New York City Cocktails
Words by Simon Difford
Photography by Dan Malpass
The world city of cocktails is, and pretty much always has been, New York. (I'd argue London during Prohibition and the 1990s). NYC comprises five boroughs, four of which have a signature cocktail named after them: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens. Within each borough are neighbourhoods, many of which also boast eponymous cocktails – Brooklyn especially.
As if that weren't enough for any city, NYC also boasts the New York Sour and its many variations, but that's a whole 'nother page on Difford's Guide, although one (the Greenwich Sour) does find its way into the following boroughs and their hoods' cocktails.
The Five Borough Cocktails
With: Bourbon, rosso vermouth, and aromatic bitters.
Created: Before 1882 – earliest recipe appears in O.H. Byron's 1884 The Modern Bartender's Guide
With: Dry gin, rosso vermouth, dry vermouth, orange juice, and orange bitters.
Created: 1899-1901 - earliest recipe appears in William "Cocktail" Boothby's 1908 The World's Drinks and How to Mix Them
With: Rye whiskey, dry vermouth, Amer Picon, and maraschino liqueur.
Created: Circa 1908 – earliest recipe appears in Jacob. A. Grohusko's Jack's Manual
With: Dry gin, dry vermouth, rosso vermouth, and pineapple juice.
Created: Before 1930 – earliest recipe appears in Harry Craddock's 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book The spelling, with an apostrophe, suggests this cocktail was fit for a queen rather than a borough but what's an apostrophe between friends.
Sitting at the foot of New York City, like Sicily is Italy's big toe, so far Staten Island has been forgotten when it comes to notable cocktails being named after it. The nearest the borough has got to a cocktail never made it off the ferry. The "Staten Island Ferry" cocktail comprises just coconut liqueur (Malibu) and pineapple juice so it's understandable that it didn't make the river crossing, or indeed its way onto Difford's Guide. The nearest we can offer to a Staten Island cocktail is a recipe, the South Beach, that shares its name with a neighbourhood of Staten Island. Or, as suggested in the comments below, the Richmond Gimlet after Richmond County which shares the same landmass as Staten Island.
Origin: Created by Dale DeGroff in New York City.
With: Amaretto, Campari, orange juice, and sugar syrup.
Manhattan neighbourhood cocktails
Manhattan must have more cocktail bars and is certainly home to more world-renowned bars than any other city – both historic and present day. Given this, it's perhaps surprising that I could only find four cocktails attributable to Manhattan's neighbourhoods.
With: Dry gin, maraschino liqueur, pineapple juice.
We say: Soft and fruity – it's harder than you think.
With: Blanco tequila, Yellow Chartreuse, Grand Marnier, and lemon juice.
We say: Essentially a Last Word with tequila instead of gin.
With: Rye whiskey, lemon juice, sugar syrup, aromatic bitters, egg white, and red wine.
We say: A Whiskey Sour mellowed by egg white with a distinctive red wine float.
With: Rye whiskey, rosso vermouth, and Cynar.
Origin: Created in 2005 by Audrey Saunders at Pegu Club in Manhattan.
Brooklyn neighbourhood cocktails
Every borough of New York has its neighbourhoods but whether it's because Brooklyn is home to more bartenders, the classic Brooklyn is more adaptable, or simply because it's the biggest, Brooklyn boasts more neighbourhood riffs - even though most of them were created at bars in Manhattan.
With: Rye whiskey, dry vermouth, Bénédictine, plum brandy, aromatic bitters, and orange bitters.
Origin: Created in 2014 by Tom Macy at Clover Club in Brooklyn.
With: Rye whiskey, maraschino liqueur, dry vermouth, and Cynar.
Origin: Created in 2006 by Chad Solomn at Milk & Honey in Manhattan.
With: Rye whiskey, rosso vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and Amer Picon.
Origin: Created in 2009 by Phil Ward at Mayahuel in Manhattan.
With: Rye whiskey, amaro, maraschino liqueur, and full-bodied vermouth.
Origin: Created in 2009 by Joaquin Simo at Death & Company in Manhattan.
With: Cucumber, rye whiskey, dry vermouth, and amaro.
Origin: Created in 2009 by Sam Ross at Milk & Honey in Manhattan.
Crown Heights Negroni
With: Dry gin, sorel liqueur, aged sweet vermouth, Italian red bitters.
Origin: Created circa 2021.
With: Rye whiskey, Yellow Chartreuse, rosso vermouth, aromatic bitters, and orange bitters.
Origin: Created in 2006 by Michael McIlroy at Milk & Honey in Manhattan.
With: Rye whiskey, full-bodied vermouth, apricot brandy, and aromatic bitters.
Origin: Created in 2009 by Julie Reiner at Clover Club in Brooklyn.
With: Rye whiskey, full-bodied vermouth, and maraschino liqueur.
Origin: Created in 2003 by Vincenzo Errico at Milk & Honey in Manhattan.
With: Straight rye whiskey, apricot brandy liqueur, dry vermouth, Angostura Aromatic bitters & chilled water.
We say: The original recipe calls for a full 60ml (2oz) of bottled-in-bond straight rye (without the optional extra splash of water to help with dilution). Just 10ml (1/3oz) less produces whiskey a more approachable but still spirit forward late-night sipper.
With: Italian red bitter liqueur, straight rye whiskey, Luxardo maraschino liqueur, dry vermouth, amaro, orange bitters
We say: Bittersweet with rye whiskey's assertive spirituous spice, this is an Aperitivo for those occasions when the pre-dinner drink needs to be a sharpener.
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