Try Quality Eats’ Manhattan Special — A Grown-Up Coffee Cocktail on Tap


When beverage director Bryan Schneider was tasked with developing a cocktail menu for Quality Eats (19 Greenwich Avenue; 212-337-9988), a coffee cocktail on tap came to mind. Schneider, who also oversees the drink offerings at Park Avenue Seasonal and Quality Italian, was inspired by a Stumptown cold brew dispensed by a tap line that used nitrogen.

Schneider noted that tap cocktails are typically carbonated, using either carbon dioxide or a mix of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, and decided to stick with the nitrogen version for his recipe — it makes the bubbles a bit smaller and allows for the head of the drink to last longer than straight carbon dioxide.

While researching the legendary beverages of New York City’s soda fountain lore, Schneider was reminded of the Manhattan Special, an espresso coffee soda that dates back to 1895 — it’s been a staple of soda fountains and supermarkets ever since. Staying true to the experience of drinking a non-alcoholic Manhattan Special, Schneider then set about making a grown-up version employing a spirit that worked well with coffee: rye.

“I didn’t want for this to be a corny dessert cocktail,” Schneider said. “I really wanted it to have the viscosity and the texture of a beer, with a little bit of sweetness.” When he first poured the drink, he saw the mixture was similar in texture to a Guinness, with a subtle sweet taste. He knew then he had a recipe that guests would enjoy, as well as one that would give his bartenders an occasional break from mixing or shaking.

Overall, Schneider has a strategy when it comes to tapped cocktails. “Really, only carbonated cocktails work well. Anything that’s stirred or boozy will not benefit,” he explains. Carbonated drinks like Cuba libres, Moscow mules, and sparkling wine cocktails are perfect drinks to put on tap.

Keeping in mind that most people don’t have a tap line at home, Schneider tells us that a version of the one he serves at Quality Eats can be closely duplicated at home. Check it out:

The Manhattan Special by Bryan Schneider

2 ounces club soda
1 shot of espresso (Miller likes Stumptown)
2 ounces rye whiskey (such as New York Distilling Company Ragtime or Rittenhouse)
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1/4 ounce egg white
2 to 4 dashes orange bitters (Regan’s suggested)
Ice cubes

Put the club soda in a small glass. (Schneider recommends using a mini stout glass instead of a full 12-ounce glass so that the drink doesn’t become diluted)

Dry shake the remaining ingredients except ice in a tin shaker. Add ice and shake again. Strain into the stout glass and serve.

*Instead of topping off the drink with club soda, Schneider suggests this method of “bottoming off” the drink, which means you should put the soda in the glass first. Then, strain the cocktail into the glass. The cocktail will mix itself. If you add the club soda last, it will stay on top and lose carbonation quicker.