How is it that, after many enjoyable trips to the Carroll Gardens whiskey bar Char No. 4, I never noticed the cocktail heaven that is the Clover Club just a block down Smith Street? I discovered my oversight reading Frank Bruni’s Times piece about the upcoming punch book by David Wondrich. The Clover Club offers two seasonal punches, and mentions Wondrich, who lives nearby, in the menu.
Perusing the cocktail menu, I noticed a trio of aquavit drinks, a rarity in New York (in the Twin Cities, nearly every bar stocks aquavit, I swear). I was in an aquavit mood after reading the aperitifs and digestifs section of Jeffrey Jorgen Hansen’s How to Stock Your Bar For Fall guide on Gilt MANual. (He endorses Linie, a Norwegian brand; I agree completely.) I’d been wondering for a while why aquavit, which is basically the Nordic version of gin—caraway-based instead of juniper—hasn’t been a bigger deal among cocktails geeks, and between the Gilt story and this menu, I could see that the mixologists were coming around.
My first choice was the Eleventh Hour ($12): reposado tequila, mezcal, aquavit, yellow Chartreuse, lime juice, and cane syrup. It was superbly smokey from the mezcal, and tart from the lime, although it tasted more lemony to me than limey. As our server warned, you’d better like mezcal, because it is the dominant flavor.
My next choice was the Fantastic Voyage ($12), which was less boozy but more aquavit-based. Its ingredients were aquavit, applejack, lemon juice, maple syrup, orange juice, sherry, and absinthe. This one put the caraway/anise flavors of aquavit forward, with a more rounded citrus edge from the lemon and orange combination. It was quite good, but not as outstanding as the Eleventh Hour.
The aquavit drink I didn’t get to was called the Intrepid Sailor: aquavit, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a dash of angostura bitters.
Incidentally, after experimenting with various brands of ginger ale for the Presbyterian cocktail, I came up with an aquavit variation that I call the Lutheran: 1 part aquavit, 2 parts ginger ale. I haven’t perfected it yet–it may need lime juice.