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Shawn visits two hip New York City cocktail spots to make drinks that honor New York’s unique pickling history.

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Transcript

- I'm Shawn Thomas and this is Local Flight. A show where I travel to some of the best bars in the country to meet amazing mixologists and challenge them to create innovative cocktails using unique local ingredients. I'm in New York City, the place where the revival of craft cocktails and classic bar culture all began. My first stop is a place called Distilled, where each and every one of Benjamin Wood's cocktails tells a story of its own. Benjamin Wood? - Yes. - I'm Shawn Thomas. - Shawn, it's a pleasure to meet you. - Pleasure to be here sir. - Welcome. - Well let's get right into it, let's play the name game. Why are you guys called Distilled? - Distilled obviously conjures up kind of thoughts of beverage. Secondly, we like to toy with a lot of the definitions. Things like refinement, a separating of or creation of something new from kind of a raw substance, to a finer substance. - That's awesome. I would love to try one of these said cocktails. - It would be my pleasure. - All right. - Today we're gonna try a cocktail that we call The Smuggle and Rum. Now all of the cocktails on the menu tell the story of distillation, right. So, in a way, this is a refinement of the classic Old Fashioned. - Amazing. - We have some lavender syrup that we source from Harney and Sons over in SoHo. - Do you source locally when you can? - As much as possible. - Those just classic angostura bitters? - Angostura bitters. This is aged rum that we're using and extra anejo, which we've actually put bananas in. We soak them for 24-48 hours, then we pull them out, tasting it throughout the process, to where we feel it's appropriate. - Imagine the natural sugars in the banana mellow out the rum. - Completely mellow out the rum. So I basically just add ice and stir in the style of an Old Fashioned. The idea here of course is to balance temperature and dilution. And a little orange oil. Some lemon oil as well. Express the oils over the cocktail. And the story behind this, is during Prohibition, which everybody's kinda fascinated with in the United States, they literally used to take bottles of rum, they would stuff them in big bunches of bananas, and put them on banana boats and smuggle the rum into the United States. The idea was to tell that story with this cocktail. - Smuggle and Rum. Cheers. - Salut. - Salut. Thank you. - You're welcome. - That's solid. That's really solid. - Thank you very much. - Well done. - Very unusual combination between the lavender and the banana but it really works. - Appreciate it. - And so are you doing mainly riffs off classics like this or where you drawing your inspiration from? - Well, there's enough classics, really, to riff off of, and it's a good way to start, I think, whenever they've been done well already, to use that as a building block to go onto something else I really like to use. - Well, just staying in line with this idea of keeping things local, I came across this interesting fact that New York actually has almost a 400 year pickle history, and I came across these wonderful guys at Brooklyn Brine that are sort of reviving that history down in the heart of Brooklyn. What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go visit these guys, see what they're up to, and I'm gonna find a pickled ingredient from these guys that I'd like for you to use in a cocktail. - Sounds great. - I'll see you soon. Owner Shamus Jones discovered a love for pickling while working in restaurants, and Brooklyn Brine's long list of pickles reflects his culinary talent. What started in Shamus' garage five years ago, has become a thriving operation, shipping pickles around the globe. Shamus. - Hey, what's up, Shawn. - How you doing, man? - Hey. - Very excited to be here. - Excited to have you. - I love pickles, so I'm excited to learn more about the pickle process. - Well you've come to the right place. - So tell me, how did this all start? - Brooklyn Brine started in 2009 in some ways to revive this really traditional New York institution, you know, in terms of the food and the culture here. - You're doing more than just the traditional cucumber pickle? - Yeah yeah yeah. - We thought we would mix it up a little bit by also folding in root cellar vegetables into our line. - Things like beets, and carrots. - Yeah. - So Shamus, do you guys source locally when you can? - Absolutely. The two main ingredients that we go through one, being cucumbers and we process 11,000 pounds a week. Our apple cider vinegar is not only pure apple cider vinegar, also every apple that goes into making that comes from an upstate orchard. - That's great man. - I would love to show you