Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | September 29, 2009

PDT

Despite it being one of New York’s premier cocktail bars and despite the fact that it’s been around quite a while, I’ve actually never been to PDT before this past weekend. I’d tried a number of times to get in on the wait list, but either never got a call or got a call long after I was interested in starting at the bar. I’d tried to make reservations on a couple occasions, but the call on the day you want to go policy had been hit or miss for me.

I was in New York this past weekend and figured it might be nice to try for a reservation at PDT again. The phone lines open at 3pm and I set an alarm to ensure I was calling as early as possible. Despite that, it took exactly 10 calls to get past the busy signal. Fortunately, I was able to get a table and had my plans for after dinner drinks set at what was recently voted the best cocktail bar in the world.

Prior to drinks I went out to dinner with my girlfriend and my parents.  As we were headed to dinner, I started to have a an upset stomach. By the time dinner was ending, I wasn’t sure I would make it through the evening without throwing up, let alone to PDT to have cocktails. This was not a welcomed turn of events.

I don’t know what I had, but I drank a lot of water, chewed a handful of Tums, and committed to go to PDT for at least one drink. Worst case scenario was that I would leave after that. After all, I couldn’t see myself skipping my reservation at PDT after all that time and effort.

By the time we made it to PDT, I was starting to feel human. Dicey, but human. The entrance to PDT is located inside one of my favorite NYC hot dog joints, Crif Dogs. In what is surely one of the entrances that most plays into the misconceptions of those who hate “speakeasies” — slang for any nice cocktail bar from their detractors — PDT’s entrance is accessed through a phone booth. You enter the booth, close the door, pick up the phone and check in with the hostess. When your seats are ready, you are escorted through the booth into a cozy bar space on the other side.

PDT is a beautiful bar. It’s small, with only a few booths and small tables, along with a decent sized bar staffed by two bartenders (at least on a Saturday night). The entire seated section was staffed by one server, a young woman whose name I failed to ask, but who provided some of the best table service I have had at a high end cocktail bar.

After flipping through the menu and getting really excited, my better angels won out and I realized I couldn’t do any sort of aggressive cocktail. I asked the waitress to have the bartender make me anything with a potable bitter base, explaining that I had an upset stomach and wanted to try to calm it down first. She offered to bring me a glass of seltzer with bitters to start, but I decided that since I might not make it past one drink, I might as well try to have a cocktail from the get-go.

Now, perhaps it’s because I wasn’t feeling well, I didn’t have any good suggestions for what I was specifically looking for. Well, beyond an amaro or Campari and tonic…but I didn’t really want to ask for a highball at PDT. The waitress returned with an Americano, something that immediately struck me as perfect for my situation. It’s a classic cocktail, made with equal parts Campari and Italian vermouth and topped with seltzer. The waitress said there were also bitters in the cocktail. It’s a delicious drink and one that I often forget about when I’m out and looking for a light drink. What’s even better, it did succeed in being the sort of potion I was looking for. The bitter orange helped settle my stomach and the low alcohol content made it easy to take on my decreasingly upset stomach.

After my Americano, I figured I’d pull ahead and have a more regular strength cocktail. But I wanted to stay in the family of potable bitters. What better step-up from an Americano than a Negroni? A Negroni has equal parts of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari — the one at PDT was made with Plymouth Gin and Dolin Rouge. The Negroni has recently become one of my favorite cocktails and while it’s certainly not that adventurous, it was exactly what I wanted.  Moreover, the Negroni I had at PDT was far and away the best Negroni I’ve ever had. I have no clue why – the freshness of the vermouth? the physics of the stir? – but it was just superb. It had a perfectly flamed orange peel and a cube of ice that was almost as clear as glass.

We left after two drinks, but I’m glad I was able to stick it out and enjoy a couple of very well made cocktails. Now that I know how great PDT is from personal experience, I’m looking forward to going back, having a seat at the bar, and really exploring their original menu and bartenders’ range of abilities.

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Responses

  1. Uh, what? You were at PDT last Saturday? Oddly, so was I.

    • Whoa. I was there from about 9-1030 or so, just a short visit. What a small world.

  2. That was an interesting story. I missed PDT while in NYC but i hope to get there sometimes.

    I got seriously thirsty for a negroni after reading your post;-)

    T

    • I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out why the Negroni at PDT was so good. After all, it was made with three ingredients in my house now: Campari, Plymouth Gin & Dolin Rouge. Now I’m guessing the bottle of Dolin Rouge was opened that night, which surely is a component to the quality. Beyond that the only things I can think of are the ice — both what was used in the mixing glass and the big chunk in my glass — and the stirring technique, which could have imparted a texture and feel that was particularly pleasing to me. Next time I’ll have to sit at the bar to see what else I could be missing…

  3. Whoops! Well, we were in the back at the table next to the bathrooms from 9:30 until whenever it was we left.

    • I was next to the door at a 2 person table. I probably walked past you to go to the bathroom! Too bad we didn’t know we were both going to be there, I would have enjoyed meeting you in person finally.

  4. Matt, the same thing happened to me recently.

    I ate an outstanding dinner at Equinox, felt as though I was about to personally channel Monty Python’s Mr. Creosote, and by the time I made it across the river to P.X. Lounge, I was rallying.

    I should have asked Thrasher for something like an Americano, but I am reluctant to tell talented bartenders what to do, I prefer that they make me whatever inspires them at the moment. All of my cocktails were tremendously good, and I felt fine when I left.

    To paraphrase Homer J. Simpson, “Cocktails. Is there anything that they can’t do?”

  5. […] to take them to PDT. My buddy Austin has never been and I’ve been planning my next trip since my first one a couple weeks ago. When I called for my previous visit, it took me ten calls to get through for a […]


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