Ahh winter break. As a student, it’s a time of year that gives you the motivation to get through the grueling end of the semester and final exams so you can go home to your friends and family for a full month of close to zero responsibility. And now as adults, we yearn for those few relaxing days off from the daily grind and turn our attention off.
However, The National Bar & Dining Rooms has defined a different kind of Winter Break for me. In short, I can only describe my first experience with this spicy cocktail as a moment of clarity on a night that boasted anything but. The Winter Break is a sharp blend of Bulleit bourbon, Pimm’s and hard cider packed with a mixture of winter spices that were personally mixed by the bar’s beverage director. A biting blend of cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and brown sugar is shaken with its liquid counterparts and served with a garnish of rosemary. The sprig alone will trigger thoughts of Christmas and the taste will surely solidify it. The sweetness brought on by the bourbon and Pimm’s becomes very quickly doused by the bite of the winter spices – the drink packs a punch. Admittedly, there were several parts of my evening that are still cloudy to me even to this day, but I can attest that I have not forgotten how great this drink was and I’ve gone back to relive the experience several times since.
But as we steer into the first few weeks of the warm weather seasons, The National’s drink list will also follow suit. I had the opportunity to sample the upcoming Summer Break during a premiere for the Food Network’s Chopped – an episode featuring owner Chef Geoffrey Zakarian in competition. The Summer Break consisted of layers of Maker’s Mark, simple syrup and orange bitters then topped off with Allagash White and garnished with a blood orange. I wasn’t aware of the ingredients at first so I relied solely on my first sip instead. The taste was dry, not sweet and not nearly as spicy in contrast to its winter cousin. But as the sips continued, the taste was acquired. While most spring and summer drinks assume a sweet, tart flavor, this drink was the contrary. I thought about what my recent summers have consisted of… beaches, barbeques, family, friends and spending time drinking cold beers while soaking in sunshine. I envisioned the Summer Break as a part of those summer season scenarios and instantly realized the correlation. The sweetness of the cocktail is subtle, but the dry flavor is refreshing in its very own way. In all, I was pleased with how it turned out… a cocktail with a different spin to a seasonal taste that’s dominated by fruity charm.
The National Bar & Dining Room
557 Lexington Avenue (at 50th St.)
Photo Credit: Mia O’Malley Photography