Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | November 26, 2008

The Bourgeois Pig

I’m in NYC for the Thanksgiving holiday and last night went out in the East Village with some old friends. After spending time in a dive bar, we decided that a good cocktail was in order. We figured after 10 on a Tuesday before Thanksgiving, it’d be easy to get in pretty much whereever we wanted to go. The first attempt was at Angel’s Share, which offered up a 40 minute wait which we took a pass on. Then to Death & Company, which went from an hour wait to just not taking anyone else so close to last call. After a brief planning stop at Cherry Tavern, we rolled up to The Bourgeois Pig, which is owned by the same people as D&Co and is a pretty great spot in itself. The wait there was only 20 minutes and the doorman suggested we go across the street to Desnuda, a newer wine bar also owned by the same crowd. The doorman offered up a handwritten note for 50% off a bottle of wine at Desnuda as incentive, so away we went.

Desnuda is actually in the space previously occupied by The Bourgeois Pig. It’s pretty radically different, with a wrap around bar taking up the whole space, lunch counter style. It was a nice spot for killing some time and we had a pretty tasty bottle of Albarino while we waited.

The new iteration of The Bourgeois Pig is pretty swank. It’s dark and intimate, filled with a varied assortment of plush chairs and couches. And the whole place screams sex…I mean, when’s the last time you were at a bar with a green velvet chaise lounge?  We sat at the bar and I knew right away that I was going to be a fan of the cocktails. The Pig’s menu was built by Phil Ward and while there are no traditional spirit-based cocktails on the menu, it had the most aggressive and creative assortment of wine, champagne, and beer cocktails I can recall seeing anywhere. The food was pretty great too, but I definitely was most intrigued by the wine cocktail offerings.

Mois de Brume

Mois de Brume

I started off with a Mois de Brume, which was made with Chilled Lillet, Brumaire Pacherenc, Apricot, Orgeat Almond, Lemon, & A dash of Orange Bitters. The Lillet and white wine were a natural fit together, and with the citrus, fruit, and orgeat flavors the Mois de Brume had a light and complex tropical feel to it. Even if I hadn’t been out beforehand, this would have been a great first drink of the night. It was very accessible, but set off my curiosity to try other drinks on the menu. I don’t get to see too many wine based cocktails and honestly when I do, I usually skip them in favor of something with liquor as a base.

Choosing my next (and last) drink was pretty tough. The E.V. Swill and the Scarlet Swindler both looked great, but I ended up going with a drink called To Flip or Tannat. Ordering it should be accompanied by a rim shot. The menu describes To Flip or Tannat as “A Classic Flip, made with Uruguayan Tannat Dessert Wine, Muddled Strawberries, Creme, & a Whole Egg.” I’ve been enjoying a lot of cocktails with egg whites in the recipe, but can’t recall having anything with a whole egg (that I know of).

To Flip or Tannat

To Flip or Tannat

To Flip or Tannat was a great success. It was thick and creamy, with consistency and flavor approaching that of a strawberry milkshake. It was simply delicious. Having never had Tannat before, I can’t say exactly how the strawberry flavors paired with it alone, but it struck me as a great combination. The wine flavor came through clearly amidst a very substantial drink and the people I was with loved it.

One thing that I like and respect about Phil Ward’s menu at The Bourgeois Pig is that it is honest about its ingredients. There is a lot of egg whites and even a whole egg on the menu. Will it scare people off? Maybe, but it also lets people know what they’re ordering. If guests are enjoying the quality of the cocktails on the menu, they should know to trust the quality of the bartending that they have at their disposal. There is serious craft in these drinks. Even if I wasn’t already a cocktail junky, after having the Mois de Brume, I probably would be willing to try one of the more interesting sounding drinks with egg in them. The menu earns respect by being exceptional. I didn’t ask the bartender, but I imagine the presence of egg in a number of drinks hasn’t markedly slowed the frequency at which they’re ordered.

I saw that The Bourgeois Pig was once described as “female Death & Co.” I’m not sure that I buy that description. While it lacks the hard edge of Death & Company — one built through the cultivation of a speakeasy-era brand and not the nature of the cocktails — The Bourgeois Pig pushes the envelope further in many regards. It’s cocktails struck me as more extraordinary and rare, but perhaps this is because most are based on wine. In as much that people who like wine, champagne, and beer more than spirit-based cocktails, The Bourgeois Pig will be more accessible than Death & Company. But I don’t see any great need to assign gender roles to either bar. I look forward to bring some of my best guy friend cocktail geeks to an evening at The Bourgeois Pig the next time I’m in New York, as it’s something notably different from most cocktail joints we usually go to. Plus there’s a ton of that menu that I have left to explore…

***

Update: As I mentioned above, The Bourgeois Pig was very dark and poorly lit. I only had my first generation iPhone camera, which is why the photos above are such poor quality. It’s too bad, too, because both drinks were gorgeous.

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