Friday, January 17, 2014

The Martinez at The Peacock Alley Restaurant

As I sit here at the trusty laptop listening to La Vie En Rose by the legendary Louis Armstrong, the song brings me back to one of the cocktail highlights of this recently past year. I was able to cross off the proverbial cocktail bucket list a classic cocktail that I had been wanting to try in a location that I also wanted to visit all in one fell swoop. On a date night with Momma-San in late October, a last minute stop had us visit the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel and had me having a Martinez. Before I go into the cocktail, I wanted to touch on a little history of the Peacock Alley Restaurant which is located in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria.

The original Peacock Alley Restaurant (301 Park Avenue New York, NY 10022 212-872-1275) was located in the original Waldorf-Astoria that was demolished in 1929 to make room for the building of the Empire State Building. When the new hotel was built on its current location on the square block of Park and 5th Avenues in between 49th and 50th Streets, the Peacock Alley was recreated. But why was it called "Peacock Alley"? I'll let the restaurant's website tell you how the term was coined:
When the term “Peacock Alley” was coined by a scribe to portray the daily promenade of notables through this original colonnade between The Waldorf and The Astoria hotels, it inspired a tradition that continues today. Then, the beau monde strutted and strolled to showcase the latest fashions to the public and their peers.

Throughout its history, Peacock Alley has been a place to see and be seen. Shortly after its “birth,” Peacock Alley became so famous and popular that its moving population on any day could total 25,000 or more. On days when a president, prince, or other notable visited the hotel, upwards of 35,000 people might visit the grand promenade. In February 1903, New Yorker writer William Marion Reedy commented, “The place is like Port Said as Kipling described it in the phrase, ‘if you stopped long enough there everybody in the world that is worth knowing would eventually happen along.’
Now I would say that Momma-San and I hardly qualify as peacocks but there we were looking for a seat at the bar that is described as "an elaborate, 30-foot-long bar with tan leather bar chairs reveals cast-glass female silhouettes, commissioned by Brooklyn’s Flickinger Glassworks". The place is exquisite. Simple and elegant. The piano player was a nice touch, which to tie in the original point of La Vie En Rose, she was playing that as we were walking in. I'm not sure why I remember that. It just stands out. What also stood out to me were the bartenders.

The two gentlemen behind the bar were professionals. A little disclosure here. For those of you who haven't done so, working behind a bar can get a little hot. Especially if you are head down making drinks and pouring beers. Now, I can imagine that the pace at the bar at Peacock Alley is of a much scaled down speed but the bartenders were working behind the bar in full suits and ties. I can't imagine working any bar in a full suit and tie but these gentlemen made it look easy. It was quite an impressive display. Now onto the cocktail: The Martinez.

Now as with many older cocktails, the origin of who created and named the Martinez is hazy due to the passing of time. Some associate the cocktail with legendary bartender Jerry "The Professor" Thomas. Some associate the cocktail with French bartender Julio Richelieu who owned a bar on Ferry Street in the California town of Martinez. David Wondrich in his book Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar gives his pros and cons on these two theories and a number of others as how they pertain to the Martini/Martinez origin. The classic recipe as found in Jerry Thomas's Bar-Tenders' Guide (1887) is as follows:
The Martinez Cocktail.
(Use small bar-glass.)
Take 1 dash of Boker's bitters.
2 dashes of Maraschino.
1 pony of Old Tom gin.
1 wine-glass of Vermouth.
2 small lumps of ice.

Shake up thoroughly, and strain into a large cocktail
glass. Put a quarter of a slice of lemon in the glass, and serve. If the guest prefers it very sweet, add two dashes [1/2 tsp] of gum syrup.
The version the Peacock Alley serves is slightly different from the one listed above. The cocktail menu was created and adapted by Frank Caiafa and the Martinez was built as such:
Ransom Old tom gin
Noilly Prat Sweet and Dry Vermouth,
Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur

The Martinez was a nicely balanced cocktail. It had a nice amber color and was quite pleasant on the nose. It was sweet without being overly so. I thoroughly enjoyed this cocktail, the ambiance, the experience and the company (yes Momma-San, that means you). It was definitely an experience that I would like to enjoy again.

Hotel bars are something that I want to focus on in this upcoming year...when I finally get back to going out and imbibing.

Until Then Happy Drinking,