Seth Allen, head bartender at The Late Late (159 East Houston Street; 646-861-3342), has a long fascination with the way things are made. A fan of history and the role food and beverage plays in civilization, Allen studied engineering in college and may have wound up an architect if it hadn’t been for the art classes he took in his first year. After getting a taste of English and moving into theater, Allen found his creative passions were well served by helping customers drink responsibly.
However, his studies in engineering have come in handy too. “There are certain structures to a cocktail. There’s some rules to follow and some of the best new cocktails are based on old cocktails, following the structure, swapping out one ingredient for another,” explained Allen.
One old cocktail that Allen enjoys is a pisco sour, “with egg whites, a splash of cognac, and a sherry floater on top. Grapes on grapes on grapes,” the barman explains. With the exception of egg whites — which come from the chicken or the egg depending on your beliefs — the ingredients involved in making a pisco sour are all about grape in its various stages. Allen became a fan of wine after working at several Italian restaurants in Rhode Island. This no doubt helped him transition to mixing a cocktail made with pisco, a grape-based spirit, as its backbone. And one more thing: it’s fun to make.
“I like to watch it being made,” says Allen. “The process of dry-shaking the egg whites, the gentle touch it takes to delicately float the sherry on top. It’s a great looking drink. And ultimately, the most important part, is that it is delicious.” He recommends the drink for those looking to learn more about cocktails and also those vodka drinkers who might be looking for a change of pace. When out and about, Allen enjoys grabbing drinks at Tanner Smith’s and Boiler Room.
Pisco sour by Seth Allen (one serving)
Dry shake* 1/2 an egg white and 2-1/2 tablespoons of granulated turbinado sugar in a cocktail shaker.
Add 1.5 oz of Pisco, .5 oz of Cognac, and .5 oz fresh lime juice to the shaker.
Shake, strain over fresh ice, and top off with a quick pour of sherry.
*Dry shaking means putting all of the liquid ingredients together in a cocktail shaker without ice