In a city high on mixology culture, it’s easy to forget that the Waldorf Astoria New York was among the first watering holes in Manhattan mixing and stirring up libations for Gotham’s elite. And what other hotel in New York can claim every US President since Herbert Hoover as its guest, or resident (Hoover and Eisenhower even lived at the Waldorf after leaving the White House)? Earlier this year, Frank Caiafa, bar manager at the hotel and its Peacock Alley, debuted the Waldorf Astoria Bar Book, updated for the first time since 1934. Compiled over five years of research (Caiafa says it took him three years to sample and develop every cocktail in the book—rough job!) sourcing the Waldorf’s historical Old Books for such pre-Prohibition favorites as the original Manhattan, or daiquiris the way Hemingway liked them, the book’s recipes are mixed with history, mixology tips as well as ways to create clever variations on classic drinks.“Researching the recipes of the Old Books and the books of the their era was like listening to scratchy recordings on well-worn vinyl,” says Caiafa in the book’s introduction. But this stylish volume is not only an ode to the past, but also showcases the city’s evolving cocktail culture. With the Waldorf to close in the spring 2017 for an extensive renovation, we thought the book would make a timely holiday gift, one celebrating the city’s glorious past and its very dynamic present through the filter of a great New York passion—cocktails.
Here are three of the scrumptious drinks, long hotel favorites, Caiafa includes in the book:
THE PEACOCK (2016 version)
“Of course named for its association with Peacock Alley, it was also the first signature cocktail of the newly restored Peacock Alley in 2005. It is the most served cocktail on the menu,” says Caiafa.
2 oz. Cranberry-infused vodka (recipe below*)
½ oz. Marie Brizard Apry apricot liqueur
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
½ egg white
Add all ingredients to mixing glass and dry-shake for 5 seconds. Add ice and shake well. Fine-strain into chilled cocktail glass. Twist lemon peel to release oils, then discard. Garnish with dried apricot (optional).
*Cranberry-infused vodka: Place 2 c. fresh (or frozen) cranberries in airtight glass container. Add 32 oz. vodka. Seal and let rest for at least 1 week. Fine-strain and funnel back into bottle.
Sometimes referred to as the Cosmopolitan of its day, it was one of the most requested cocktails prior to Prohibition,” notes Caiafa. “Of all the cocktails associated with or attributed to Waldorf Astoria New York, the Bronx was the most popular.”
1½ oz. Beefeater London Dry Gin
½ oz. Cinzano Rosso Sweet Vermouth
½ oz. Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth
1 oz. fresh orange juice
1 dash Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6 (optional)
Add all ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and shake well. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. No garnish.
ROBERT BURNS (Tale of Two Roberts)
“This is another creation credited to the Old Waldorf-Astoria, and it’s basically a Rob Roy (also created at Waldorf in 1894) with an absinth enhancement,” explains Caiafa. “It was named for the gentleman who sold cigars to the Old Bar.”
2 oz. Spencerfield Spirit Sheep Dip or Johnnie Walker Black blended Scotch whisky
1 oz. Cinzano Rosso Sweet Vermouth
¼ oz. Bénédictine Liqueur
2 dashes Émile Pernot Vieux Pontarlier Absinthe
Add all ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with lemon twist. Serve three small shortbread cookies on side plate.
An old classic Havana Cocktail was named for Cuban President Mario Garcia Menocal (1913-1921.
1½ oz. ‘Cana Brava’ White Rum
¾ oz. Dolin de ChamberyBlanc Vermouth
¾ oz. Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth
¼ oz. house-made Grenadine (see recipes in the Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book)
¼ oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao (optional)
1 dash Regans’ Orange Bitters No. 6
Add all ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with orange peel and brandied cherry.