Old Time Americana – The Riggsby

The Riggsby is a great after-work or formal space to relax with friends and enjoy some good cocktails.

Ambiance: ****

Decor: ****1/2

Service: ****

Cocktails: ***1/2

Overall Rating: 4

Hotel bars often serve as bland extensions of their home brand, with little effort made to take risks or stand out from the crowd.  So kudos to The Riggsby for adopting a really welcoming, classic American motif that sweeps you away from the sleek modernity of its home hotel, the Carlyle.  The Americana environs are charming and really drew me in; I’m fascinated why some bar ascetics work while others fail, and I’ll be sure to use The Riggsby as a positive example.  Oh, and the drinks: the house libation list featured six drinks with one standout, all linked by a common theme  – simple but interesting combinations, straight-forward tastes, and easy drinking.

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So let’s get started!  I picked the “Ticket to Cuba” with rum, yuzu, mint, and sparkling wine.  I had to look “yuzu” up, apparently its a sweet and citrusy liqueur frequently used in Japanese cooking.  The taste was good and up front with a subtle rum sensation punched up by mint and sparkling hints.  It’s full-bodied, potent, but easy to drink, which is a rare combination.  Good. Next up was the “Mule on My Mind” with vodka, creme de peche, falernum, and ginger beer.  I’ve long been on a quest for the perfect mule: this was a very interesting entry in that competition and a radical take on the MM.  Dominated by the creme de peche and falernum, this was spicy, refreshing, with just a taste of ginger at the end.  Rich and intriguing, I liked it.

Moving on to the “Continental” with cognac, lemon, angostura bitters, and port.  This gorgeous, full-bore drink is savory, simple, and solid.  The port jumps out particularly in the latter half and the lemon is very active throughout.  Then I spritzed things up a bit with the “Virginia Slim” with gin, aperol, sparkling rose, and lemon.  This was easy with a bit of a bitter bite from the aperol.  The gin and lemon are fine and the taste is reminiscent of a hardier French 75.  The rose blends in an interesting way, lightening the overall drink and adding a bit more fruit.  Nice.

For the final stretch I started with the “Last Frontier” with bourbon, amaretto, lemon, and cinnamon.  I’ve been getting more and more interested in cinnamon as a cocktail ingredient and the Last Frontier only intensifies my interest; the best drink of the night, it carries the bourbon well and delivers an extremely rich taste.  The amaretto is perfect here and is nicely accented with the cinnamon – not too sweet, just right.  Great drink.  The finale was the “Normandy” with calvados, Cocchi Americano, apple pie syrup, and sparkling cider.  This was probably the most audacious drink on the list, offering an overwhelming apple taste topped up a bit with the bubbles from the cider.  The cocchi is pretty pungent as well.  Very in your face, and pretty good.

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