The chances of discovering an affordably priced pour of Pappy Van Winkle whiskey is about as likely as encountering a giraffe in Manhattan. The spirit, along with the rest of Van Winkle's infuriatingly hard-to-find, high-roller distillates, is an A-list celebrity in the land of luxury liquors, at times commanding hundreds of dollars for a single pour. But one New York steakhouse is not only stocked with several bottles, but its head bartender is mixing the scarce spirit into a not-entirely-outrageously-priced classic cocktail.
Bar director Bryan Schneider of NYC icon Smith & Wollensky added The Old Van Winkle Old Fashioned to the Midtown East restaurant's libation list last month. Built from a blend of Old Rip Van Winkle whiskey (which is aged for 10 years as opposed to 15, 20 or 23) that's spiced with Angostura and orange bitters, the simple dram costs $35, and is on offer only until the bar's stock runs out.
"There is so much mystique wrapped up in Pappy Van Winkle," Schneider begins, adding that bars typically serve the spirit "by the ounce in its unadulterated state." However, he believes the 107-proof, 10-year-old expression "is still fiery enough to hold up in an old-fashioned," and blending the pricey potion into a common cocktail "demystif[ies] the spirit a bit."
And just for the record, a giraffe was once discovered in New York City.
Kat Odell, a freelance food and travel writer, is the author of Day Drinking. Follow her on Instagram at @kat_odell.
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