I am often amazed, as a cook, when I watch a great barman (or barwoman) create the incredible impact of a beautiful cocktail using such miniscule measurements. One shot equals one ounce (roughly, two tablespoons), while a jigger equals one and a half ounces; we’re talking about only a few tablespoons of product. Then, there are the dashes and dribbles that make up the rest of the cocktail, squirted from tiny holes in bitters bottles or spritzed from citrus wedges. Increasingly, barmen are resorting to pharmaceutical droppers and tiny, pressurized sprays. The loose pinches and dabs used in cooking make it a forgiving art; in cocktails, the tolerance for disproportion is low.
Recently, I spoke with Ralph Rubino, GM at The Cookery and a force behind the innovative cocktail program at The Parlor, the new Dobbs Ferry pizzeria owned by The Cookery’s Chef David DiBari. While the restaurant serves meticulously crafted, artisanal pizza, The Parlor dispenses with all the arm-gartered derring-do that you often see behind today’s cocktail bars. Says Rubino of those drinks palaces, “Part of what you’re paying for is the show. So you get the bartender with the vest and the bowtie shaking up the cocktail in front of you or using his big, fancy, three-foot bar spoon.” Instead, at The Parlor, the drinks are pre-mixed daily and served in tiny, personal hip flasks that its bartenders fill and hand-cap on the premises. At The Parlor, cocktail service is stylish in a gritty, Bukowskian way; the hip flasks arrive with hand-lettered masking tape labels.
Says Rubino of the choice to offer pre-mixed Negronis and Manhattans, “There is an advantage, both in consistency and speed. Some cocktails take a little longer, especially the artisanal cocktails that demand precise measurements. It all takes a little more time.” In contrast, the hip flasks used at The Parlor are, according to Rubino, “prepped out, measured out, and ready to rock and roll.” Speed aside, the choice to use bottles was primarily about retaining the quality of the drinks, no matter how crowded the bar. Rubino says he and Chef DiBari “went for the bottles to keep the consistency in the cocktails. Chef DiBari happens to like the Manhattan that I make, so we like to put it out the same way every time.”