Some pals and I stopped by Williamsburg's new eastern seaboard cuisine and cocktail joint Extra Fancy (302 Metropolitan Avenue) from partners Mark Rancourt, David Brilliant & Rob Krueger. Between my mates and I I'm prety sure we sampled the entire cocktail list, and we shared, and were impressed across the board, as well as rather merry, by the end of our visit.
Wound up writing up a couple of the drinks from that evening for Men's Journal but only one, the delicate riff on a French 75 dubbed the "Fancy 75," made it into the story. My personal favorite, with one of the better cocktail names (with an equally good story behind the name) in recent memory, did not. Here's what I'd written about "Baby You're Driving", more or less:
When Krueger and his partners moved into their new space they discovered a backyard herb garden left over from the previous tenants, a Japanese restaurant. lemon balm, spearmint, peppermint, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, chervil & parsley grew in abundance in what is now Extra Fancy's outdoor dining area, and they pull these heirloom herbs for both dishes and drinks. Sprigs of Lemon Balm garnish the “Baby You're Driving”, along with a star-shaped orange zest, painstaikingly made using cookie cutter forms. The basis of the drink is the bison-grass infused Zubrowka Vodka with its vanilla and sweet spice finish, anchored by Dubonnet Bland, and given a delicate citrus spin with Combier's Pamplemousse (grapefruit) Liqueur. A little lime juice make it a perfect easy summer sipper, but it's perhaps a bit decpetively soft on the palate. In fact, the name of the drink came about during the testing period for the bar menu, when managing partner Mark Rancourt's girlfriend Charlie turned to him after polishing one off and declared, “Baby, you're driving.”
BABY YOU'RE DRIVING
The cookie cutter in question.
"The idea for the cookie cutters was pursued after a suggestion by Mark that I get a "punch" to cut fancy spirals," Rob texted me later."Then I found the lobsters [for the Squibnocket] and stars at our restaurant supply store. [Ed. note: found some nice aspic cutters that would do the trick at Whisk." Then they went out and got a 1 ton arbor press from Harbor Freight, as one does. Thus was constructed a rig that enables cutting multiple zests at once, stacked atop one another.
I finished up shooting for the Men's Journal story and Rob and I were chatting as barback Jimmy Palumbo pressed the stacks of zest. Rob regarded the elaborate production and said a bit ruefully, "As if it's not enough work squeezing fresh juice every day, and making these kinds of cocktails....". I'd already seen Jimmy power squeezing limes earlier, for what seemed like a very long time--one of those occasions when you realize just how labor intensive putting out any volume of craft cocktails in a bar actually is. Adding extra fancy garnishes only adds to that workload.But sometimes a good idea and a great presentation is too compelling to avoid, as in this case. The first night I tried it I took the impromptu photo below in extremely dim lighting--you can't take a bad photo of this one.