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Drink DuJour: Tommy Cueball at Pretty Ricky’s

This cocktail is proof that a pinch of salt can bring a beverage to new heights

In early 2019, Mister Paradise opened in New York City’s East Village to much acclaim; co-owner and frontman Will Wyatt, a NoMad alum, can often be found milling about, serving drinks and bussing tables, usually ready for a good conversation on just about anything (his cocktails included). Wyatt’s approach to his craft is not an uncomplicated one. He is prone to experimenting with just about anything–the weirder the ingredient, the better–and salt is a go-to on his proverbial bartender’s spice rack. A powerful modifier when used properly (and sparingly), salt can transform a drink by enhancing certain flavors and muting undesirable qualities, such as bitterness, all while teasing the back palate with each sip. It’s a topic I explored at length over salted cocktails with Wyatt himself between rushes, tucked into a corner banquette, basking in the residual red glow of the bar’s back room. If ever there were a bartender’s fairy dust, this would be it.

When Wyatt and his team opened Pretty Ricky’s in the former Grunhaus space on Rivington and Ludlow, I was both pleased and unsurprised to see a celebrated pinch of salt on the cocktail menu–the drinks here are just as great as those at Mister Paradise, if just a bit less esoteric and slightly more approachable. The Tommy Cueball cocktail has the bright, acidic juiciness of a Paloma, the depth of an iced coffee at the point of perfect dilution, and the bitter tinge of a Negroni, all tied together neatly by a splash of saline in true form. Cynar, a bitter Italian liqueur (amaro) made from artichokes, is the star of this drink, with cold brew, sweet vermouth, fresh grapefruit juice, and a pinch of salt as the supporting actors, all shaken together and served over ice. It’s a simple enough recipe to make at home with just the right amount of weirdness to impress your guests (or your own palate) à la Will Wyatt.

1 Pinch of salt
.25oz Cold brewed coffee
.75oz Sweet vermouth
1.5oz Cynar
1.5oz Fresh grapefruit juice

Preparation: Whip shake all ingredients with one single ice cube until the cube is completely melted and incorporated. Pour without straining over ice into a rocks glass.