GIN MILLS | Treated for drinks at the Pegu Club

PeguClub1A Gin-Gin mule and a Whiskey Smash, two cocktails we recently enjoyed at the Pegu Club.

Widely heralded as the high cathedral of artisanal cocktails in New York, the Pegu Club was launched some years ago by Audrey Saunders. A luminary in the cocktail world, Saunders had previously worked as the beverage director at the Carlyle, where her influence is still felt in drinks like the Old Cuban.

Mrs. F. recently treated me to a couple of rounds to honor my 30th birthday.

Pegu takes its cues from a famous British officers’ club in Burma, where the signature cocktail was the eponymous gin and curacao number I enjoy on a regular basis. The bar is situated on the second floor of an odd 1980s Eastern bloc-esque building on Houston Street. The door is essentially unmarked, save for an etched crest that serves as the club’s seal. Up a set of dimly-lit stairs, one emerges into a long corridor of a room that feels quite a bit like a terrace in a tropical setting. The place immediately reminded me of “South Pacific.”

We were seated in the back in a couple of well-worn but comfortable chairs. I had two rounds: a Whiskey Smash, a Rye cocktail from Dale DeGroff that features lemon juice and mint. Mrs. F. had a Gin-Gin Mule that she was very pleased with. We’ve made the latter at home before, but ours didn’t compare. My second drink was a Pegu Club, and I was quite pleased at how closely it resembled my efforts.

I strongly recommend that any cocktail aficionado make a stop at Pegu during a trip to New York.

Pegu Club
77 W. Houston St.
2nd floor
New York, New York 10012
(212) 473-7348

GIN MILLS| Travel back to your grandparents’ basement at 169 Bar

169BarInside 169 Bar, an ancient Chinatown dive explored earlier this week.

The great Erik Shilling, one of my best friends from the 10-month beat at Columbia, arrived in town on his Gannett-sponsored furlough this week. This warranted a couple of drinks, even if they weren’t the standard Scotches and Bourbons we’re used to. Instead of 1020, the Morningside icon where we spent a good deal of time wallowing in misery, we met downtown.

169Bar2Our destination was 169 Bar, an ancient Chinatown dive that boasts a decidedly basement feel. The Falstaff line — Pabst, Schlitz, Schmidt’s, Stroh’s, et. al — are on hand for $2 a can during happy hour. On flat screens on either side of the bar, Dean-o was doing his damndest as Matt Helm in “The Silencers” of 1966 and “The Ambushers” of 1967. Dinah Washington “TV is the Thing This Year” and other lounge standards spun on the sound system. A collection of thankfully low-key hipsters were heavily involved in a pool game. Neighborhood types nursed their shots and beers at the bar. Among a few gnarled booths were pieces of furniture that looked like they emerged from somebody’s 1970s basement. There were cups of matchbooks on the bar. The place faintly smelled like a toilet. In short, it approached glorious.

169 Bar is no contrived spring-chicken, though. The place is at least 80 years old, having been a favorite among the late lamented Bowery Bums and earned the nickname of the “Bloody Bucket” before it was purchased by New Orleans transplant in 2006. I suspect that, despite the addition of the vintage vibe, the place hasn’t changed much in 30 or 40 years.

It’s well worth a gander.

169 Bar
169 East Broadway (between Jefferson and Rutgers streets)
Chinatown/Little Italy

COCKTAILS | There’s more than Roses for Applejack

ApplejackThe Applejack Cocktail, made from a Pegu Club recipe.

The signature cocktail for Applejack is the Jack Rose, a favorite of my grandmother’s that’s enjoyed a nice revival in the last few years. But there are certainly other ways to use Applejack.

One we found was the Applejack Cocktail from the Pegu Club. Another Audrey Saunders miracle, the Applejack Cocktail gets right to the point: it’s all about tasting New Jersey’s finest contribution to the cocktail world. Smelling faintly of apple juice, this drink tasted a lot more like a whiskey cocktail than I’d expected. If you’ve got a bottle of Laird’s lying around for those occasional Roses, give this recipe a whirl.

2 ounces Applejack
1/4 ounce simple syrup
Dashes Angostura bitters
Lemon twist

Combine the Applejack, syrup and bitters in a shaker and stir briskly for about 30 seconds to chill. Serve over a lemon twist in a cocktail glass. Enjoy.

