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#266

GANGS OF NEW YORK

24 Nov 2015 By

Manhattan’s bar manager Philip Bischoff has created cocktails inspired by the legendary Hell’s Kitchen district in NYC. We got the stories behind those as well as the week he just spent – representing Singapore – at London Cocktail Week 2015.

Movies set in Hell’s Kitchen – Manhattan’s Midtown West – include Bringing Out The Dead, Sleepers, Daredevil and American Psycho, which gives you an idea of the type of neighbourhood we’re talking about. Known as the stranglehold of the Irish mob back in the day, as well as the ward of struggling actors, the cool edgy district is now the inspiration for Manhattan bar’s new series of classic cocktails with a twist. (You can still order cocktails created for the existing neighbourhoods Upper East Side, Theater District, Soho and Lower East Side).

Manhattan Mad Dog Hell's Kitchen

Mad Dog, $24, named after the notorious Irish-American mobsters in the 1900s who were described as “Mad Dog” assassins.

Bar manager Philip Bischoff and head chef Nicholas Trosien have rolled out of five classic craft cocktails and three fresh gourmet bar bites (above, more on that later). Bischoff – with five other SG industry players – was recently invited to London Cocktail Week 2015 to compete against Paris, London and New York.

The SG team had to build a pop-up with a theme in under 24 hours, and be ready to serve cocktails to the masses – budget £10,000. They created a boxing themed bar (with cocktails like The Hook and Ringside Breezer) and even had a competition within a competition: other bartenders were invited to the amateur boxing daiquiri challenge: “We got eight of the best in the industry involved, competing, wearing boxing gloves, and shaking daiquiris, put the lime, put the ice, put the Bacardi into the shakers, strain it into a cocktail glass. It was a lot of fun. First prize was a ticket sponsored by us, the team, to Singapore; invite the winner to Singapore, probably during our own cocktail week,” explains Bischoff.

Was it pretty full on, like when it started you guys were just behind the bar for hours after hours?

Once we opened the bar it was like from 6.30pm to ten. It was just us behind the bar and we produced almost a thousand drinks – it was full on.

What was your big takeaway from it, what did you learn?

First of all, I met tremendous people, met 24 bartenders from all over the world, competing, but not really competing, also to see what everybody had done. The boxing theme we’re gonna bring to Singapore, during Singapore Cocktail Week; we will continue since Bacardi already jumped on the trail and they really like it. During LCW they had so many nice seminars going on, we listened to some very good ones – lots of inspiring things.

artesian

Artesian, World’s Best Bar for four consecutive years

So what’s the difference between British cocktails or New York cocktails and us, is it just more sophisticated?

London is known as one of the cities for our type of craftsmanship; London has always had tough competition among the bars, because they’re all so good, they really train the people behind the bars. Back in the day, London was one of the places I visited frequently, just to learn. I sat by the bar and watched, learned about techniques and drinks. And New York is a city with a million concepts and great people, and there’s also competition between those two cities. When it comes down to the best bars in the world, it’s between like Dead Rabbit in New York and the Artesian in London.

Did you see one or two things happening for London and New York that might filter down to Singapore sometime soon – some kind of trend?

One of the first things [we’ve adopted recently] is barrel aging. It started in New York six-seven years ago, and then moved to Europe, and then thanks to Proof (an alcohol distributor in Singapore, also co-owns 28HK) they kinda brought it over to Singapore as well. Same way Matthew Bax bought the Tippling Club style of things, as well as Operation Dagger, which is into using sous vide and other kitchen techniques.

And hotel bars are big. I mean, in London, the big thing is hotel bars. Some of the best bars in the world are located in The Savoy, Langham, The Ritz, The Dorchester –

–do you see that happening here? I can only name a handful of great hotel bars here, Manhattan, and Anti:dote–

I think Anti:dote does a great job here, it’s a different style, it’s not a lobby, it’s more an open space, so it has a different atmosphere, but they have a great beverage program. Manhattan is the first themed hotel bar in Singapore, and I’m pretty sure there’s a coupla things coming up – Shangri-La will pull out a new bar pretty soon. And of course Vagabond Bar just opened as well. And then of course the classic Raffles Hotel (Billiards and Bar, and the Long Bar).

And what’s your most memorable drinking experience?

