By Terry Trucco
Chocolate cocktails sound pretty good, but as I discovered on a recent visit to the lounge at the Pierre Hotel, they’re oddly polarizing.
While keeping a friend company before she went to a dinner party upstairs, I spotted the bar’s Chocolate Cocktail Festival menu featuring eight drinks (five hot, three chilled) and two lavish desserts, $14 each.
My friend scanned the menu, arched an eyebrow and requested “a real drink” – a glass of champagne. But I knew what I’d be ordering. Truffles, Valhrona bars, M&Ms, molten chocolate cake, hot fudge, chicken mole – I love chocolate, especially the super-dark stuff. (So healthy!)
Two E Bar/Lounge, which opened following the hotel’s 2009 renovation, creates a new specialty cocktails menu every six to eight weeks. Toddies were out of the running as a hot drink this winter because the bar highlighted them last year. “Guests love our regular hot chocolate, so we decided to make hot chocolate for adults,” says Two E manager Ryan Drushel.
To create the menu, a team of in-house mixologists including assistant manager Sachin Hasam and the lounge’s three bartenders each cooked up three or four drinks lacing hot or chilled hot chocolate with everything from Bushmill, peanut butter, Nutella and Jack Daniels-infused marshmallows (Escape) to Bailey’s Irish Whiskey, Peppermint Schnapps and whipped cream (A Minty Affair). After a taste test, a panel of Pierre insiders picked their favorites, and the menu was born.
The hit is the Mayan, a wicked blend of Habanero-infused Illegal Mezcal, Grand Marnier, house-made cinnamon syrup and hot chocolate. When the drink is ordered, the bartender makes the hot chocolate from scratch melting chunks of pastry chocolate used by the hotel’s in-house bakers and mixing it with whole milk. Guests preferring a low-cal blend can opt for skim milk. “The drink has a different consistency, but we give them the option,” says Drushel.
That reminded me of what Starbucks baristas call the “Why Bother?” – a no-foam latte made with decaf coffee and skim milk. Never mind. I ordered a full-fat Mocha High Dive made with Xante, all-spice berries, Crème de Cacao Dark, an espresso shot and chilled hot chocolate. The chilled chocolate is made in advance, but I didn’t care. It’s been an unexpectedly warm winter, and the cold drink was like a velvety chocolate shake with kick. And in case the temperature tanks, the zippy hot chocolates are offered until March 4.
The Pierre, 2 East 61st Street; 212 838-8000.