It’s nearing 11:00 p.m. on a Saturday night. We find ourselves deep in the East Village of New York City searching for an after-dinner cocktail. At this hour, in this neighborhood, bar space is at a premium.
We wind through the narrow streets of the Village and take a sharp right down an alley. My first impression is we’re lost, but this is exactly where we’re supposed to be: Freemans. We enter a cozy zinc bar surrounded by rustic and rugged decor, including an impressive taxidermy goose in full landing position. This space is a step back in time.
The bartender, a burly, bearded, and very friendly man, is happy to mix us a drink that is not on the menu. It’s seasonal, usually there in fall and winter. I watch as our barman pours a large measure of rye into a mixing glass, followed by a few fresh sage leaves. Some muddling, a few dashes from unlabeled bottles here and there, a float of very peaty, smoky scotch. The showy flaming of a lemon twist finishes the drink. Perfect. It’s like sipping whiskey next to a campfire.
I failed to get the drink’s actual name and the true proportions of ingredients, but this is our version (and it’s pretty damn good).
The Zane Grey Cocktail
- 2 oz. rye whiskey
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
- 3-4 fresh sage leaves
- 1 oz. smokey Islay single malt scotch like Lagavulin or Laphroaig
In a mixing glass, add sage leaves, rye whiskey, lemon, and simple syrup. Muddle well. Add ice and stir until well chilled. Strain into a double old fashioned glass with two very large ice cubes or one of those fancy ice balls. Gently pour the scotch over the top as a “float.” Flame the lemon peel (or not) and rub the peel around the rim of the glass and serve.
All photos © Gary Allard, All rights reserved.