around. - Let's take a peek. - Okay. - Cool. This is where all our production happens. In a nutshell, we have the cucumbers being hand-washed, hand-cut, hand-sorted over here. We have the raw product being stuffed into a jar that has the spice blend combination of herbs and peppers. We have the brine being poured in, this is the next step, over the raw produce. This is an 80 gallon kettle that has apple cider vinegar. Today we want to heighten the profile of garlic, so we're cooking garlic into the brine. And then from there, they'll get capped and then processed through the boiling water bath. - Well you guys are definitely keeping that local, hand-made, culture alive, which I think is incredible. - There's no machine, or no outsourcing that would do a better job than what we can do here. - Agreed. Well, let's head back to the store front and try some of these pickles. - Cool. - I feel like I understand the process so much better now. What's first? - I think we should start with our distilled spirit-infused Whiskey Sour pickle. - Here goes. Dude, that's a really good pickle. Nice balance between heat. That ride almost keeps it, it dries the palate as you're enjoying the pickle, - Yeah. you know. - Up next, I think our Fennel Beets, it has fennel seed and fresh tarragon. - Man, that's delicious. - What I thought what would work best in a cocktail was something that might be a little more traditional for people to see in a distilled spirit-infused cocktail. So this is our Moroccan Bean. - Moroccan Bean. - With the addition of preserved lemons, cumin, coriander, caraway, smoked paprika, that I think would deconstruct nicely into a cocktail. - Well you get the citrus up front and then all those spices that you were talking about right through the middle, but it falls away nicely. It doesn't just linger on the palate. - Yeah. - So I think the bartender will have a lot to work with as far as a flavor profile goes. - Yeah. If you can spare a jar, I'd be happy to take them back and see what they can do with them. Awesome. Well thank you very much. - Great having you here. - You guys are doing really cool things here. - Thank you. Yeah. Every single one of these pickles was unique and different and delicious. - Cheers. - Really nice meeting you, Shamus. - All right. Likewise. - Take it easy. - Have a good one. - You, too. Brooklyn Brine is upholding this area's long tradition of pickling, and these Moroccan Beans are such a fun ingredient. There are so many flavor notes for Benjamin to play with. I can't wait to try these in a cocktail. So Shamus, the owner of Brooklyn Brine, he has taken a lot of time to craft his brines. He's particularly proud of these beans. They have a lot of Moroccan spice. So, I now leave the beans in your hands, sir. - All right, I mean I'm familiar with these guys. I know they do good work. Moroccan spices I think is exactly where it's at. - Great. - I'm just gonna kinda replicate the ingredients they have here listed on the label in terms of Moroccan spice. - Okay. - I kinda think it'd be fun to do a good salt. - Ah, yes. - Mortar and pestle. - That's awesome. You guys work with spices behind the bar? - Quite a bit, yeah. Just going right off the label. We have some sugar. - Little bit of Maldon sea salt. - What's next? - All right. We got some mustard seed, coriander, cumin. - Okay. - Black pepper. Caraway. Some red pepper for some heat. A little paprika, and then the last thing, I think tamarind would work well with this. It's also a legume, which green beans are a legume. - There you go. - And tamarind's a little sour, so it might help us out a bit. - Awesome. - Let's just give it a little grind here. - Do your thing. - Crush up the seeds. Make ourselves a salt. - That is quite the aromatic salt that you've created. - Because it's summer, I kinda think refreshing, but obviously we have some salinity here. So obviously we need some acid in my mind we're gonna use fresh-squeezed lemon juice here. - K. - I'm also gonna throw in some fresh-pressed cucumber juice. - Mellow it out a bit. - A little simple syrup to sweeten it up. - K. - And this brine. - It's the apple cider vinegar, which shouldn't overpower, but a little will probably go a long way. - It's got some acidity, too, so we're just gonna put a dash in there. A little quarter of an ounce. - Quarter ounce. - I also happen to have this spirit back here called kummel, which is cumin and caraway and fennel in terms of flavor. So I think that's gonna work well as well. Now lastly, we need our booze, right? - Yes. - Some of our Grey Goose vodka here. - Great way to add a spirit without taking away from all the subtle spices. - Absolutely. - Yeah. I think we should rim our glass here. - Some of that wonderful salt that you made. - Pretty good contrast, too. - Yeah. Give it a good shake. - Awesome. Great color on that