Tim Driscoll’s Barhopping: Breeze and bitters at Bistro 63

  • Oil expressed from an orange peel is lit on fire to give a slight caramelized flavor to a South of Manhattan cocktail at Bistro 63 at the Monkey Bar Grill in Amherst. JERREY ROBERTS

  • South of Manhattan cocktail at Bistro 63 at the Monkey Bar Grill in Amherst —JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 6/2/2016 2:15:10 PM

The breeze felt good as I sat recently on the deck of Bistro 63 at the Monkey Bar in downtown Amherst. With the students gone, it was a quiet afternoon, and Alyssa was pulling double-duty as waitress and bartender.

I ordered the lobster corn chowder — always a go-to item for me — along with one of the best beet salads I’ve ever had. Each menu item is worth the trip from my home in Florence, over “the bridge” to Amherst.

I looked over the cocktail menu and decided the South of Manhattan was calling my name.

Alyssa was pleased with my choice, she told me, because the drink was the only specialty cocktail on the menu she hadn’t yet made.

The cocktail features a flavorful blend of Bulleit rye whiskey, Green Chartreuse and Fernet-Branca, and is served straight up in a chilled coupe glass, and garnished with an orange peel.

The spicy, dry flavor of the rye mixed well with the 130 herbs, plants and flowers of the French Green Chartreuse, and balanced well with the Italian bitter Fernet-Branca.

Consumption of both Green Chartreuse and Fernet-Branca has been on the rise in the United States recently; mixologists are using them in classic cocktails and also favor the strong aromatics and complex flavors in their own concoctions. (Both are an acquired taste, but well worth the effort.)

On my way out, I ran into Bistro 63’s owner, R.J., at the bar. I told him I was impressed that an entire back-bar shelf was devoted to a variety of cocktail bitters, and he informed me that a few are even housemade.

Mmmmm. As Arnold Schwarzenegger famously said, “I’ll be back.”

Tim Driscoll is a bartender, a former bar owner and a perpetual student of mixology

How to make a South of Manhattan cocktail

1 ounce Bulleit rye whiskey

1 ounce Green Chartreuse

1 ounce Fernet-Branca

Stir in a cocktail mixing glass

Strain into a chilled coupe glass

Garnish with a wide strip of orange peel

Optional: For a slight caramelized flavor, with a match, light expressed oil from the orange peel over the cocktail. Rub the peel around the rim of the glass and drop into the cocktail.

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