After the holidays, after a couple weeks of frantic catching up at work and then a hasty weekend trip for wedding, followed by more feverish catching up at work, I finally had time to go out for a drink.
Clover Club in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens neighborhood has become my default bar for a good and relaxing cocktail for a number of reasons. First, the drinks are almost always excellent and inventive (with plenty of classics on the list, too). The space is large and comfortable and the happy hour (5-7pm) is fantastic: $6 for a rotating list of classic drinks like the Jack Rose.
But when I got to the bar yesterday, I couldn’t resist ordering from the regular menu. The Louisville Cathouse ($11) is ancho chili-infused bourbon, crème de cacao and Fernet Branca, served in a frosty metal julep cup with pebbled ice and a mint sprig. While it doesn’t exactly sound like a winter drink, the mild but persistent heat and sweet earthy flavor of the peppers was refreshing on a rainy New York evening.
I guess I could have done without the mint julep treatment for this drink—a simple lowball glass with couple of ice cubes would have been fine, maybe with lemon zest rubbed on the rim. But I liked it anyway. The ancho and the bourbon mix surprisingly well together (why not try something other than tequila for a spicy pepper infusion?) and the cacao and Fernet gave it some balance.
Speaking of balance, my girlfriend ordered a Jack Rose from the happy hour menu, and we were surprised to find it quite un-balanced. I’ve praised Clover Club’s Jack Roses before for their perfect blending of the applejack, lime juice, and grenadine, but this was so heavy on the grenadine that I wondered if the bartender reversed the measurements and put less lime in. It was all the more puzzling after a conversation with a Lani Kai bartender a month ago (Clover Club, Lani Kai, and Flatiron Lounge are all run by Julie Reiner), during which he praised Reiner’s efforts to ensure that a classic cocktail at one of her bars would taste as good—and consistently good—as it would at another. Such inconsistency within one of her bars was unexpected.