Taking a bite out of the Big Apple
Take a look at New York’s cocktail scene – where once-forgotten recipes are finding new love, vintage speakeasies are all the rage and braces-clad mixologists earnestly pour ingredients into antique glasses – and it’s easy to assume that the ’20s Prohibition Era was the golden age of the cocktail. But that’s not the whole story. Though the word ‘cocktail’ first appeared in a London newspaper in 1798, the cocktail became synonymous with New York in 1874, when the Manhattan and the Tom Collins were invented in the city. The drink flourished pre- Prohibition, and it’s this age that’s celebrated at the Clover Club in Cobble Hill, a family borough of brownstones and retro boutiques.
Named after a famous, late-19th-century men’s club, the Clover Club serves fizzes, sours, juleps, royales and crystal bowls of punch atop its salvaged mahogany bar. The Victorian-era saloon is a study in informal sophistication, with wood-panelled walls, marble-topped tables, tiled floors and a pressed-tin ceiling. Head bartender Tom Macy’s creations, which use fresh juices, housemade syrups and seasonal ingredients, are a taste of history. On the menu is the Clover Club cocktail, originally enjoyed by members of the men’s club. Today the bar adds dry vermouth to the gin, fresh lemon juice, housemade raspberry syrup and an egg-white mix to turn it from a fruity gin drink to something more grown-up. Then there’s the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, a riff on the Old Fashioned. In the late 19th century, it became fashionable to add dashes of exotic, imported liqueurs – particularly absinthe – to the Old Fashioned. The Clover Club’s version is a concoction of rye whiskey, angostura bitters, syrup, maraschino and absinthe. Sipping the cocktail at the sturdy wooden bar, it seems appropriate to raise a glass and toast the gilded age that inspired it.
The ice cream cone
Dumbo – Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass – is just across the East River from Manhattan, but could be in a different city altogether. Here, high-rises have given way to 19th-century warehouses, now converted into luxury apartments, while its cobblestone streets are home to shops and cafés re-creating a retro vibe. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, however, needs no edifice. The parlour sits in a ’20s fireboat house under Brooklyn Bridge, a homely addition to a backdrop pierced by Manhattan’s skyscrapers. Staff wear pressed white shirts with red bow ties, Coke is sold in glass bottles and all the ice cream for the sundaes, banana splits and milkshakes is produced on site in small batches. There is no Rocky Road, salted caramel or chilli, just eight classic, all-natural flavours: vanilla, chocolate, vanilla chocolate chunk, strawberry, chocolate chocolate chunk, peaches and cream, butter pecan and coffee – made with the finest ingredients.
Outside the Factory, bicycles are lined up, joggers pause for breath and dog-walkers take a seat alongside Brooklyn residents, all admiring the towering views of Manhattan from the calm of the shore. But ice cream hasn’t always been such a democratic confection. It first arrived in New York in the early 1700s and was a luxury item for the elite: in the summer of 1790, George Washington and his wife Martha spent $200 (£3,000 in today’s money) on the dessert. Technical advances in the 19th century led to the mass production, refrigeration and transportation of ice, and the average Joe and Jane were finally able to see what they’d been missing. By the end of WWII, with dairy-product rationing over, Americans celebrated with ice cream, reportedly enjoying more than 20 quarts per person in 1946. Today, at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, where the national flag flies on the napkins, patriotism never tasted so good.