Jorge Mendez, bartender at Khe-Yo (157 Duane Street; 212-587-1089), has Death & Co. to thank for finding his preferred cocktail. Shortly after helping open Barclay Bar in Midtown East, Mendez and his bar manager headed downtown to the East Village cocktail lair for a night out — though when you’re a bartender, a night out is always an opportunity to discover something new you can use down the line.
At Death & Co., Mendez tried a Kingston negroni for the first time courtesy of Joaquín Simó; he was blown away — right to the island of Jamaica, to be specific. After all, every well-made cocktail should be a transformative experience.
“I love rum, personally. Stylistically, rum — it means so many different things. Rum can be just about anything so long as it is made from sugarcane,” explains Mendez. However, it was Simó’s use of a really good rum, Smith & Cross, for the recipe that really got Mendez thinking. “I just never knew it was going to be that good when I tried it,” he recalls of how well the basic ingredients worked together. Rum may have a bit of a bad reputation thanks to spring breakers and styles that are big on flavor and even bigger on hangovers, but Mendez assures those who’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean one too many times, rum can be most pleasant when you find the right one for you.
“Big, bold, caramel, vanilla, super rich, really just amazing. One thing is for sure, it leaves an impression. You’re gonna walk away saying, ‘I didn’t know rum could taste and smell like that,’ ” Mendez says, talking about his favorite version. The balance with Campari and Carpano makes it a perfect partnership of bold flavors, and it should definitely appeal to fans of negronis and high-proof spirits.
If there’s any regret, it’s the fact Mendez didn’t come up with the variation himself. “Any bar with Campari, any bar with sweet vermouth and rum should be able to make it,” the bartender explains, citing Weather Up as a favorite stop after a night at Khe-Yo. “Those guys are brilliant at what they do. I love to go there every once in a while after work,” Mendez adds. When variety calls, Mendez keeps his tastes within warm waters by sticking with one of Cuba’s greatest exports, the Daiquiri No. 3, or what most refer to as “the Hemingway daiquiri,” given that it was the house cocktail at Floridita Bar, a frequent haunt of the writer’s. “If I had to have one last drink, it would probably be that,” notes Mendez. Light, refreshing, and simple to make, the drink is delicious — with or without the celebrity attachment. The recipes for both are listed below.
1 oz. Smith & Cross Rum
1 oz. Campari
1 oz. Carpano Antica Formula
Combine all ingredients and stir with ice. Strain into an ice-filled glass and garnish.
Daiquiri No. 3, a/k/a the Hemingway Daiquiri
2 oz. White Rum
3/4 oz. Fresh lime juice
1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 oz. Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1/4 oz. simple syrup
Add all ingredients in a mixer and shake with ice. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice and garnish.
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.