guy. - Yeah, I think the contrast works pretty well, right? - Yeah. - Throw some of our Brooklyn Brine Moroccan green beans on top. - That looks phenomenal. All right. - Cheers. Salut. - Thank you very much. You're welcome. - This is certainly creative and I bet you, it's gonna be amazing. Wow. Okay, where do I start? The cucumber and the brine, they really do this beautiful thing where the cucumber gives it this viscosity. You definitely get the Moroccan spice. - Well thank you. - And the, I tell you the apple cider vinegar and the pickle brine actually compliments the lemon quite nicely. Really, really well done. - Well thank you. - All right, so the last thing that we have to do is name this delicious cocktail. Your thoughts, sir. - Well, I happen to know back in the day, pickled green beans used to be called dilly beans. And also we use a dram of kummel, in terms of unit of measurement of volume. Maybe we call it the Dram Dilly. - I love it. Rolls off the tongue. - Absolutely. - Let me just tell you, your Dram Dilly, is the dilly-yo. So, props to this cocktail. Props to you. Benjamin, thank you so much for your time. - My pleasure. - You guys are doing some really great things here, keeping the people of Tribeca very well-quenched. So, cheers to you and your bar. Thanks for having me. - Thank you. You know you're always welcome. Come back anytime. - I appreciate that. Cheers. - See you next time. - So long. - The Upper East Side was once known as the Silk Stocking District, in reference to the sophisticated set that built up the neighborhood during the turn of the last century. And it's still one of the most elegant neighborhoods in the country today. I'm meeting up with Ranjini Bose at Seamstress, an outpost of historic decorum meets cutting-edge cocktails at 75th Street and 1st Avenue. Tell me a little bit about your cocktail program. - We have 20 cocktails on the menu, all designed to go with the food. We tend to do takes on classics or kind of creative culinary our own infusions. - I'd love to try something. - So, this is a take on the classic 50/50 martini. - Yes. - Familiar with it? - I am. - Equal parts vermouth, gin, couples dashes of bitters if I'm not mistaken. - Yeah, but mine is kind of a springtime twist on it. - Cool. - Instead of the dry vermouth, I infused white aperitif wine with apricots and cinnamon - Oh wow. to give it a little bit more fruit character. Instead of orange bitters, I'm using chocolate mole bitters. - Oh wow. - First, I'm gonna add the chocolate mole bitters. - Can I taste a little - Oh, definitely. of the bitters? - Yeah, you should. They are a little spicy. - All right, good to know. - Yeah. - Yeah. Bitter chocolate. It almost has ancho chile or something like that. - It totally does. One and a half ounces of the apricot, cinnamon infusion. - It's just a cold infusion? - Yes. They just kind of infuse right into - Cool. the wine. For my gin, I use Bombay Sapphire. - Juniper forward. - Juniper forward, but it also has some great floral notes. It brings out those fruity flavors - Cool. and makes it more subtle. K, I'm gonna add my ice. Give it a stir. Now we're gonna strain it. Two garnishes on this. - K. - First one is a little bit of walnut oil, just on the surface. I also want to garnish with some lemon oils. Just do a classic twist. Rim the glass with that. And, actually like to discard. - Just the expression. - Yeah, just the expression. - Okay. - And there you are. - Thank you. What do you call this cocktail? - I call it The My Fair Lady. - My Fair Lady. - Yeah. - All right. Delicious. When I taste the walnut oil, it brings out more of the cinnamon, and a little bit more of that stone fruit from the apricot. So Ranjini, where do you draw your inspiration from for your cocktails? - Often, what I'll do, I'll actually look up recipes. Dessert recipes, - Sure. curry recipes. - To get an idea of what spices work. - Just to get an idea. Yeah, not even look at cocktails. - Right. - But look at food. - Food. Right. Totally. - So I'm here because I wanna find a unusual ingredient, something that's unique to New York. - Well, lately I've been thinking a lot about spice or heat. - Sure. And I mean I think bartenders tend to use Tabasco or jalapeno whenever that comes up. - Yeah. - But I mean, I know that there's other types of heat. I'd be curious. - A new take on heat. - Yeah, a new take on heat. Something a little different. - Okay, cool. At the first stop on our search for unusual heat, Ranjini and I met up Alan Kaufman, owner of The Pickle Guys. Alan's been a Lower East Side pickler for almost 40 years. And his store's one of the last standing in a long tradition of pickle shops in the neighborhood, dating back over a century. You say you guys know the customers by order. Is that true? - I believe so, I believe he's got this one pegged. Hey Vic! What's