[Thinks for a bit] Drinking wise was November 2013, a 1993 Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs, we found it on a menu – in New York, in Lure Fishbar – it was so fairly priced, and we said, “if you still have it, we want to have it”, and it was just the perfect time to drink it. Cocktail wise, I think Booker and Dax in New York, it just blew my mind.

And who is the person you’d most like to drink with? It could be someone fictional as well.

I just had the pleasure of having a couple of drinks with my mom; it was cool to have her in town. And Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore. I was at the museum recently and I saw the speech he made about the independence of Singapore, that was very impressive. Whoa… that’d be a person I’d love to meet. (Although I don’t know if he drinks!). But I’d always prefer to have my mom, to have her around.

fleku

Did she introduce you to drinking?

My mom (we lived in Berlin, Germany) she loved to travel to Prague, which was known for very good beers, and once when she was pregnant with me, she went to a very famous place called U Fleku (above, a very well known restaurant and brewery), and she had her last beer. And our family served Becherovka (Czech herbal liqueur) every Sunday during lunch. [So while not introducing me or such…] I’m very lucky to have a family that loved to eat good food, and my mom and grandparents were into good wines and beers.

manhattan pork pasties

At this point we talked about Hell’s Kitchen. The other existing neighbourhoods are still available (with menu additions in fact), but the latest have some amazing bar bites to go with it (Miso cod lettuce wraps, churros, and pork pasties – seen above). The cocktails and their stories:

Spectrum Punch, $22
This shaken cocktail is inspired by Sylvester Stallone’s – a former resident in Hell’s Kitchen – iconic movie role as the professional boxer Robert “Rocky” Balboa who fought in the indoor arena, Spectrum. Crafted with Plantation Jamaica rum, house-made falernum, fresh lime, honey and topped with fresh berries, this “tiki” tipple is a burst ofcolours with flavours that pack a punch. Parched verdict: A bracing berry cocktail that’s not too sweet but is strooooong.

manhattan bar central

Bar Central, $24
Refill pitcher submerged in ice on the side and a green apple fan as garnish, Bar Central
(Indigenous vodka, Mancino Bianco vermouth, grapefruit and orange bitters) is a modern interpretation of the classic vodka martini; influenced by the cocktail presentation in a well-known speakeasy that was the go-to watering hole for Broadway stars after curtain call. Parched verdict: Lovely classic cocktail with a twist, you could drown this one all night.

Mad Dog, $24
This whiskey-based concoction is made with Greenore 8-year-old Irish whiskey, Ferrand Dry orange curaçao, Luxardo Maraschino, Drambuie, absinthe and bitters. Smoked wild cherry bark delivers an aromatic finish that is a nostalgic reminder of the fiery mafia mayhem back in the day. Parched verdict: Kinda like a sazerac if you like the hint of absinthe.

Manhattan Reviver

Reviver, $25
Need a wake-up call? A creation made to “revive” the worn and weary, this delicious brew of Daron calvados, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, Ferrand Dry orange curaçao, sugar, bitters, cloves, coffee beans and salt has everything one needs to liven up and get that boost. Not to mention, the lingering hint of jalapeño with every sip spices things up. (Er no, you can’t take the flask home). Parched verdict: Just a tad spicy for us, what with our palate being so sensitive and all.

Omerta, $22
Raising this glass to Mario Puzo, famed author of mafia novels like the Godfather, Omerta (Luxardo Angioletto hazelnut liqueur, Mina Real mezcal, fresh lemon, sugar, walnut bitters) is a bittersweet tribute to Puzo’s final novel in his mafia trilogy series. Parched verdict: One f our faves actually, it’s like a Pisco Sour, and the kick come from the smoked agave.

Now that Hell’s Kitchen has been let loose, what’s been most popular?

The Mad Dog, Spectrum Punch and Bar Central, these are the favourites so far. The Omerta, once we sell it to people, they love it.

Manhattan was recently awarded Top 10 Best International Hotel Bars in the 2015 Tales of the Cocktail SpiritedAwards and World’s 50 Best Bars.

Regent Hotel, 1 Cuscaden Road, tel: 6725-3377. (When you’re there, make sure to order a Manhattan as well, naturally).

Like this?  Then how about an aperitivo at Ce La Vi?

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