When the Summit Bar launched it's new summer cocktail menu, I could only think, "oh boy – what kind of bizarre concoction will they come up with now?" This unassuming little spot (and great date place) on the LES makes some of the craziest drinks I've ever had - but a dash of crazy is good in a cocktail (not so much on a date). I wrote about this place once before and I loved the drink called The Situation, which fortunately, is still on the menu. But for my immediate purposes, let me introduce the new players: Say Hello to my Little Friend, Breakin The Law, and Off to the Races. Warning: Don't let the names fool you, these ain't no country club cocktails.
For this particular outing at Summit Bar, I brought Rudy, my good friend and even better drinking buddy. I figured if anyone was qualified to judge a drink or two (or three), it'd be him. So we started off with Breakin The Law and Off to the Races. Breakin the Law consists of Illegal (not really illegal, it's pronounced eh-leh-gal) mezcal reposado, Dimmi Italian cordial, fresh lime, chipotle chili agave, cucumber, and Summit summer orange bitters topped with soda. And Off to the Races is Buffalo Trace bourbon, peach-apricot chipotle chili agave, fresh lemon, shiso leaf, and Summit orange bitters. Lost yet? These drinks are nearly impossible to read, literally and figuratively. There's so many ingredients in one drink, that you probably won't even read them all, and if you do, you will still have NO clue what it tastes like. Trust me. That is part of Summit Bar's charm though…enigmatic mixology.
Back to the drinks. Off to the Races was good, but it was a bit sweet for my taste. The peach apricot chipotle chili agave was most of what I tasted, but fortunately they had the shiso leaf floating on top of the drink, so it lightened it up a bit. Shiso leaf is a Japanese herb derived from the mint and basil family, and the bartenders at Summit gave it a good smack to release the oils before putting it in the drink. Literally held leaf in hand…smacked hands together. This seemed to be a popular one amongst the crowd, as there was a lot of smacking going on. Still, I personally would have liked a little less sweet and a little more heat. Speaking of heat, Breakin the Law was an interesting one. I tasted cool, refreshing cucumber at first, followed by a smoky heat from the chipotle chili agave. Rudy's reaction summed it up pretty well: "wow that tastes like liquid barbecue smoke". He needs to learn how to form an opinion. That said, it kind of grew on me after a couple of sips. The heat stays with you though, so I wanted to follow up with something a little more refreshing; enter Say Hello to My Little Friend. This doozy will give you a bit of a jolt, as it's made with real coca leaf liqueur, Beefeater gin, lemon, agave, grapefruit bitters, then topped with soda. For those of you who didn't go to college, the coca leaf plant is where cocaine comes from, so while coca leaf liqueur isn't exactly cocaine in it's purest state, it's still going to give you a little boost. After having Say Hello to My Little Friend (now I bet you understand where the name comes from..), I equate it to something like a red bull and vodka, only much tastier.
There are a bunch of new drinks on Summit Bar's summer menu, and between Rudy and I, we had about half of them…just another Tuesday for us lately. The three mentioned above were the standouts in my opinion, and of course, The Situation is a winner. The Summit Bar team told me that they couldn't take that one off of the menu because it's so popular. It really is an awesome drink – smooth and tart with whiskey, orange bitters and agave – yes, quite the situation indeed.