from FT Globetrotter

The Rockette, by Paige Walwyn of Clover Club

210 Smith Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

New York is a vibrant, lively and resilient city. At the moment, it can feel as though it has lost some of its shine, but it has proven it can weather this storm. The cocktail industry in particular found new ways to survive and thrive throughout the pandemic. Here at , we quickly pivoted, offering our award-winning cocktails to-go without sacrificing quality.

Thus I’ve created a drink that represents NYC’s culture of innovation, adaptation and resilience in tribute to the original to-go cocktail, The Nutcracker — a staple in Black and Brown communities and ever present at the city’s beaches, festivals and parades.

The Nutcracker was created in the early ’90s through collaboration between José Chu, a restaurant manager, and a drug dealer called “Juice”. The original cocktail was described by many as strong, sweet and tart. For three decades, creative marketing and undercover tactics were used to sell the popular drink — it was not until 2020 and the pandemic that .

When I think of New York’s cocktail scene, what springs to mind is the city’s abundance of bars and restaurants. Still, my first experience with alcoholic beverages here can be tied back to drinking Nutcrackers. These bottled drinks were synonymous with summer fun.

My cocktail is called The Rockette. It’s a mixture of cognac and overproof rum, mixed in equal parts and infused with fresh strawberries for three to four days. The name pays homage to and its famous performers, — a nod to ballet, after which my cocktail’s inspiration was named.

The overproof rum and cognac were selected to base The Rockette on a traditional Nutcracker, and allowing the two spirits to marry with the strawberries plays on the fun and fruity component often seen in that beloved drink. Finally, The Rockette is tied together with citrus and vanilla demerara sugar, creating a delicious and well-balanced cocktail.

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker, shake with ice and fine-strain into a chilled coupe

The Mott & Mulberry, by Leo Robitschek of NoMad Bar

nomad hotel, 10 West 28th Street, New York, NY 10001

, so it justly works as the base of our cocktail, representing New Yorkers’ strength. The amaro adds layers of bitterness and spice to symbolise New York’s diversity and edge. Honeycrisp apples round out the cocktail and showcase both New York’s fun and ease, as well as our incredible produce.

Combine all ingredients, shake and strain into a rocks glass. Garnish with three fanned apple slices. (To make the demerara syrup, combine equal measurements of demerara sugar and hot water, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring it to room temperature and refrigerate.)

Sound of Silver, by Shannon Tebay of Death & Company

433 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10009

Manhattan, home to our East Village bar , is a place so iconic that one of the world’s most recognisable classic cocktails is named after it. A well-made Manhattan is a reflection of the island itself: elegant, assertive and sophisticated.

The Sound of Silver is an unmistakable variation of a Manhattan. Its spirit-driven nature represents the strength, grit and intensity of the city. However, the high-proof rye whiskey is couched in sweet vermouth, which smooths any roughness on the edges, in a nod to the polish and refinement of New York.

Additionally, a touch of pays tribute to Central Park, one of NYC’s most-loved landmarks — our escape to nature right in the heart of the city. The eau de vie pairs beautifully with , made from apples grown and distilled in New York — referring to NYC’s timeless moniker, the Big Apple.

Add all the ingredients to a mixing glass with ice, and stir until well chilled. Strain into a chilled glass, and garnish with an apple slice.

Maximilian, by Masahiro Urushido of Katana Kitten

531 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014

I love highballs — so much so that I created a Signature Highball list at my West Village bar, . To create something that captures the spirit of New York, it was naturally the type of drink I thought of first. With this new highball, Maximilian, I wanted to celebrate New York City and my Japanese background, to reflect the city’s multiculturalism and how it’s a place of congregation for people from around the world.

I chose Chivas Regal 12-Year-Old as a base, a classic blended Scotch — and a favourite of American icons such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. To introduce more depth of flavour, a local whiskey, , is added for a warm and spicy note. Rather than use soda water, I’ve added sparkling apple juice instead, which adds round body to the drink. To balance it all, a bar spoon of maple syrup is added to connect the base whisky’s orchard character.

I’ve also included umeshu, a Japanese plum liquor. When I was growing up in Japan, it was common for each household to make their own, but at the bar, I use . The drink is garnished with freshly sliced local apple dusted with burnt miso.

Lastly, when I’m at home, I like to pair whisky with cheese — it is a surprisingly ideal complement. This highball is lovely with the soft, stinky character of a Brie.

Never Sleeps, by Sother Teague of Amor Y Amargo

445 East 6th Street, New York, NY 10009

New York has many nicknames but chief among them is “The City that Never Sleeps”. There is always something happening in NYC, especially in the East Village, home to our bar , and this cocktail captures that energy and curiosity.

Never Sleeps is an augmented apple-brandy Old Fashioned featuring bursts of seasonal flavours from two different amari. Floral in nearby New Jersey brings a strong backbone at 100 proof. is an orange and herb amaro with a slight salinity, and is a cinnamon and clove bitter hailing from the Czech Republic. Apples, oranges, cinnamon and clove come together, tied with a nice bow of allspice from .

Much like the Big Apple, this cocktail is bracing enough to grab your attention, yet familiar enough to soothe what ails you. The timeless style of an Old Fashioned aligns perfectly with New York’s classic aesthetic but, presented in a new way, it keeps intrigue at the forefront: this drink simply Never Sleeps.

Combine the ingredients in a rocks glass. Add a large lump of ice and gently stir. Express the oil from an orange twist over the drink.

Covid caution

At the time of publication, bars and restaurants in New York City are permitted to accommodate guests both indoors and outdoors at reduced capacity. The usual caveats apply: please check websites and opening times carefully, phone ahead and do additional research.

What is your favourite drink that captures the spirit of New York? Tell us in the comments

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