this guy getting in the back? The guy in red? - Two sour pickles with one in spicy pickle. - Close. - Close. - Three and one, not two and one. - Three and one. He went up one, he did go up one. - You changed it up today. - Take a little at a time. You don't have to eat the whole thing. Like a champion, huh? - Every year before Passover, Alan and his team make one and a half tons of horseradish. It's such a huge quantity, they have to wear gas masks. - How's your nose? - All right. - Today, Alan is making a special batch just for us, inside his Essex Street shop. - For today, I set up a little demonstration to give you guys an idea on how to make horseradish. - Fantastic. - Awesome. - This is horseradish. Horseradish is a root. It grows in the ground like a carrot. Only the top part sticks out and there's big flowers up here. What we're gonna do first, we cut the ends off, and we cut the tops off. And then we're gonna take a peeler, and we peel it down 'til we get rid of all the skin. Now we're gonna take a hand grater and we're gonna grate the horseradish, just like you would anything else. I'm gonna let one of you guys finish peeling this one, grating this one. - I guess I'll go ahead and do it. - Okay. - I'll set you up with something, young lady. - Okay. - So we're all doing this together here. This stuff will grow like wildflower. - Really? - Yeah. The best horseradish comes from St. Louis. - St. Louis? - Yeah, I think it has to with the Mississippi mud. One for you. - Okay. - And here's a little. - Grate that one up? Yeah. If you wanna keep it for a while, there's a simple way of doing it. Take a little bit of salt, a little bit of water, add a dash of apple cider vinegar. Once you get that going, you just pour a little bit in there, and you're gonna mix it up. You wanna get the consistency of mashed potatoes. If you wanna use a red, same thing. except you use beets. And you add a little beet juice to it. - This just affects the color, it doesn't... - It doesn't take away from the heat. It just gives you a different color. - Slight taste from the - Slight taste vegetal-ness from the beet. - It tastes a little earthy. - Yup. - You guys wanna try some? - Yeah. I'd love it. - Yes. - A little spicy? - Yeah. - Oh it's spicy. - The heat, you feel - Right to the sinuses. right in the, pinching your nose there. - Yeah. - Al, I'd love to try some of these pickles, I know Ranjini definitely... - Yeah, totally. Sour pickles, thank you very much. - This is a great pickle. This is so good. - It's solid. - It's really good. - You can't say it without a smile. - I know. - And it's fun. Pickles are fun. So I got a couple of jars of horseradish here for you guys. - Thank you so much. - Thank you very much, Al. Appreciate it. - It's a pleasure meeting you guys. I'm here all the time. - Thanks again, Al. Have a great day. - All right. Have a good one. - You, too. Bye. Be well. Bye bye. - Bye. - The horseradish is going to give the cocktail a distinctive aromatic kick. But Ranjini has one more stop for something a bit more unusual to round it out. Our next stop, Cafe China, boasts a 1930's-inspired interior, where they serve an eclectic mix of Chinese favorites. And many of their dishes incorporate another source of unusual heat, the Szechuan peppercorn. - Brought Shawn here because I'm a big fan of Szechuan cuisine, and I know that - Thank you. the peppercorns are a big component of it - Absolutely. Yes. so we were thinking of maybe trying out some ways that you guys you use it. - Sure. - What is unique about the Szechuan peppercorn? - Well, I tell you a story. So basically, - Please. couple years ago, official in China never had been to Szechuan, which is a province in China, before. - Okay. - And they served him a dish with strong peppercorn. After first bite, stood up and said, "I've been poisoned." - Why'd he say that? - Yeah. - Well, because strong peppercorn leaves a numbing sensation around the tongue. For a taste of what the strong peppercorn by itself tastes like, - Yup. we start with the appetizer. So this is the duck tongue in peppercorn. - Okay. - Bon appetit. - Cheers. - Cheers. - I get the numbing effect right off it. It's subtle, but I see what you mean. It really coats the palate. - Right. Mapo tofu is a traditional dish. Very popular. - It's nice. - Yeah, this one's definitely more savory than the duck, but I still do get a little bit of the numbing - Right. Right. Right. on my tongue. Just a little bit. - And the spice isn't too much, it's definitely spicy but it's not... A little sniffle, - It's manageable. But it's manageable, for sure. - Yeah. - Next one gonna make you cry. - You think so? - All right. Here we go. - This is called Chungking Spicy Chicken. Chungking is a big town in Szechuan. Lots of this peppers. - I can see that. - Yeah. - It's super, super flavorful and spicy. - All