If Time Out New York can do it, so can I. I’ve been inspired and satiated by Time Out’s 2009 Top 100 list and look forward to conquering their 2010 list very soon. But from now until the end of the year, I present my own Top 100 Dishes of the year in reverse order. Look for another five dishes every few days.

54. MUDDLED GRAPES at THOM BAR

The only reason I even walked into Thom Bar, which is the ultra-swanky, slightly dated lounge attached to the lobby of the Thompson Hotel is because one of my New York-born scenester friends brought me here with a group. It’s totally not my scene. Everybody is checking everybody out and I’m amazed they even let me in wearing my jeans and sneakers.

But on that fateful night, I studied the cocktail menu and found a surprisingly spectacular drink. And since then, I’ve often returned but only to re-taste the Muddled Grapes (and usually to try to impress a girl with it).

It never worked on the girls, but it still works on me. A generous helping of sweet muddled red grapes are submerged in a blend of vodka, champagne, and young coconut. The cocktail has a sweet rich flavor that gives way to a bready, mellow finish. It’s well-balanced and frighteningly drinkable. And the best part is after all the liquid is gone, you still get to chew on the freshly spiked grape pulp.

It goes to show you can find a gem in the last possible place you’d have looked. Price: $14

THOM BAR
60 Thompson Street (between Spring and Broome Street)
Inside the Thompson Hotel
Soho
(212) 219-2000
thompsonhotels.com/hotels/nyc/60-thompson/drink/thom-bar

53. THE NTH DEGREE at CLOVER CLUB

I’ve been to Clover Club (a really comfortable and affordable psuedo-speakeasy in Brooklyn) twice and both times was to get a drink on Time Out’s list. This year the cocktail they recommended was not listed on the menu. It was a special cocktail that had to be asked for, like a secret password leading to a concoction of deliciousness.

The Nth Degree is a combination of applejack, aged rum, and Green chartreuse.  Very simple, very boozy, and very delicious.  Sitting in the glass was one humongous ice cube and a bright duo of an orange and lemon twist

The drink was slightly sweet, a little vegetal, and even a bit spicy.  It was a prefect combination and I’m surprised that the new Time Out list doesn’t feature any cocktails from Clover Club. Guess I’ll have to return on my own and find something else just as complex and delicious. Price: $12

CLOVER CLUB
210 Smith Street (between Baltic Street and Butler Street)
Cobble Hill
(718) 865-7939
cloverclubny.com

52. DR. KLANKENSTEIN from SIXPOINT CRAFT ALES

This is one of those dishes I tried this year that is no longer available. And I never got a picture of it. But I found this short video on the making of the beer instead:

So in case you skipped the video, the Dr. Klankenstein is a stein ale that was made by Sixpoint Brewery (one of the 3 breweries in Brooklyn) exclusively for The Modern restaurant. It was very exciting when it was unveiled and it got lots of press and people coming in to taste the brew. I got front seats for the entire thing because I worked at The Modern as a server at the time. Which means I got to taste it just about any time I wanted.

A stein ale is an archaic process of making beer that involves heating up the water with hot rocks. Of course, it’s obvious why nobody does it anymore since we now have easier and safer methods of heating up water. But Sixpoint decided to take the time and labor to re-create an old-fashioned flavor of beer using actual hot basalt in the wort.

The idea is intriguing and makes for a unique and delicious beer. I’m not a huge fan of Sixpoint beers because I think they tend to taste rather the same. It’s a good flavor, but I do like some variety from beer to beer. This could come from the fact that they use the same yeast (named 007) in all the beers.

To my knowledge, Dr. Klankenstein used that same yeast, but the final product had a sweeter, richer flavor than most of their beers. The stones gave the beer a caramel flavor and imparted a bit of minerality which was unusual but pleasing. It was well-balanced and addictingly drinkable.

It paired really well with the rich, earthy flavors of The Modern’s Alasatian dishes. The only problem is, a limited amount of the stuff was brewed and the kegs have all been tapped. And considering what a difficult process the re-creation of stein beer is, odds are Sixpoint won’t be repeating it anytime soon.

My apologies to those who didn’t get to taste it, but if you ever see a proper stein beer anywhere else in the world, I urge you to give it a chug.

SIXPOINT CRAFT ALES
40 Van Dyke Street (between Dwight Street and Richards Street)
Red Hook, Brooklyn
(917) 696-0438
sixpoint.com

51. DEVIL IN WHITE at THE MODERN

You know those blank white canvases that some people call art and others call a sham? Think Robert Rauschenberg’s White Paintings.

Well, the equivalent in the cocktail world can be found at the Modern, which fittingly, is the restaurant attached the the Museum of Modern Art (and my former employer). It’s called The Devil in White. And it looks like just some clear liquor in a martini glass, with a sleek brandied cherry garnished on the bottom.

But when you sip it, it’s so much more. I liked to call it a “clear Manhattan”. It’s a brilliant concoction of Death’s Door White Whiskey, Dolin Blanc Dry Vermouth, and A.B. Smeby’s Black & White Bitters.

The bitters are made by Louis Smeby, who is a captain in the dining room and has a really amazing line of craft bitters. This particular one is made from cocoa bean and vanilla bean. And it helps bring out all the rich flavors of the unaged whiskey – it’s not sweet but has hints of chocolate, vanilla, cherry, and smoke.

It’s a complex, strong libation that doesn’t look like much, but is actually a work of art. Price: $14

THE MODERN
9 West 53rd Street (between Fifth Avenue and Avenue of the Americas)
Inside the Museum of Modern Art
Midtown West
(212) 333-1220
themodernnyc.com

Photo Courtesy of: culinarytypes.blogspot.com

50.THE CORTADO at DEATH & COMPANY

I couldn’t decide which cocktail to order at the dark, romantic Death & Co. The drinks are all rather expensive (in the $14 price range) so I knew I’d only be ordering one. And the list was pretty massive. I asked the waitresses for recommendations and ended up with one of the most amazing and unforgettable cocktails I’ve ever tasted.

The Cortado refers to a shot of espresso cut with a small amount of warm milk (it’s of Spanish origin). So it was fitting that the drink would contain a coffee flavor. But I wasn’t expecting the depth and complexity of flavors I was about to embark on.

The rum was both Pampero Aniversario and Lemon Hart 151. Antica Vermouth was infused with coffee beans, a little white créme de Cacao, Angostura Bitters, some cane sugar, and molé bitters.

When I tasted it, the first thought was it was good. But then as the concoctions played on my tongue, I experienced so many different flavors. A little coffee, sweetness, spiciness, smokiness, medicinal qualities. It had a long finish that kept playing games with my mind and pleasing my tastebuds.

And before I knew it, the high alcohol level snuck up on me and I was stumbling out the door. So now I understood the price tag was for a flavor roller coaster that left you with a mighty buzz. I can’t wait to ride it again.  Price: $13

DEATH & COMPANY
433 East 6th Street (between First Avenue and Avenue A)
East Village
(212) 388-0882
deathandcompany.com

Photo courtesy of: thespeakista.com

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About the Author

Brian Hoffman is a classically trained actor who is now a full-time tour guide, blogger, and food obsessive. He leads food and drink tours around New York City, which not only introduce tour-goers to delicious food, but gives them a historical context. He also writes food articles for Gothamist and Midtown Lunch in addition to overseeing this blog and a few food video series, including Eat This, Locals Know, and Around the World in One City.

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