There are 16 stops, about an hour’s time, between the Delancey Street subway station in Manhattan and the Coney Island terminus at Stillwell Avenue in Brooklyn. And if you should be heading home late, say, after a long bartending shift or night of drinking, and happen to nod off before your stop, it’s at the Coney Island station, just steps from the boardwalk and lots of closed candy shops and amusements, that you will awaken with a start and hear those fateful words: “This is the last stop on this train. Everyone please leave the train. Thank you for riding with MTA New York City Transit.” Good luck getting home before dawn.
New York–based mixologist Sam Ross won’t admit to committing this gaffe himself, but the Australian, 34, says plenty of his friends did back in his Milk & Honey days, especially one guy named Chaz. “He just kept falling asleep on the train,” Ross says, laughing. “He pretty much knew he was going to do it … and he just did it anyway!” Chaz’s misfortune is the inspiration behind Ross’ Coney Island Express ($18), a wickedly good mix of rum, cold-brew coffee, vanilla and Amaro Ciociaro that is served in one of those blue-and-white Greek paper coffee cups so iconic that you can get ceramic ones at the Museum of Modern Art. That drink, along with 31 more, is available on Ross’ opening menu at The Dorsey in The Venetian—and there are plenty more New York Easter eggs to be found.
The Venetian’s casino bar The Bourbon Room lost much of its relevance when Rock of Ages moved out, leaving the space ripe for reinvention. In its place, The Dorsey was conceived in partnership with David Rabin (creator of New York’s Café Clover, The Skylark and Jimmy at the James) and a beverage program by Ross, a former bartender at the late Sasha Petraske’s celebrated Milk & Honey, and now co-owner of Attaboy, which succeeded Milk & Honey in New York’s lower east side. Ross and his business partner Michael McIlroy plan to open three more concepts in 2017: Diamond Reef in Brooklyn; the American in Port Chester, New York; and a second Attaboy in Nashville. Minding the store at The Dorsey while Ross does that is lead bartender Juyoung Kang, who most recently headed up the program at Delmonico Steakhouse in the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian and The Palazzo.
Encompassing 4,500 square feet, The Dorsey sits just off the gaming floor, at the head of restaurant row next to where Chica will soon open in the DB Brasserie footprint. In what was formerly a live-music bar, there are now four distinct environments: a long curvy bar with 28 barstools and adjacent highboy tables, a wide lounge filled with comfortable couches, an intimate library, and an oversize booth that puts 12 VIPs inside a gilded birdcage. Open 2 p.m.-4 a.m. daily, The Dorsey, one can easily imagine, serves many purposes. “The idea was to create this very cool, sophisticated cocktail lounge where people could come in before dinner, after dinner—essentially a meeting place if they didn’t want to go to the clubs.” And you won’t have to. As the hour grows late, the DJ turns the volume up and the party comes right to the cocktail bar.
As Kang points out, a typical Ross menu will be divided into styles, not eras or spirit categories. If it’s your first visit, direct your attention to the Conversation Starters, where you’ll find the Penicillin ($18), a riff on a whiskey sour that tops blended Scotch, fresh lemon, ginger and honey with a float of smoky Islay Scotch. Ross created the drink in 2005 at Milk & Honey, and while a number of his cocktails have taken on a life of their own (the Paper Plane being a perfect example), the Penicillin is arguably Ross’ largest contribution to the modern cocktail canon. “In the early days I would get a lot of hits on Facebook: ‘Hey, saw your drink in Finland,’ ‘Saw your drink in New Zealand,’ ‘Saw your drink in China’—which was amazing,” he says. “But I think it was when Time did an article in 2012 basically naming it the new modern classic that maybe I realized for good that I’d done something interesting.”
Next, look to the Shorties section for Summer in the City ($12), named for actor Rich Sommer (Mad Men’s Harry Crane), who would pop by Attaboy after performing off-Broadway and either start or end his night with this shot: Fernet-Branca, coffee liqueur and a hand-whipped cream float. On the opposite end of the spectrum, large-format cocktails include three punches for four to six people and a more industry-friendly call, The Closer ($90): a half-bottle of Fernet-Branca served with four craft beers, though Miller High Life would definitely be the way to go here.
New Yorkers will instantly connect with the Van Brunt Gimlet ($18), “the name of which is actually that of a famous artist who had a lot to do with building America around the 1880s,” Ross says. “It’s also the name of the main strip in Red Hook, my neighborhood in Brooklyn. So that was a little shout-out to my Red Hook homies.” Borrowed from history and offering nods to Manhattan are the East Side Rickie (Ross: “I never quite got to the bottom of where that actually came from”; $18) and the Jungle Bird ($18), a forgotten rum drink that was resurrected and vastly improved by Giuseppe González, a third-generation bartender who owns New York’s Suffolk Arms. “It’s so wonderfully balanced when made right, so different, yet those flavors … I couldn’t not include it,” Ross says.
Another import, Ross brings with him his current fascination with a particular mixer. “I love fresh-pressed Granny Smith apple juice,” Ross said at a private menu preview in early December. In preparing an Asian-influenced menu for David Myers’ Hinoki & the Bird in L.A. in 2013, Ross says he encountered the fresh juice as a seasonal mixer for a single spirit of choice. You’ll find that notion on The Dorsey’s menu as Booze ’N Juice ($16) where—you guessed it—you choose the booze to go with the sweet yet tart fresh-pressed apple juice.
The new 800-pound gorilla, however, would be another creation borrowed from Attaboy, the King Kong Cocktail ($18), made with bourbon, pot still rum, Giffard banana liqueur and Angostura Aromatic Bitters. Like Kong, Ross has taken Manhattan, and now it looks as if he’s poised to conquer the Strip, too.
NAME: The Dorsey
SERVING: Handcrafted cocktails—as well as beer and wine—in a large, luxurious room that features multiple seating options and a fireplace.
OPENED: December 27, 2016
WHO’S BEHIND IT: The Venetian in partnership with David Rabin, a design by James Beard award winner Thomas Schlesser and a menu by mixologist Sam Ross.
DID YOU KNOW: Don’t even try asking for a Red Bull; the only energy drink here is brewed from roasted coffee beans.
LOCATION: In The Venetian.
HOURS OF OPERATION: 2 p.m.-4 a.m. daily.