The world has already said goodbye to Mad Men, but a slice of Don Draper’s extensive alcohol collection lives on at Alder, world-famous chef Wylie Dufresne’s chic East Village restaurant. Dufresne’s beverage manager Travis Brown is now offering a rotating serious of “vintage” cocktails using rare 1960s and ‘70s bottles plucked directly from the on-set alcohol carts dotting the offices at Cooper Sterling. “When Travis told me he could get these vintage spirits for the restaurant, I thought it would be really fun to work with him on a classic cocktail series for the bar,” says Dufresne. “It’s so interesting to see how these spirits compare to their counterparts made today.”
Sourcing the bottles happened in a roundabout way. Brown attended an exclusive New York City Gramercy Park mansion party with Edgar Harden of the London-based Old Spirits Company (which locates and sells antique spirits) to celebrate the vintage booze collection on Mad Men’s seventh season. Impressed by what he tasted, they decided to invest in a few bottles.
Alder’s limited edition cocktails ($25) made with over 50-year-old spirits are available nightly until that particular bottle runs dry. The market cost is built around the condition of the label, the rarity, the age and the current popularity. The first cocktail to be stirred up is a classic Bourbon Manhattan with the 86 proof Four Roses and Martini Rosso Italian sweet vermouth. “I think this Manhattan is a perfect aperitif to stimulate the palate before the tasting menu.” As for pairing a glass with chef Dufresne’s creations, “If you are at the bar you will want to order the Arctic Char as a light complement to the silky texture of the Manhattan,” recommends Brown.
As for taste and drinkability, Brown says, “I believe a spirit has the chance to mellow in the bottle over time, but you won’t hear many experts using the term ‘aged’ for the time it has spent in a sealed bottle.”
Alder’s bottle collection includes labels from well-known companies like Seagram’s with some boozy backstories: In the 1960s, Seagram’s was only making blended whiskey for the American market, so the bottle of Four Roses Bourbon you’re drinking at Alder was actually marketed for Italians. Brown is most excited by the Four Roses, “This is a fun one because it was bottled at six years old with an age statement on the label. The currently available Four Roses has no age statement, which means it’s around four years old. So you can imagine the difference in flavor.” Brown says.
As summer wanes on, the drink menu will focus on the Martinez made with authentic old-school Plymouth Gin, Stock Maraschino and Martini Rosso Vermouth (all sourced from the 1960s). Later down the road, expect a refreshing Daiquiri with vintage rum.
Draper lives on.