Gianfranco Verga

Best Bar to Get You Through the Holidays: Louis 649

If you're in need of a respite from the nightmare that is holiday shopping in NYC (hands numb from the cold, double-fisted with shopping bags, bumping into throngs of dazed consumers), make your way through the charming boutiques of the East Village to East 9th Street and Avenue C, where cocktail bar Louis 649's welcoming atmosphere and vast cocktail menu should warm you up.

During a season that is increasingly about spending money, Louis 649 understands the value of free. Every Tuesday night from 7 to 9 p.m., the bar opens its doors for imbibers looking to sample fine, free booze doled out for its Tuesday Night Tastings. Sponsored by a different brand of liquor (or wine or beer) each week, these tastings are essentially seminars. The tastings are especially popular among local bartenders who want to improve their palates and spirits knowledge, even though it’s their night off.

“Some of the leading bartenders in our area come to hear our speakers,” said Gianfranco Verga, general manager at Louis 649. “We've built relationships with these great producers and wanted to give our community the chance to benefit from them.”

As if that weren't generous enough, Louis 649 is teaming up with Time Out magazine to offer a special drink deal tonight only--the "Sherry Pie" (sherry, rum, maraschino liqueur, honey syrup, cream, and cinnamon) is $8 tonight instead of $12. Also, the bar now offers food from local purveyors, including cheese from Saxelby Cheese Mongers, charcuterie from The Brooklyn Larder, and empanadas from Barnyard--all perfect for a quick bite before re-entering the madness of the season.

Louis 649, 649 E. 9th St., (212)673-1190.

Dizzy Recap: Classic & Vintage Artisanal Spirits Launch

Dolls in Mustangs added to the atmosphere. Aware that the Tippling Bros. would be in charge of the drink offerings, I was revved up to attend last week's Classic & Vintage Artisanal Spirits launch party at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan hosted by Domaine Select Wine Estates. The Classic & Vintage collection is a line of boutique products including: Averna, G'vine, Death's Door, Tuthilltown, Benromach, Ransom Old Tom Gin, Rhum J.M., and The Bitter Truth Bitters, plus many more. This is an unprecedented collection of rare small-batch gems made available to the masses, greatly due to the increasing interest in classic cocktails.

This event was one of the better-organized cocktail parties I have seen in a while, and the Tippling Bros' (Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay) event planning skills really shined, as did the stunning collection of classic cars. Tad and Paul are brand ambassadors for the Classic & Vintage collection, and they gathered top mixologists to mix drinks for the event: Danny Valdez (New Orleans), Sean Kenyon (Denver), Misty Kalkofen (Boston), Justin Noel (NYC), Jason Littrell (NYC), Tonia Guffey (NYC), Frank Cisneros (NYC), and Gianfranco Verga (NYC).

One highlight for me was that I got to try Ransom Old Tom Gin for the first time. Created by Sheridan, Ore. winemaker/distiller Tad Seestedt with the input of cocktail historian David Wondrich, Ransom has yet to launch on the shelves of NYC. The gin manages to marry maltiness and herbaceous sweetness (orange, cardamom, juniper) magnificently.

Ransom is based on 18th century distillation and aging methods, and Tad has sought to make the most historically-accurate Old Tom Gin in the world. The base wort uses malted barley to impart a subtle malty sweetness, and the final distillation is run through an alembic pot-still for maximum aromatics. Then the whole batch rests in neutral Pinot Noir barrels for texture and color. The gin has a warm golden tinge to it, and I have to say, I love the apothecary-style bottle design. Sipping it neat was pure pleasure, and I could also imagine it working perfectly in a Martinez.