Rafael Del Busto, head bartender and wine captain at Nobu 57 (40 West 57th Street; 212-757-3000), has a very specific idea of what he wants in a glass. Del Busto’s menu is full of modern twists on classic cocktails like sidecars and gin coolers, and his career in New York has helped him gain an appreciation for what he drinks on his nights off.
“As I’ve learned more, I prefer a stiffer drink. You’re not spending as much money and you’re not binge-drinking. You have something to sip on,” Del Busto says. A native of Florida, Del Busto made his way to New York to focus on a career in the hospitality industry — a good decision, considering it helped shape his personal taste.
Working alongside Eben Freeman of the Butterfly earlier in his career, Del Busto formed a knowledge of a wide variety of historically classic cocktails, one of which happened to be the derby. “You don’t see whiskey and lime very often — you always see whiskey with lemon,” Del Busto explains. The uncommon mix piqued Del Busto’s interest, not to mention the fact that the drink is boozy yet balanced. The initial notes of citrus and sour, followed by sweet Grand Marnier, helps even the derby out, mostly because the drink’s base spirit is a heavy rye. As Del Busto suggests, you want a rye with “a little heat but still refreshing. You want to take another sip.”
Though you might not see the derby on the menu at Nobu, Del Busto enjoys grabbing a drink, typically a boulevardier, every now and then at the Tippler.
The Derby by Rafael Del Busto
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz fresh lime
1 oz Carpano Antica Formula
1 1/2 oz Knob Creek Whiskey
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice. Strain into a glass, served up. Garnish with a mint leaf.