right, here goes. - All right, here we go. - Chungking Chicken. - And don't forget the Spicy Chicken. - Chungking Spicy Chicken. Oh yeah, I can see why they call it Spicy Chicken for sure. Ranjini, I mean, we've seen it in the cuisine. - Yeah. - Do you feel like you have enough here as far as inspiration to play with in your cocktail idea or? - Yeah, I'm getting a lot of ideas from this. - Well, we don't sell it but here's some that we can... - Would you look at that? - Oh look at that? - Ask and you shall receive. All right, I'm just gonna try some just as is. - That's a good idea. - Here goes. - Oh boy. - It's like a light floral, pepper. Not quite as harsh as a black pepper upfront. And then, - Then then it starts to numb the palate - It does that feel. - Right right. Szechuan peppercorn is not a pepper. It's actually a citrus fruit. - They're so strongly flavored, I think I can take this and extract flavor, do some pretty interesting things with it. - Thanks again for having us. - Thank you for coming. - Thank you for this wonderful ingredient. - Thank you so much. - Very nice to meet you guys. - We got what we need. - Let you know how it goes. - Thank you so much. With our jars of horseradish and box of Szechuan peppercorns, Ranjini and I are heading uptown to see what we can do with these two types of exotic heat. So, what do you think? - I've been thinking with the peppercorns, probably the best way to go is an infusion, and just to kinda really extract it into a spirit, so we can use that. - I think that's a great idea. - Grey Goose is a great way to do this. - Clean, neutral spirit to draw out some of that. - Exactly. I like to do cold infusions. You kinda retain the more natural flavor of the ingredient. You're kind of not cooking it. - Sure you can cook anything. With how intense these peppercorns are, I don't think this will take too long. So, agitate a little bit more, and I think we can just kind of put it to the side. - So what are you thinking about this horseradish? I mean, it was really vegetal. - Yeah. So I mean, obviously something like a Bloody Mary. I mean, is that the route that you wanna go? Or, what do you think? - Since we're doing unusual things, maybe go unconventional and actually do a sour style. - Classic sour? - So I think, yeah, classic sour. So, citrus for sour. - Yeah, sure. - I'm gonna start with half an ounce of lemon juice, that fresh-squeezed tier. I'm thinking about bringing out the floral notes in the pepper, so luckily I have this chamomile syrup that I make. - Sounds great. - Right? Make it like a tea. Like you steep it and then fortify it with sugar. - That's exactly how you make it. And then I'm also thinking, maybe some Amaro. - I love Amaro. - Yeah, me too. - What's the flavor profile on that one? - This one's a little bit lighter bodied. A lot of green, herbal notes to it. We should do a little bit of the horseradishes. It's pretty powerful, though. I really love the color. - Okay. - Of this. - All right. - And I think the beet could give it an interesting earthiness. And then, I think now we're ready to add the vodka. - Should we try it and make sure you like where the heat is at? - We should probably taste it first, yeah. - Wow. That actually-- - That's spicy. Yeah, that heated up pretty quick. - That did it, I thought it would infuse pretty quickly. So I'm just gonna go ahead and strain this. So let's just do two ounces of that like a classic-- - Standard pour. - Yeah. - Oh, that's-- - That's a beautiful color. Look at that. Maybe some of the peppercorns - Okay. as a garnish. - Thank you very much. - You're welcome. - Wow. That's incredible. It's interesting. So the lemon actually cuts through it and makes the horseradish almost taste like ginger would. - It's like, very savory. - Right. - I got one of those Szechuan peppercorns. It brings out the citrus way more, like if you actually chew one of the peppercorns. I mean, considering you put two very pronounced ingredients, - Yeah. the fact that they actually kinda balance the drink. - Yeah. That's impressive. That's actually really solid. - It's a success. - It's a solid sour. - Okay. Now what you think? As far as a name? - Well, we got all the ingredients on the Lower East Side. - It's the East Side Story. - Aw man, like the "West Side Story." - Exactly. But this is the East Side. - I love it. That's great. - You love it? Yeah. That's awesome. - East Side Story. - Cheers to that. - Cheers. Ranjini, - Awesome, you are a talented bartender. - Yeah. - I appreciate you - Thank you very much. coming along for the adventure. - Thank you for having me. - Absolutely. And I'm glad we copyrighted this thing because I have a feeling that's the next play on Broadway. It's gonna be called the East Side Story. I'll see you next time. - See you next time. - All right. Take care. - Bye. - Cheers.