Where to Drink NYC Edition: Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
It was our anniversary. So we took a long overdo trip to the Big Apple. Needing to make up for lost time, the theme to our trip was, you guessed it, cocktails (and plenty of food, fret not, but really just cocktails). During our last anniversary we told you all about what in our humble opinion were the fabulous cocktails we served at our weeding. This anniversary, we’re going to walk you through some fabulous New York City places to imbibe.
We took the train up from DC and got in right around lunch time. Quick side note: the train, who knew, is so magical, or at least that is how it seemed compared to dozens of NYC adventures that began on the Chinatown bus. After checking into our godawful Times Square Hotel (whatever you do, never stay in Times Square. We didn’t mean to; it was a clerical error) we headed south. Tucked away on the garden level of Great Jones street in the Village is the enchanting Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria.
The front is a market overflowing with Italian meats, crusty loaves of bread, and cute jars which I assume are filled with delicious things. The restaurant in the back welcomes you in with its warm wood hues and open views into the kitchen. It was not our plan to have cocktails over lunch, but…. they sat us at a hightop right by the bar, and well, it was our anniversary.
We were not disappointed.
What We Ordered
This Side of Paradise: vodka, grapefruit juice, grapefruit and thyme infused honey, house-made lime and anise bitters, preserved grapefruit garnish
Balsamic Fig: mezcal, vermouth blanc, balsamic vinegar, bitters, fig garnish
An Anniversary Round: mezcal, sweet vermouth, cherry brandy, orange juice
What We Thought
This Side of Paradise was a delicate, grapefruit version of a sour, light and refreshing, with just the right herbal note to keep it from being too straightforward. It was perfect for lunch. We were surprised by the egg white foam, which wasn’t mentioned on the menu. That’s yet another strategy for getting people past their unnecessary squeamishness about egg whites. We, however, don’t need convincing about our egg white foams, and it was the perfect finish for this amiable drink.
If you’ve read us much, you’re familiar by now with our complicated relationship to smoky drinks. We’re committed to smoke being a flavor element in our repertoire. And we know that during these days when bars are tirelessly luring Scotch-loving young men to give mezcal a try too, as cocktail connoisseurs we can’t afford to overlook mezcal in particular. We don’t want to anyway, because we genuinely like smoke in small doses; we just have a hard time finding doses small enough for our taste in the Scotch or mezcal drinks we’re served. Like gluttons for disappointment, we continually order mezcal drinks hoping to like them, and ending up saying, ‘Still too smoky.’
The Balsamic Fig could have easily fit into our dysfunctional pattern. But, what do you know, this was a full-strength, mezcal-based drink that both of us truly loved. The sour spiciness of the sweet vermouth, bolstered by the even more sour spiciness of the balsamic, toned down the smoke without watering down the drink, instead bringing a wonderful singed, spicy complexity. The fig pickled in balsamic was a nice touch for the garnish, though a fresh or dried fig would probably serve adequately in its place.
Since we weren’t even planning on having one round with our lunch, we were surprised when a second round, dubbed An Anniversary Round in our description, arrived with our check. In celebration of our anniversary, in delight that he made a mezcal drink we liked, and in some pride to show off his mezcal skills a little more, the bartender mixed us a mezcal based Blood and Sand. How could we say no? It wasn’t quite as magical as the Balsamic Fig, but a solid drink, and one that gives us hope that we can find a happy place for mezcal in our drinking lives.
Go here for …
- Delicious panini creatively designed and freshly prepared. They’re enormous enough to split one with a friend. When we ordered two sandwiches, the bartender gave us a bit of a sideways glance and a comment. We thought it was because we chose to just order sandwiches instead of the three-course lunch; it turns out that he was shocked that we’d ordered so much food.
- Thoughtfully constructed cocktails involving plenty of fresh ingredients in an unfussy fashion.
Balsamic Fig Cocktail Recipe
- 2 oz mezcal
- 1 oz sweet vermouth
- 1/4 oz aged balsamic vinegar
- few dashes angostura bitters
- Fig, for garnish
- Add the liquid ingredients to a mixing glass.
- Fill the glass with ice to the level of the liquid.
- Stir until the ice is noticeably melted.
- Strain into a cocktail glass.
- Garnish with fig.