GIN MILLS| The Emerald Inn, an iconic refuge on the Upper West Side

EmeraldThe Emerald Inn, a piece of Old New York between 69th and 70th streets on Columbus Avenue.

Walking out of the slushy mess that was the Upper West Side of Manhattan on Monday and into the snug comfort of the Emerald Inn, an Irish bar that’s been a neighborhood staple for decades, was like happening on an oasis in a desert.

The Emerald, as its denizens know it, was started in 1943 or 1944 and has been a fixture ever since. Earlier this year, though, it looked like the Emerald might go the way of the Dodo. When the building’s owners informed the Campbell family that their rent would double, plans were made to shutter the bar at the end of April. The poor economy, however, proved the Emerald’s savior, as no new tenant could be found for the space. For two more years at least, the Times reported earlier this year, the Emerald will carry on.

Readers who enjoy the discovery of time capsules left by an earlier New York will delight in the Emerald, whose walnut paneling probably dates to the Don Draper era or earlier. A group of about eight booths surround a long, narrow main bar, behind which is cabinetry that was probably installed around 1970. Truly, the only modern things about the Emerald are its flat-paneled televisions. You might also like the people watching. Beyond the neighborhood gang who are happy to have found an unassuming oasis, the ABC crowd is also particularly fond of the place.

Try the burger or the fish and chips and obviously, take a Guinness. The food is modestly priced, but the pints are about $5. No matter — the atmosphere more than makes up for it.

The Emerald Inn
205 Columbus Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10023
(212) 874-8840

TASTES| P.J. Clarke’s onion strings delight

Onion StringsOnion strings are a must if you visit P.J. Clarke’s.

It’s become a tradition. Mrs. F’s Uncle Steve journeys south from Buffalo every December for a real estate convention. Every December, we have a casual dinner with him.

The menu at P.J.’s, as I’ve written before, is classic American pub fare: Above-par burgers, oysters, pot pie, fish and chips and onion strings, one of my favorite appetizers of all time. Lightly battered and only slightly greasy, the P.J.’s variety are a must whenever I visit the great old gin mill on Third Avenue.

The food and the cocktails — the martinis are very serviceable and and the whiskys aren’t ever too short — are consistent. So is the people watching. This trip, we saw Katie Couric and Kris Marshall, the British fellow who played Colin in “Love Actually.”

Go then, and get thee a burger and some onion strings.

P.J. Clarke’s
915 Third Avenue at 55th Street
New York, New York 10022
(212) 317.1616

DINING| For a burger, it’s J.G. Melon

Melon'sJ.G. Melon, in the heart of New York’s Upper East Side, is an institution.

Where to go for a stag dinner with one of your best friends who recently dropped the hammer and got engaged? J.G. Melon, of course.

It should come as no surprise that a guy like me would eventually get around to writing about Melon’s, the Upper East Side icon that’s served some of the best burgers in New York since 1972. During our year on Carnegie Hill, Mrs. F. and I traveled south on Third Avenue about a dozen times for one of the best burgers in New York. Since we departed on our suburban safari, we’ve remained devoted fans. And it’s been a long tradition for my St. Lawrence pals to gather there before — or after — a night on the town

So when it came time to plan a celebratory dinner for my old pal Tim, there was really no other choice. The call of delicious, beautifully seasoned and cooked hamburgers was too powerful to resist. Accompanied with signature cottage fries — cut in the shape of pickle slices — there’s nothing better for a simple and largely affordable dinner.

Far more crowded and noisier than its competitor to the north, Luke’s, Melon’s has a devoted following that includes socialites, celebrities and their hangers-on and politicians. Mayor Bloomberg is a particular fan, as the Times reported last month.

The place has made appearances in pop culture, too. Charlie, Fred and Tom drop by in Whit Stillman’s “Metropolitan,” and the Stillman’s “Last Days of Disco” gang retreat to a Melon’s-inspired bar after nights at the club that stands in for 54.

Though it’s been there a scant 37 years — a short time when compared with equally important New York watering holes like, say, McSorley’s — Melon’s feels much older. The wait-staff is seasoned and, donned in signature navy-club ties and khakis, friendly. On the walls, beside large wooden menu boards and plaques that pay tribute to regulars, are paintings, prints and posters of all varieties of melons. It’s also safe to say that no music recorded after the Reagan administration will ever be heard as the jukebox is packed to the brim with classics from an earlier era.

