Bars are putting on the ritz with an old drink: The Tuxedo

A Tuxedo and a Tuxedo No. 2 at the Beekman Hotel bar in New York. Tuxedo cocktails — variations on the martini — are adorning menus at new bars around the country, many of them inside boutique hotels.
A Tuxedo and a Tuxedo No. 2 at the Beekman Hotel bar in New York. Tuxedo cocktails — variations on the martini — are adorning menus at new bars around the country, many of them inside boutique hotels. PHOTO: THE NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - Tuxedos are back in style. You will spot them all over New York, at the Beekman Hotel downtown, at the Grill in the former Four Seasons space, at Flora Bar inside the Met Breuer museum.

No, not that tuxedo - although formal wear would not look out of place in such elegant surroundings. We are talking about the Tuxedo cocktail, which drew its name, according to bar lore, from the same place the dinner jacket did: Tuxedo Park, New York, once the exclusive upstate retreat of New York City's wealthiest families.

Tuxedo cocktails - variations on the martini - are adorning menus at new bars around the country, many of them inside boutique hotels: in Chicago (at Vol. 39, inside the Kimpton Gray Hotel, and Somerset, in the Gold Coast neighborhood); in San Francisco (the Douglas Room, inside the Tilden Hotel); and in New Orleans (Loa bar, inside the International House Hotel).

"It's something that I wanted on the menu," said Thomas Carter, an owner of Flora Bar. "It's a cocktail I particularly love. I love maraschino liqueur, but it's one of those ingredients that you can't use too much of."

It is possible to hate maraschino liqueur, as many people do, and still love the Tuxedo, because there are two Tuxedos - one without the liqueur - that have been battling it out for a century or so.

One, generally believed to be the original Tuxedo, is made with gin, sherry and orange bitters. It is elegant and bone dry. (You can find it at the Bar at the Grill, Somerset and Vol. 39.)

The other, typically referred to as Tuxedo No. 2, contains gin, vermouth, maraschino liqueur and absinthe. It is also elegant, but lightly luscious. (You can find that one at Flora Bar, the Bar Room in the Beekman and the Douglas Room.)

 

  • Tuxedo

  • Ingredients

    Absinthe, preferably St. George Absinthe Verte (optional)
    75ml gin, preferably Greenhook
    15ml manzanilla sherry
    2 dashes orange bitters, preferably Regan's
    Lemon twist, for garnish

  • Method

    1. Chill a coupe glass. Rinse with absinthe, if using, then toss out excess liquid.

    2. In a mixing glass three-quarters filled with ice, stir the gin, sherry and bitters until chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into the coupe glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

    Yields one drink.

  • Tuxedo No. 2

  • Ingredients

    Absinthe, preferably St. George Absinthe Verte
    60ml gin, preferably Greenhook
    22ml dry vermouth, preferably Dolin
    7ml maraschino liqueur, preferably Luxardo
    2 dashes orange bitters
    Lemon twist, for garnish

  • Method

    1. Chill a coupe glass. Rinse with absinthe, if using, then toss out excess liquid.

    2. In a mixing glass three-quarters filled with ice, stir the vermouth, liqueur and bitters until chilled, about 15 seconds. Strain into the coupe glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

    Yields one drink

Jessica Lambert, the head bartender at Vol. 39, is a fan of sherry and the original Tuxedo but does not bear a grudge against the competing drink. "I think there's room for both to exist," she said.

One thing all the new Tuxedos seem to have in common is their luxe surroundings.

"The hotel bar seems to be suitable to the old classics," said Mo Hodges, the head bartender and an owner of the Douglas Room, where the Tuxedo is treated as the house martini.

"There's something about being in older rooms that matches up with the Tuxedo. You want to be drinking a drink that people drank there before you."

Lee Zaremba, the beverage director at Somerset, offers an even simpler reason the Tuxedo often gets a fancy home. "It sounds like a classy cocktail," he said.

It is only fitting, then, that when Clover Club, the Brooklyn cocktail bar, recently decided to put a Tuxedo on its menu, the drink was listed in a section titled "The Reserve," classic drinks rendered with rarefied spirits. The drink in question, a sherry-based Tuxedo, is made with Monkey 47, a complex, pricey German gin that Tom Macy, the head bartender and an owner, had been wanting to use.

"To do a martini seemed a little pedestrian, a little obvious," Macy said. The natural solution: Pull that Tux out of the closet.