Saturday, February 19, 2011


PDT, short for "Please Don't Tell", has become an establishment in the craft bar world. Created as a cocktail-lounge annex to Crif Dogs, known for their "Jersey Style" deep fried hot dogs, PDT is entered via a vintage phone booth within the Crif Dog restaurant.

Crif Dogs, 113 St. Mark's Place in the East Village
At the back of the phone booth is a "secret" door.
When PDT opened in May of 2007, the old-time speakeasy approach was a perfect fit with the pre-prohibition cocktail craze sweeping the city.

Owned by Crif Dogs owner Brian Shebairo, PDT is the creation Jim Meehan, a well known figure in the cocktail world, who was a veteran of Grammercy Tavern and Pegu club prior to creating PDT's bar program.

Since that opening, with the added talents of Don Lee and John Derragon, not to mention the allure of experiencing the secret entrance, Jim has managed to maintain PDT as one of the most popular craft bars in the country.

Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.
It's 2011 now, so I admit to being quite late to this party. The Benton's bacon-fat washed old fashioned that I felt obliged to try as my first drink, was all the rage when it was unveiled by Don Lee 3-4 years ago, and though the drink may have lost its status as a new "it" drink, it remains a popular staple of PDT's offerings.

When a recipe is so powerfully tied with a particular bar as a signature drink, it becomes something of a must-try. My experience with it was positive. I love my old fashioneds, and Don's bacon fat wash process removes any oily or greasy elements, leaving behind a smokey richness. It was like a BBQ bourbon, and in a very good way!

Working our side of the bar that evening was Karen Fu, who has also been working at ssäm bar, and recently won the nyc round for 42below's cocktail world cup last month with her "Manuka Sage Southside".

Manuka Sage Southside, by Karen Fu
1.5 oz. 42 Below Manuka Honey Vodka
.5 oz. Canton Ginger Liqueur
.5 oz Fresh Yuzu Juice
.25 oz. Nardini Acqua di Cedro
3 Sage Leaves

Muddle 2 of the sage leaves then add the rest of the ingredients. Shake with ice and fine strain into a chilled coupe. Top with 1 oz. Kiuchi Brewery Sparkling Yuzu Wine. Garnish with a spanked sage leaf.

(Nice use of the Nardini Acqua di Cedro Karen!)

Not exactly suited to home use, but that's not what the 42below competition is about, and I thought her recipe sounded well deserving of the win. Good luck at the next round Karen!

My second round at PDT was a drink called the 'Wrong Isle", a combination of Laird's 7 1/2 year old apple brandy, Lillet rouge, Quince Schrubb and Fee's Whiskey barrel aged bitters in a glass that has been rinsed in St. Germain.

Wrong Isle Cocktail

- 2 oz Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy
- 1 oz Lillet Rouge
- .25 oz Quince Shrubb (Huilerie Beaujolaise Vinaigre de Coing)
- 1 Dash of Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters

1) Stir with ice and strain into a chilled, St. Germain rinsed coupe.
2) Garnish with an orange twist.

It was very dry, with a bit of a flat spot before the raspberry vinegar kicked in adding some interesting fruit flavors. Complex and enjoyable, though one was enough for me.

I've not heard Lillet Rouge spoken of in flattering terms before hearing Karen Fu espouse upon it's many positive aspects, a discovery which was one of the more interesting experiences I had at PDT.

The base wines in the Lillet Rouge are Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Unaged brandy is also cold soaked in various fruits, mostly citrus, before being pressed and blended with the wine. It is then aged in Slovenian oak for 6-8 months before bottling. 

There is a  mild quinine flavor evident as a light compliment to the bright flavors of citrus and wine. It's obviously more tannic than the blanc, but I've realized that comparisons between the rouge and blanc are probably unfair. I'm actually interested in picking up a bottle to experiment with at home after this introduction.

PDT's rules of etiquette are fairly standard for small craft-bars. Operating a small capacity bar room and turning a profit is difficult enough, without the difficulties created by patrons who would flaunt these rules.

While the atmosphere and attitude will not be for everyone here, I found PDT's reputation for maintaining a high quality bar program to be well deserved. The space was lively but quiet enough for conversation, the staff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the dark & cozy speakeasy charm undeniable.

PDT does have the advantage of a kitchen program, even if it is mainly deep fried hot dogs. Many of the recipes you find there contain rare and hard-to-find or house-made ingredients, which is really part of the reason to go out and spend the money drinking at a place like this in the first place. 

As these recipes are not well suited for home use, I'll leave you with this Jim Meehan recipe from Mud Puddle's Big Bartender's Book.

Haitian Fight Sour (Jim Meehan, NYC)

1 1/2 ounce (45 ml) aged rum (Barbancourt 8)
1/2 ounce (15 ml) Benedictine
3/4 ounce (22 ml) lime juice
1/2 ounce (15 ml) simple syrup
2 dashed Angostura bitters

Shake well with ice and strain into a coupe. Garnish with a lime wheel.

This is a deep, dark and mysterious sour deepened even further by my use of a 2:1 ratio demerara sugar simple syrup. The Benedictine's complex profile goes well with the Barbancourt Haitian rum and Angostura bitters are hard to beat as an addition to any drink. A very enjoyable dark daiquiri variation, nice one Jim!

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