It’s a relic of Old New York that’s a must-stop on any burger-lover’s itinerary.

J.G. Melon
1291 Third Ave. at 74th Street
New York, New 10021
(212) 744-0585

VIEW| The Cottage, America’s greatest gin mill, circa 1960

The Cottage, the waterfront bar at Lake Placid’s Mirror Lake Inn, hides behind this red-sheeted sailboat in a postcard that dates to about 1960.

The Cottage, America’s greatest bar (read: our favorite hear at, is what I hope Heaven turns out to be. It’s the perfect spot for morning-after Bloodies, for lakeside happy-hour gin-and-tonics and late-night Scotches.

But before it was a bar, one that survived a fire in 2008 and celebrate its 33rd birthday, the center of Lake Placid’s action was a guest suite for its parent, the Mirror Lake Inn. In my years at the tiller of the Lake Placid News, the community’s weekly paper, I spent many long hours immersed in Olympic Village history and ephemera. I’ve sorted through reams of post cards, mostly from roughly 1885 to 1935, but certainly some from the 1950s and 1960s. Still I’d never seen this one.

When this photo was taken, around 1960, the Inn was still lovingly run by the Wikoff family. It was very much an old-fashioned, country sort of place. The structure that would become the Cottage would have been a swell little building with views across Mirror Lake of the sprawling Lake Placid Club complex and, beyond, the Great Range. The Club is long gone, of course, but the same views of the High Peaks can be had any day at the Cottage.

The photography of this card is striking. With its almost Technicolor feel, it simultaneously evokes the work of Slim Aarons and the Kodak Coloramas that once dominated Grand Central Terminal’s east gallery.

Terrific stuff.

EATS| Luke’s is an old, reliable Upper East Side friend

Luke's1Luke’s, just around the corner from our good Tim’s place, has been a favorite for years.

For years, denizens of Yorkville, Lenox Hill and other precincts of the Upper East Side have relied on Luke’s Bar and Grill for consistently decent pub fare. Less crowded and more of a neighborhood secret than its fabled southern neighbor, J.G. Melon, Luke’s serves up solid omelets, burgers and Blood Marys. We’ve frequented the place since our friends, Tim and Carl, moved to the neighborhood five years ago. We were committed patrons during our town Yorkville tour in the year I spent at the j-school.

Opened in 1990, Luke’s menu mostly offers staples from an earlier era, like Roquefort and Cobb salads, meatloaf and Chicken Paillard. The full range of expected appetizers are on offer and the soups are equally reliable. Devotees of hamburgers rate the Luke’s entry with high marks. Other sandwiches, like the BLT, are also good choices.

The crowd is as predictable. Young families who’ve yet to embark on the trails that lead north and west to the suburbs mix with the fresh-from-college aspirants and Park Avenue dowagers. At brunch, all seem a bit bleary and wonder aloud why they drank so much the night before. While we were enjoying brunch with Tim yesterday, Emily correctly identified the tweedy older gentleman and his wife at the next table as the much-maligned Tony and Charlene Marshall. Luke’s is that kind of place.

Luke’s Bar and Grill
1394 Third Avenue between 79th and 80th streets
(212) 249-7070
New York, New York

COCKTAILS | Boss Tweed may weed out corruption

Boss TweedThe Boss Tweed, a hearty cocktail for the season.

This weekend, Mrs. F. was recovering from a particularly brutal week in non-profit world, one that included a whirlwind trip to our nation’s capital, and was fighting a cold.

She needed a drink that might soothe her persistent cough. She needed a drink that packed enough punch to knock out a phalanx of germs. She needed a stiff one.

So we turned to the Boss Tweed, a literal punch in the face from the late Blue Mill Tavern of Commerce Street. Blending Scotch and Rum (to destroy the germs) with the soothing powers of brandy, lemon juice, bitters and syrup, the Boss Tweed did the unexpected and weeded out corruption instead of predictably wallowing in it.

Perfect for fall nights with no plans, the Boss Tweed will set you at ease with speed.

• 1 ounce Scotch
• 1 ounce Brandy
• 1 ounce light rum
• 1 1/2 ounces fresh lemon juice
• 1 ounce simple syrup
• Dashes of Angosturra bitters

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and deliver to ice-filled highballs. Serve.

CLIP| P3 Vodka entertains at the Hoot

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