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Midtown Restaurant Mixes Cocktails for all 5 Boroughs

By Mary Johnson | May 2, 2012 7:31am
The South Bronx Fizz is a simple mix of Pisco 100, lemon juice, simple syrup and mint.
The South Bronx Fizz is a simple mix of Pisco 100, lemon juice, simple syrup and mint.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

MIDTOWN — Forget the Manhattan — a Midtown mixologist is serving up cocktails specific to every New York borough.

Eddy Buckingham, owner of a new eatery called The Liberty, said he's discovered historic recipes for tipples representing Brooklyn, The Bronx and Queens.

Staten Island, he said, seems to be the lone borough missing its very own signature concoction. So he invented one.

Buckingham, a 29-year-old Australian, said he built the cocktail menu at The Liberty around those old-time borough classics. It now includes traditional offerings, as well as several modern spinoffs.

The Liberty opened in Midtown on Tuesday, and the new venue is all about old New York.

Renovations to its 106-year-old space revealed original tiled flooring and a cast iron balustrade that now walls off the DJ area. The walls are strewn with 200-plus historic photos of famous New Yorkers or New York locales, and the restaurant’s name itself evokes a more free-wheeling era.

“[The name is] actually mostly about people wanting to take liberties,” Buckingham said of the restaurant’s moniker. “For us, it’s about people indulging themselves.”

Like the rest of the eatery, the cocktail menu is an homage to the history of the Big Apple.

Rebecca Federman, a culinary collections librarian at the New York Public Library, said the Manhattan, the Brooklyn and The Bronx cocktails go back decades in the New York City nightlife scene.

The library maintains a collection of some 45,000 historic menus — many of which are now available to peruse online — and The Manhattan cocktail has long been a particularly common offering, Federman said.

She said she has seen The Bronx cocktail appear as early as 1906, and the Brooklyn likely appeared around that same time. Federman added that she was not aware of a Queens or Staten Island specific drink - though Buckingham claimed to have found a gin-based drink paying homage to Queens.

Federman said there has been a revival of old-fashioned bar room concoctions in recent years, with speakeasy-type venues resurrecting favorites from decades ago.

“I think they’re very conscious of the history of cocktails,” Federman said of some barkeeps.

“Looking at a cocktail menu today is actually not that different from looking at a cocktail menu from 1906, for example,” she added. “[These drinks] were popular then, and they’re popular today.”

Ten items long, the cocktail menu at The Liberty includes the signature, borough-specific cocktails from Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Manhattan, Buckingham explained.

But despite the vintage allure, Buckingham said those classic drinks are “not necessarily accessible to contemporary palettes."

So he also included alternative interpretations on the menu, incorporating local beers and whiskeys to create new mixtures for each borough.

The classic Manhattan at The Liberty is made with Jim Beam Devil’s Cut bourbon whiskey, sweet vermouth and Angostura bitters. The modernized Liberty cocktail, named the Broadway Lights, is made with Absolut Citron vodka, lemon juice, pomegranate grenadine and pineapple juice.

The classic Brooklyn cocktail is a blend of Rittenhouse 100 rye whiskey, dry vermouth, maraschino liqueur, combier triple sec and Angostura bitters. The new drink, called the Billyburg, mixes NY Distilling Perry's Tot Op gin with black tea, lemon juice, simple syrup and Brooklyn Lager, served in a mug.

The Queens cocktail is made with Beefeater 24 gin, lemon juice, dry vermouth, simple syrup and pineapple juice. The new version, the Hey! Ho!, is mixed with Belvedere vodka, St. Germain Elderflower liqueur, spiced pomegranate syrup and lime juice, served on the rocks.

The Bronx cocktail is a stiff mix of Plymouth gin, sweet vermouth, dry vermouth, orange juice and Reagan’s orange bitters. The updated version, named the South Bronx Fizz, is a simple blend of Pisco 100, lemon juice, simple syrup and mint.

Staten Island, Buckingham explained, did not have a signature cocktail that he could find. So, not wanting to leave a borough out, he created two new mixtures for the menu, one playing on Staten Island’s “island” nature and another based on the Wu Tang Clan http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/tags/wutang-clan , a hip hop group of Staten Island’s native sons.

The Knickerbocker, an island-flavored cocktail, is a blend of Pyrat Xo rum, orange curacao, pineapple juice, grenadine and lime juice, shaken and served tall.

The Killer Bees on the Swarm, named after lyrics in a Wu Tang Clan song, mixes Espolon blanco tequila, lime juice, honey syrup, grapefruit juice, reposado mescal, Angostura bitters and Peychaud’s bitters, shaken and served up.