Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Gil Bouhana got his first gig as a bartender making cuba libres for his dad. The creator of Atwood Kitchen & Bar’s (986 Second Ave; 212-371-2233) cocktail menu, whose career includes stops at the Summit Bar and the Lambs Club, relished the challenge, and he’s been making drinks for family members and strangers ever since.
The instant gratification that comes from making drinks for customers is a major reason he stuck with cocktails throughout his career. “I like the idea of different things coming together to make a better whole,” explains Bouhana. After meeting key bartending mentors like Evan Klem and becoming immersed in the New York scene, Bouhana began his education in perfecting classic cocktails, which is when he found a unique appreciation for rye.
It’s the boldness of rye and its compatibility with bitters and other modifiers that make it one of Bouhana’s go-to spirits, and the monte carlo his go-to cocktail. A variation on an old-fashioned that incorporates benedictine, the monte carlo is a bit of a hidden gem when compared to manhattans and vieux carrés.
“This drink is more of the bartender’s choice,” notes Bouhana. The barman recommends a monte carlo for those who enjoy a spirit-heavy libation with “a kick.” At Atwood Kitchen & Bar, Bouhana re-creates the monte carlo with a little inspiration from another locale — the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. The state, known for its whiskey and moonshine, lends its name to the drink, served in a smoke-infused glass, which adds a hint of sage to the other flavor notes of spicy rye, angostura bitters, floral lavender, and the vanilla found in benedictine.
“I think the choice for having cocktails made in front of you and letting them change is a microcosm of things in life. You get to slow down,” says Bouhana. On nights when Bouhana wants to slow down around the city, he makes an effort to visit Dear Irving and Seamstress for a monte carlo. Below, find the recipe for Bouhana’s variation, currently on the menu at Atwood.
The Smoky Mountain
3 dashes of angostura bitters
.5 oz. benedictine
2 oz. bourbon
1 lighter or match
Add all liquid ingredients in a tumbler, add ice, and stir. Smoke a brandy glass by lighting sage wood and putting the glass over it until smoke fills the glass. Pour chilled drink into brandy glass and garnish with a lemon peel.