"I felt pampered and relaxed—for the same price as a cocktail at any high-end bar in the city."
After reading the New York Times's four-star review of Eleven Madison Park and gawking at the cocktail recipes from Mix Shake Stir: Recipes from Danny Meyer's Acclaimed New York City Restaurants, I was on a mission to find out firsthand what the bar experience was like at a four-star restaurant.
A meal might have to wait until I can get a reservation, but a drink at the bar had no such limitations. On a recent Monday night, I strolled in to the majestic space, perched on a leather stool at the polished-wood bar, and was greeted by Leo Robitschek, the head bartender. He handed me a menu and, as I was perusing the selections, poured me a glass of water, placed a silver dish with three wells filled with bar snacks: citrusy cured olives, waffle potato chips, and mixed nuts.
The cocktail menu was divided into several sections, including Light Spirited and Dark Spirited. One of the latter caught my eye immediately—the à la Louisiane. This cocktail has a bit of a history, and once I got talking to Leo, he confided that he'd given the original recipe an updated tweak or two—changing the proportions a bit, and livening it up with two types of bitters, in the style of a Manhattan. Leo's cocktail making was beautiful and precise; he used a gorgeous glass pitcher in lieu of a pint glass, and a long, elegant mixing spoon with a small trident on the back end.
As I sipped my drink and nibbled on my snacks, gazing down the bar, I felt pampered and relaxed—for the same price as a cocktail at any high-end bar in the city. Danny Meyer is known for his hospitality, and the bar at Eleven Madison Park has that magical quality that makes you feel special each time you visit. Take my advice: go there when you want to treat yourself to something special, even if you can't stay for dinner.
Luckily for us, Leo was happy to share the original recipe for the à la Louisiane, as well as the updated Eleven Madison Park version.
Eleven Madison Park à la Louisiane
2 1/2 ounces Old Overholt Rye
3/4 ounces Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
1/2 ounces Benedictine
2 dashes of Peychauds bitters
2 dashes of Bitter Truth Decanter Bitters*
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass that has been washed with absinthe. Garnish with a cherry and an orange twist.
*This unusual bitters can be found online at Cocktail Kingdom.
Original à la Louisiane
1 ounce rye
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce benedictine
Stir with ice and strain into a cocktail glass that has been washed with absinthe. Garnish with a cherry.