Time-honored cocktails like the New York Sour and the Sidecar were born during the era of Prohibition, the blessedly bygone social experiment that turned drinking into an underground adventure. In those days, hard beverage options were usually made with homemade hooch and flavorings of dubious origin and quality.
Thankfully, a cocktail renaissance has emerged in many of today’s bars, where inventive drinks showcase both the artistry and craft of bartending. At their moody and atmospheric West Village bar-restaurant Employees Only, master mixologists Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric can regale you with colorful tales of cocktail origins—or just pour you a mean drink. In Speakeasy, Kosmas and Zaric take their inspiration from traditional favorites, then use the finest spirits, the freshest ingredients, and a good measure of reverence for their craft to elevate the mixed drink to artisanal status.
More than 80 imaginative libations that riff on the classics are showcased in this one-of-a-kind collection. Recipes emphasize fresh fruits and herbs, homemade syrups and infusions, and a careful balancing of flavors, with a mind toward seasonality. A Ginger Smash is offered in four different versions: kumquat, pineapple, pear, or cranberry, depending on the time of year. The Millionaire becomes the Billionaire with the addition of homemade grenadine and 107-proof bourbon. And the South Side becomes the West Side by replacing the gin with sun-kissed Meyer lemon–infused vodka. With the specter of Prohibition firmly in the past, Speakeasy shares recipes for the choicest potent potables, reimagining the finest drinks of yesterday for today’s thirsty imbibers.
Fall into Cooking Featured Recipe from Speakeasy by Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric: Mata Hari
The Mata Hari best exemplifies the creative process utilized at Employees Only of taking classic ideas and modernizing them through an expression of big flavors and culinary technique. Inspired by the luscious brandy classic Sidecar, the Mata Hari blends Cognac with chai-infused sweet vermouth and fresh pomegranate juice to introduce soft tannins and exotic spice. Rose hips adorn this cocktail which awaken the olfactory senses, alluding to what comes next. Stunning to look at, seductive on the nose, and vibrant on the pallet, the Mata Hari is one of the first and most popular cocktails at Employees Only. —Jason Kosmas and Dushan Zaric
Makes one drink
1¼ ounces Louis Royer Force 53 VSOP cognac
1 ounce Chai-Infused Sweet Vermouth
¾ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ ounce pomegranate juice
½ ounce simple syrup
3 dried organic rose buds, for garnish
Pour the cognac, vermouth, juices, and syrup into a mixing glass. Add large cold ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with rose buds.
Dominant flavors: deep red pomegranates with roses on the nose
Body: rich, full mouthfeel
Accentuating or contrasting flavors: chai, cinnamon, and clove interweave
Finish: lingering, black tea, spicy