In John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, the character Doc becomes obsessed with a fanciful drink he’s never tasted and has, in fact, never seen – the beer milkshake. “He wondered what a beer milkshake would taste like,” Steinbeck writes. “The idea gagged him a bit, but he couldn’t let it alone. It cropped up every time he had a glass of beer.”
Beer isn’t Cointreau; it’s a self-contained, stand-alone drink. But like prosecco, bourbon and other staunch stand-alones, it can play nice with the right accompaniment. The new Beer Cocktail menu at The Pierre’s silky Two-E Bar shows just how nice.
The drinks sensibly sidestep ice cream, milk and sugar in favor of significant libations like Glenfiddich, pepper-infused vodka and gin. (Turns out Doc didn’t think much of the beer milkshake once he screwed up the nerve to try one.)
Was the Pierre trying to inject the earthy spirit of Oktoberfest into its posh Art Deco digs? Nice coincidence. “We’d never done beer cocktails before,” says Sachin Hasan, whose mixology team dreams up new specialty drinks menus six times a year.
The Pierre’s seven specialty cockails, available this fall, were culled from more than 40 concocted and taste-tested by the hotel team. Each showcases a complex brew like Guinness Stout or Abita Purple Haze Beer– forget Miller Light – and is either beer based or crowned by a beer foam.
Black Friar’s Pint, inspired by a 150-year-old recipe, exemplifies the former. Its base is a flavorful Guinness and cardamom reduction. “The alcohol goes out the door when you simmer it,” says Hasan. Never mind. Bulldog Gin and dry sherry rev it up along with a dash of sweet agave nectar and an unexpected garnish of cheese on a stick, a Proustian nod to the Ploughman’s Lunch and the pub.
The Non-Tartle also has British inflections, albeit with German underpinnings. Glenfiddich single malt is teamed with lime juice, lemon juice and simple syrup and topped with a foamy concoction of Erdinger Beer and dried lemon verbena, drizzled with bitters. Presented in a champagne saucer, it was light and elegant, more Noel Coward than John Osborne, and poses the question: is beer the new bubbly?
Two-E Bar, the Pierre, Fifth Avenue and 61st Street; 212 838-8000.