The Hagar and Helga Cocktail
A spiced autumnal cocktail with Aquavit and Sherry
The coming of fall might signal the end of summer's carefree splendor, but at the same time, it makes way for a palate shift toward more spirited and in my mind, thought-provoking cocktails that echo the season's character. In New York, the colder weather also seems to concentrate the nightlife that makes the city famous and thankfully, the latest addition to the East Village's already rich cocktail scene, Pouring Ribbons, has opened just in time, offering a drink tailor-made for fall, called Hagar and Helga.
Bartender Joaquín Simo, originally of Death & Company and winner of American Bartender of the Year at this year's Tales of the Cocktail, created this drink out of a desire to find "a savory cocktail with lots of brightness to make the autumn spicy notes pop." He started with a cumin syrup that hadn't scene an application in years, and arrived at Aquavit as a base spirit, which he calls "almost criminally underused." Simo says, "[Aquavit] works great on its own, but it is also a magnificent supporting player when paired with other distillates, especially tequila, gin and genever."
Finishing out this cocktail's unique character, Joaquín uses Lustau's East India Cream Sherry to add chocolate, dried fruit notes and a nutty finish, brightened ever so slightly with a clean orange flavor from Pierre Ferrand's new Dry Curaçao and oils from an expressed orange twist. The result is a strong but balanced cocktail that, when sipped slowly, evolves in the glass over the course of several minutes to reveal new accents as it warms gently: from bittersweet and citrusy to spiced and dense.
Simo will happily share the recipe for any of Pouring Ribbons' cocktails with patrons who ask, but to make drinks like this one right, it is often best left to the skilled craftsmen that created them in the first place. Of course, knowing the work that goes into it only adds to the appreciation.
- Combine all ingredients into a chilled mixing glass, add ice and stir until very cold.
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a skewered cherry.
- Express an orange peel over the cocktail, then discard peel.
*Cumin syrup: In a pan, toast 3 tablespoons of cumin seeds. In a separate pot make simple syrup (using 1 cup of water & 1 cup of sugar). Bring syrup to a boil and remove from heat. Add toasted cumin seeds. Let stand for 6 hours. Then strain with a cheesecloth and a fine strainer. Store in a clean bottle with a secure top and keep refrigerated.