Arts & Entertainment

Dowd on Drinks: Fine Cocktails From Old America

We’re still a very young country. I’m reminded of that any time I think of Reno, Nevada, Las Vegas’s little sister that celebrated its centennial just a couple of years ago.

Or, as I’m reminded by an autobiography I’m currently reading by the actor Robert Wagner in which he notes that when he was a kid Tarzana, Calif., was still just the name of the ranch owned by “Tarzan of the Apes” creator Edgar Rice Burroughs rather than a city as it is today.


But, we do have some oldies that are goodies. For example, European civilization along the mighty Hudson River that runs from Lake Tear In the Clouds on the U.S. Canadian border south to New York Harbor was ushered in four centuries ago with the Dutch-financed voyage of English explorer Henry Hudson on his ship the Halfmoon. New York is in the midst of its Hudson Quadricentennial celebration even as you read this.

So, it seems only fitting that some of the better restaurant/cocktail lounges are coming up with better and better cocktail lists to please the tourists who are flocking to the Albany/Saratoga area now.
I found that out when I was in downtown Albany over the weekend, dining at Dale Miller, the celebrity chef’s eponymous new restaurant, and searching for something different to drink.

Hmmm. For starters maybe a Paris Hilton. No, a Smallbany Sazerac … or, a Tokyo Rose. No, wait. A Hudson’s Halfmoon!

What better way to recognize the Quadricentennial? And, no better way to start sampling the clever signature cocktail menu. Miller, one of only about 60 Certified Master Chefs in the entire nation, has long been known for his cuisine, but he also likes a cocktail or two when work is done. To give them some buy-in to the new venture, he asked everyone who tends bar at his new digs to come up with their own cocktail recipe.

John Wiz devised the Hudson’s Halfmoon, a blend of Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Liqueur Clement Creole from the island of Martinique, with a touch of ginger over a muddled slice of orange, served on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass.

I found it a refreshing change from the frequently cloying specialty cocktails that seem to be in vogue these days.

The base spirit, from a Bermuda distillery that has been in operation for slightly more than two centuries, is rich, warm and dark, with lingering hints of the molasses from which it is distilled along with light notes of caramel and vanilla, almonds and allspice. It is Gosling’s biggest seller and has long been the main ingredient as the Dark and Stormy, Bermuda’s classic cocktail, as well as a key part of Bermuda Fish Chowder.

There is even an herbal note to the Black Label, complemented nicely by the Liqueur Clement Creole. That’s an 80-proof Curacao orange liqueur that is just beginning to catch on with U.S. bartenders even though it has been available here for several years. It’s in the vein of Grand Marnier and Gran Gala.

I’m anxious to try some of the other cocktails, particularly at the very reasonable $9 price for each of the 10 varieties. They include:

• Tokyo Rose: It’s an Asian-influenced interpretation of the Bloody Mary, using chilled sake, ginger, wasabi, shoyu sauce and V-8 juice blended smoothly and served tall over ice.

• Smallbany Sazerac: A nod to some people’s snarky nickname for Albany, but referred to by the restaurant as “Our Celtic nod to the Big Easy Classic.” It’s Sazerac Rye and Power’s Irish Whiskey combined with a touch of Peychaud’s bitters and Herbsant, the latter a sort of absinthe but without wormwood.

• Cucumber Martini: Muddled cucumber and organic cucumber vodka blended with lemon, mint, and fine sugar. Shaken until very cold.

(William M. Dowd covers the adult beverage world online at

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