By Warren Bobrow, Cocktail Whisperer
There is a private club in New York City's West Village that caters to an artsy crowd. It's located in a historic building on a gritty commercial-looking street. You can walk by the place a hundred times and never notice that it's just down the way from the spot that once held the famous Luchow's Restaurant.
If you are invited - and that's the only way to get in the front door - it's possible to bump into the next hot director working on a movie, or the latest ad agency sensation. This is a smart, social networking/internet savvy crowd. Over on the couch you'll see a group of giggling, well-dressed couples reading the extensive menu from the excellent farm to table restaurant upstairs.
The spectacular landmarked town house, where I found myself on a recent weekday night, is arranged over five floors and houses a sixty-five seat restaurant, two lounge bars, a forty-five seat screening room, event space, as well as a subterranean dining room for up to twenty four people, plus a walled garden. There is very little public information about this club. One has to dig rather deeply into the National Trust for Historic Places website for any information on the original owners, or the property for that matter.
The club keeps its landmark designation hanging inside the entrance to hide its status from peering eyes and paparazzi. Add the fact that the Federal-style architecture blends into the earth colored brownstone homes surrounding it and you can rest assured that should you desire it, you'll have some measure of privacy.
Once inside, the rooms feel like someone's private lair - a mansion from another age, in this case 1845. I felt like I had entered a well-orchestrated theatrical tableau. Hipsters abounded, dressed in cool clothing like those created by designer Billy Reid, dripping with bespoke Southern Heritage-styled duck hunting outfits? There is nary a Brooks Brothers preppy to be found. If this crowd had been a bit older, they would have hung out at the club named Danceteria, where I worked back in the day.
The building has narrow staircases (an elevator is available) and gracious public spaces, floor to ceiling (sound insulated) windows were reminiscent of the Adam period architecture found in Charleston, S.C. Old, wide hand-stripped plank wood flooring and heavy pocket doors frame the rooms. The cocktail bar and lounge, lit with intimate shaded light, was located on the main floor. Curved in the corner, glass backlit shelving held exciting-sounding liquors in even more exotically shaped bottles.
The classically dressed bartender works with a speedy efficiency and with an almost Buddhist-influenced calm, possessing a sense of grace that causes one to remember his or her own manners. The members and their guests smiled, drank their well-prepared libations and spoke of dreams and possibilities well into the night. Twitter is part of the scene, with iPhones at the ready, but the ongoing conversations into the omnipresent cell phones are conducted in very hushed tones.
As the background sounds dissolved into present tense all I could think about was the Jimi Cocktail, which our bartender was preparing in front of us.
History & Prep: Jimi Cocktail
The true history is muddy at best. It is an amalgamation of the famous Mojito Cocktail containing mint, white rum, ice, simple syrup and freshly squeezed lime juice. The Jimi Cocktail's name is derived from Hendrick's Gin and Jimi Hendrix, guitar legend and Woodstock protagonist. And with the 40th anniversary of Woodstock having just passed the cocktail is now called the "Jimi".
The ingredients for a Jimi Cocktail are very similar to a Mojito with a pseudo-psychedelic twist - Hendrick's Gin. It has properties that are known to be mystical like its namesake and contains the essence of rose petals, cucumber oil, botanicals such as juniper and the ever-present, brooding alcohol at nearly 100 proof. There are also bitters in the cocktail and a wash of Tenneyson Absinthe to keep the psychedelic potency not just a reality, but also somewhere in a dream-state.
Our bartender muddled chunks of seedless cucumbers in a pint glass creating almost a pulp as he released the cucumber essence. Then, he added freshly squeezed lime juice and muddled a bit more. A splash of plain simple syrup, more muddling, then 3-4 generous ounces of Hendrick's Gin. He added some cracked ice, shook the cocktail and strained into a martini glass that had been pre-chilled with a wash of Tenneyson Absinthe. His garnish was a perfect cucumber slice, some grapefruit bitters - and voila, the Jimi Cocktail!
I sipped slowly, tasting fresh, cooling cucumbers and the almost watery quality of the Hendrick's Gin. It went down very easily, too easily, in fact, on a hot night. The slice of cucumber, floating in the off-clear liquid had the element of a Japanese Mineral bath potion. I slipped away into contentment and started hearing the strains of Jimi Hendrix in my mind - purple haze all in my brain. Lately things just don't seem the same – a slow throbbing, and then the attack! The room spins, the hipsters pack up their iPhones and they wander out into the night.
Jimi Cocktail recipe:
• 3-4 oz. Hendrick's Gin
• 1 oz. Tenneyson Absinthe for the washed Martini glass
• 2 oz. Freshly squeezed lime juice
• A few coins of English (seedless) cucumber
• The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters
1. In a Martini glass add 1 oz. Tenneyson Absinthe, Ice and Water.
2. In a Boston Shaker muddle the lime juice and the cucumber coins until you have a nice flavorful mush.
3. Add the Hendrick's Gin to the Boston Shaker.
4. Add a few handfuls of ice.
5. Shake for 15 seconds.
6. Pour out the Tenneyson Absinthe ice and water (into your mouth?).
7. Strain the cucumber, lime, Hendrick's Gin mixture into the pre-chilled/washed Martini glass.
8. Garnish with a round of cucumber and a shake or two of The Bitter Truth Grapefruit Bitters
9. Offer one to your friend. Turn up the tunes.
Sip carefully and order another immediately, followed (in my case) by another. Start hearing guitar riffs from Jimi Hendrix in your head…..(queue the guitar!! MAXIMUM VOLUME!)
Cheers from DrinkUpNY!
Article by Warren Bobrow, a nationally published food and spirits columnist who writes for Williams-Sonoma, Foodista and the Beekman Boys.