Recipe: Here’s Why the Penicillin Cocktail Is a Good Segue Into Scotch


Sick of your usual call drink? Try something new. In this series, we’re asking the city’s bartenders to name their current drinks of choice. Check out our Good Call archives for another round.

Today’s call comes by way of Jay Zimmerman, co-owner of craft cocktail focused bars Sekend Sun (32-11 Broadway, Queens; 917-832-6414) and Basik (323 Graham Avenue, Brooklyn; 347-889-7597).

Zimmerman connected with Attaboy’s Sam Ross over beer and hotdogs at a Mets game, and Ross educated Zimmerman on the benefits of a class of cocktail via the penicillin. “He kind of introduced me into the world of blended scotch cocktails,” says Zimmerman. “The drink hits all the notes: spicy, sweet, sour, smokey. It’s not a drink that’s served up that’s a soft cocktail that you need to let sit on your tongue. Immediately, when you drink the drink, the flavors explode in your mouth.”

A veteran of the New York, D.C., and Miami hospitality industry whose body of work includes stints behind the stick in Ian Schraeger and Andre Balazs establishments, Zimmerman’s gone from manning corporate hotel chains to opening up intimate, under-the-radar cocktail spots in up-and-coming neighborhoods. Working in management positions at boutique hotel bars like The Breslin at The Ace Hotel, Zimmerman gained valuable experience; however, it was his decision to actually get behind the bar that really helped him appreciate the beauty of a drink.

“I spent a lot of time in divey bars and nightclubs,” he says. “The quick drink. Not a huge focus on using fresh ingredients. I tended to drink a lot of tequila and beer.” Taking a step back to work as a bartender helped him appreciate the details of a well-thought-out tipple. However, there were other key moments that played a role in shaping Zimmerman’s path. He had guides like John Thrasher in Washington, D.C., and John Lermayer of The Florida Room at The Delano in Miami. “He [Lermayer] kind of introduced the idea in Miami of mixing high-quality cocktails with high-end nightlife,” says Zimmerman. “When I was with Andre Balazs, I really started going out in this small circle, the who’s-who of the cocktail industry.”

Now Zimmerman spends most of his time at his own establishments, but he still pops into Attaboy for a penicillin, his first foray into blended scotch cocktails, and recommends you do the same. He notes most well-respected cocktail bars in the city, like Little Branch and Employees Only, can easily serve one up, too.

Penicillin Cocktail

1 1/2 ounce blended scotch (Zimmerman enjoys Pig’s Nose scotch)
3/4 ounce sweetened ginger juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/4 ounce honey syrup

Shake all that up, and then strain it over fresh ice. Float a quarter-ounce of Islay scotch — Laphroaig is a favorite for Zimmerman — on top.