Lenard Peterson and Comme Ça’s other bartenders have been perfectly content to serve guests New York-based consultant Sam Ross’ original and classically inspired cocktail creations. But with the recent arrival of the restaurant’s spring menu, Peterson and his comrades were given a section of the menu to make their own. They rose to the occasion with aplomb.
They each selected a base spirit—vodka, gin, rum, tequila and whiskey—and they were off, rounding out Ross’ menu with four original, Prohibition-era-style cocktails and one tribute to a Philadelphia classic. “Even though vodka was not introduced in the United States until the 1940s,” Peterson says, “we wanted to give guests who are not familiar with our period of cocktails a vodka-based drink to help them transition into other great cocktails.”
Peterson’s own recipe, Vida Simples (the “simple life” in Portuguese; pictured at center), is a riff on the daiquiri—rum, sugar and lime. “My specific cocktail takes a few things from behind the bar that are sometimes neglected: falernum, a Caribbean liqueur, and Angostura orange bitters. I like taking the less known or barely used ingredients and see what fun I can have with them. I played with the sugar—[substituting] falernum—and added some bitters, which always adds depth to a cocktail. The key is balance—balance between the citrus and the sweetener and bitters.”
And Peterson was definitely excited about having the freedom to express his current interests. “It’s a great time to be a bartender,” he says. “New distilleries are popping up with new liquor coming out all the time. Beers as well. People are exploring everything from cask-aged beers to new ingredients to different processing. We are relearning the classics as well as playing upon recipes to give a new experience. People talk about the ‘golden age’ of something or the ‘modern age’ of something else. I think we are smack in the center of something new, and it’s great to be a part of it.”
In a cocktail shaker, combine 2 ounces Montecristo spiced rum, ¾ ounce John D. Taylor’s Velvet falernum, ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice, a dash simple syrup and a dash Angostura orange bitters. Add ice, cover, shake and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange wheel.