"If the divine creator has taken pains to give us delicious and exquisite things to eat, the least we can do is prepare them well and serve them with ceremony."--Fernand Point, a French restaurateur considered the father of modern French cuisine
If you haven't yet wandered down the narrow Chinatown street leading to the former opuim den-turned-Parisian-style apothecary bar Apotheke, you really are missing out on one of New York's most hidden treasures. If you are lucky, you'll open the ornate doors to see 2009 Star Chefs Rising Stars-winning mixologist Orson Salicetti behind the bar in his lab coat, mixing his exotic tinctures and infusions (made from ingredients such as dried fruits from Corsica) into dizzying treats.
Orson, who grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, developed his culinary approach to cocktail making thanks to the influence of his mother, a chef and restaurateur. He moved to NYC in 2001, and after a stint in Miami, he returned to New York to tend bar at Rayuela and Islero, where he met Albert Trummer. Albert, an Austrian bar chef/master mixologist, is the propietor of Apotheke, and Orson, as head bartender, is the backbone of the operation. Orson says he appreciates Albert's innovative approach to mixing drinks and for giving him the freedom to source fresh, rare ingredients. Watching Orson mix drinks, and knowing that he made his modifiers by hand, it is clear that he takes an artistic, if not poetic, approach to the craft. For his Tomato Basil Martini recently served at the Star Chefs gala, Orson first rimmed the glass in a mix of Himalayan salt, fennel seeds, star anise, and sambuca--and that was just the garnish!
"The Dizzy Dozen" (The Same 12 Questions We Always Ask) With Orson Salicetti
Q: What is the first thing you drink after you wake up? A: A glass of water (I prefer sparkling water with a lemon) and an espresso.
Q: What is the first thing you drink after a hard day's work? A: My own Negroni (Plymouth Gin, Antica Formula Carpano, and Campari with my own bitters and an orange zest).
Q: What is the most delicious ingredient in your liquor cabinet? A: For my liquors I have a special edition Santa Tereza Rum, I also have a Corsica dried fruit bitters I love, and sweet plum.
Q: If you could sit at the bar between any two people (alive or deceased), who would they be? A: My dad and my grandfather.
Q: Three favorite NYC bars: • The bar at DBGB Kitchen & Bar because of the great selection of artisinal beers • The Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel for latenight and beautiful people • Apotheke--great cocktails!
Q: Average night's sleep: A: I usually sleep around six hours, and a lucky night seven. During vacations, all day!
Q: What is your favorite place to shop for your bar? A: Union Square Greenmarket, where they have the best selection of fresh botanicals, fruits, and vegetables.
Q: Where do you find inspiration? A: First from my mentor, my mother, and second from the kitchen--aromas, flavors, and memories.
Q: If you woke up on a desert island, what bottle would you hope to have wash ashore? A: Sparkling water with a fresh lemon inside.
Q: Do you have any bar-related good luck charms? A: My Japanese jigger (it's a very special present).
Q: Do you have a nickname for yourself when you've had too many? A: Astano.