The season for a new wave of cocktail menus has finally arrived. Off come the belly-warming hot toddies and mulled wines, replaced instead with a handful of bright, garden-fresh concoctions. Talk about a form of spring cleaning to actually get excited about.
"We've come a long way — I'd say we're 10 times better than we were last year in terms of approach and execution," Five Leaves bartender Dan Sabo remarks proudly. For the beloved Brooklyn restaurant, their just-launched spring cocktail menu is also a chance to refresh and reaffirm their identity as a real destination cocktail bar. "We've really grown into our shoes in that role."
It's an assertion the new cast of cocktails supports with ease. Take with Winthrop Gimlet — Bison Grass Vodka, lime juice, sugar, and muddled cucumber and arugula — which speaks to their focus on light drinks best enjoyed outdoors (they do have a booming patio business). And indeed, if there was a to-go cup option, this is the drink you would want in your hand while laying out in nearby McCarren Park. Refreshing and tart with a touch of earthiness and pepper, it's one of those too-easy-to-drink-quickly cocktails. OK, I'll just come out and say it: It's one hell of a sexy salad cocktail. The green drink you wish was allowed on a juicing diet.
Also defying expectations with its flavor profile is the Rum Fix, a creation from Dan's colleague Fidel Garcia-Reichmann. "We had a long conversation about simplification and depth of flavor, how to get out of four ingredients what you might with nine," he explains. The four in this one (Ron Zacapa rum 23-years, Campari, crème de cacao, and mole bitters) combine to create a drink that somehow straddles the apéritif-digéstif line. The bitterness of the Campari hits you first, followed by a mellow, lingering sweetness from the aged rum and crème de cacao. Dan calls it "the Swiss Army knife of cocktails."
Less daring but equally fine is the Ft. Knox, which plays on the name's Gold Rush theme by using only gold-hued ingredients (wink, wink). Citrusy with a hint of spice from the cinnamon bitters it's a sunshine-in-a-glass kind of drink (and in New York, we could really, really use a taste of that right about now).