Frank Bruni isn’t the only Times reporter with a cocktail named for him. His colleague at the Dining Section, Julia Moskin, was the inspiration for a drink at Bar Pleiades. And unlike the BruniBerry, The Wonky Moskin wasn’t a DIY affair, but one created by bartender, Cameron Bogue.
In a Dining Brief in January that reviewed Bar Pleiades with Ardesia Wine Bar, Julia Moskin wrote of Daniel Boulud’s new haunt in the Surrey Hotel:
“The potato chips (free, but doled out sparingly) are brushed with house-blend curry powder, and the twist of lemon peel in your martini ($16) is a thick, smooth, perfect rectangle. Details like these provide an illusion of inventiveness. The reality is a systematic coddling. Example: the wordy list of Wonka-like cocktails, created by the head bartender, Cameron Bogue.”
“She gave us a good review,” Cameron said with a smile that turned mischievous, “But she said I used Willy Wonka-like ingredients and that I was unnecessarily wordy. So I set out to make a cocktail that used Willy Wonka-like ingredients and was very wordy.”
“Even if you want to make the most creative drink in the world there’s some kind of template behind it,” Cameron explained. “What I wanted to do was to take a French haute cuisine approach to this cocktail.”
At its most basic, The Wonky Moskin is a Gin Sour, which is a mixed cocktail said to predate Prohibition. This specific rendition Cameron called an egg sour. The traditional ingredients are simple: gin, lemon juice, sugar, orange slice, maraschino cherry, and an egg white. But Cameron made a concerted effort to pay great attention and complicate each element in his homage.
The gin is London Beefeater, but the first complication was to infuse it with Valencia orange peels and pink peppercorns for seven days. The lemon juice and egg white stayed simple, but then came the second twist: the sugar. “I made a wine syrup out of grenache because, well, because it was more wordy,” Cameron said. Making the syrup involved reducing it by half, then adding equal parts sugar.
Then there was the addition of lemongrass distillate. “That was just to make it confusing,” Cameron said laughing, “It needed more words.” But making the distillate is a timely process that’s no laughing matter. It takes seven to ten pounds and about five hours to make a one-liter bottle.
All told, it takes about seven hours every two weeks to make the ingredients for the cocktail. The result? A slender, tasty beverage that has a fruity tang, but isn’t overly sweet. And Cameron noted, it has been a success, “It’s one of our best-selling drinks. We make about 128 of these every two weeks.”
So what does the reporter think of having a cocktail named after her, one that the bartender swears was invented in good fun? “Tell her she has to come in and sit at the bar and try some of our new cocktails.” And will she be taking him up on the offer anytime soon? We reached out to the reporter to find out:
“Mr. Bogue is so discreet in his tribute that I didn’t even know about The Wonky Moskin until last week. I haven’t had a chance to try it. But, I am a lover of gin and have a soft spot for pink peppercorns so I’m looking forward to it.”