Thursday, June 23, 2011

cocktail hour: clover club

I find that a very well-made cocktail can be as satisfying as a delicious meal. So when I read about the first ever NYC Cocktail Week going on from June 15-29, I was beyond excited. Adding to the anticipation was the fact that some of the city's best cocktail bars are participating: Clover Club, Death & Company, Employees Only and Lani Kai. The deal is that you get two cocktails plus an appetizer for just $20.11—pretty sweet considering most specialty cocktails at such establishments run from $12-16. The event benefits City Harvest's fight against hunger and The Museum of the American Cocktail's efforts to preserve mixological history—and I do so enjoy drinking for a cause!

The problem is that what I love about going to these cocktail bars is the experience of perusing extensive cocktail menus or in cases when there is no menu, spilling obscure cravings to the bartenders and waiters and allowing them to surprise me with something incredible in a glass. This doesn't necessarily lend itself well to the restrictions that understandably come with Cocktail Week's prix-fixe arrangements.

I trekked over to Brooklyn one Thursday night to join my cousin Melissa and her boyfriend Ben for cocktails at one of their favorite spots: Clover Club. We went there brimming with excitement at the prospect of Cocktail Week but our hopes were quickly shot down when we were told that the special menu was only served before 7PM and after 10PM. We asked to take a look at the menu, nevertheless, to see what was being offered. On Clover Club's NYC Cocktail Week menu:

COCKTAILS (Choose two)
New York Sour
Bulleit Rye Whiskey, lemon, orange juice, red wine
Tanqueray No. 10 gin, herbal liqueur, grapefruit, lemon juice
Hotel Nacional Special
Zacapa 23 Rum, apricot liqueur, lime juice, pineapple juice
Jack Rose
Applejack, lime juice, grenadine

APPETIZERS (Choose one)
All right, so they are potato chips ...
but they are tossed in duck fat and
served with a truffled crème fraiche.
Deviled Eggs
Classic deviled eggs, served three ways:
topped with smoked paprika & garlic breadcrumbs,
crispy bacon croutons and mushroom duxelles.
One of each. 

These drinks and snacks sound lovely enough but once I browsed through the extensive cocktail menu, so many wonderful things jumped out at me and I realized that I would not have been happy sticking to the abridged Cocktail Week menu. There were so many intriguing drinks waiting to be tasted and I didn't mind paying a few extra dollars for that privilege. For my first drink, I chose the signature drink, the Clover Club, and with my first sip, I fell in love. Any place that has an egg white in its signature tipple is clearly my soulmate. The Clover Club contains gin, dry vermouth, lemon, raspberry syrup and egg white, and is oh so very delicious ...
I can't recall what Ben's drink was but it was bright, refreshing and perfect for a humid summer afternoon ...
After tasting Ben's excellent drink choice, I thought I'd follow suit for my next drink. Ben ordered the Barrymore Room off the menu and I did the same. This was definitely my kind of drink with rye whiskey, an egg white and some mysterious but delicious friends comprising the drink. I seem to be embroiled in a love affair with rye whiskey and egg these days (I recently had a particularly delicious concoction in Milk & Honey involving rye whiskey, champagne and an egg yolk! LOVE.). It's out of control.
For her second drink, Melissa chose the Blush Baby, which seemed very promising with its mixture of rum, demerara syrup, lemon, blackberry, raspberry and rosé wine. From the look of it, you expected a drink just bursting with berry flavors ... but it tasted kind of watery. It was just okay.
For his last drink, Ben ordered the much maligned and mistreated Mai Tai. If you've only had this in, say, a Cancun all-inclusive resort which shall remain unnamed with an odd fellow named Greg, you'd probably hate the stuff. At its worst, a Mai Tai will contain cheap rum, artificially-flavored juice and that godawful darn sweetener. Over at Clover Club where the ingredients are legit, the Mai Tai sparkles with rum and fresh lime juice and makes you just want to lay out on a sandy beach somewhere with cocktail in hand.
Cocktail Week or not, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening at Clover Club. Admittedly, the Clover Club would be quite a trek for a Manhattanite and I'm quite sure that even a serious cocktail enthusiast from Manhattan would rather squeeze into one of the tiny cocktail bars in the city for a tipple rather than trek out to Brooklyn. I live in the Financial District, however, which is a skip and a hop to Brooklyn so I am much more inclined to come back for more. I thought that the Clover Club's expansive digs dressed in vintage sofas and leather booths were a nice, relaxing change from Manhattan's lilliputian bars where you sometimes have to battle for seating space. The existence of this gorgeous bar with even more gorgeous drinks definitely adds to Brooklyn's ever-growing draw on me.

Clover Club is located at 210 Smith St between Baltic and Butler Sts, Cobble Hill, Brooklyn (718-855-7939)

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