No, death is not actually a partner in the boozy business — the lively, innovative group behind New York City bar Death & Co. has, if anything, helped to breathe life into the concept of well-sourced, well-crafted cocktails since opening in 2006.
And now the bar’s published a hefty book full of those very cocktails, as well ingredient and bartending guides, anecdotes from behind the bar and stunning photos to boot.
The door-stopper of a tome, “Death & Co.: Modern Classic Cocktails,” is so much more than just a collection of recipes. It’s a veritable ode to the current cocktail renaissance that Death & Co. and other bars have been responsible for creating and nurturing. The perhaps-not-so-secret ingredient behind their success: passion.
“Within the genesis of every new drink lies an important question: are you trying to present a new idea in cocktail form, or are you creating just for the sake of creation?” book authors David Kaplan, Nick Fauchald and Alex Day ask. “If the latter, it’s probably not going to be very good. It will lack the soul that all of the best drinks possess. A successful drink needs a focus, be it an inspiring ingredient, a new flavor combination, or a thematic idea, and sometimes employs a combination of these.”
That’s how the East Village bar has been crucial over the years in introducing people to drinks beyond the appletini.
Drinks such as the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, made with mezcal at a time when the smoky agave spirit was little known. Drinks such as the Conference, a tiki cocktail disguised as an Old Fashioned and featuring two base spirits, rye and bourbon, instead of one.
And drinks such as the Strange Brew, a beer-and-gin elixir that “uses beer like a modifier: to add a spicy, aromatic flavor, enhancing the base spirit rather than overwhelming it.”
The bartender who created it, Thomas Waugh, also did something else ingenious, according to the book. “Cocktails made with pineapple juice are often flabby or overtly tiki-esque, whereas here he uses it as the focus of the drink. The resulting composition surrounds the tropical richness of pineapple with the spice of gin and hoppy IPA.”
2 oz. Tanqueray No. Ten Gin
3/4 oz. Velvet Falernum
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. lemon juice
Green Flash West Coast IPA
1 mint sprig for garnish
Short shake all the ingredients, except the IPA, with three ice cubes, then strain into a pilsner glass filled with crushed ice. Top with IPA. Garnish with the mint and serve with a straw.
— Death & Co.’s Thomas Waugh