Elegant Libations

Few experiences are grander than dinner in the Pool Room of Manhattan’s Four Seasons Restaurant. Located in the Seagram Building, it was designed by architects Mies van der Rohe and Phillip Johnson, and opened to a stunned public in 1959. Surrounded by Picassos and Kandinskys, and watching the famous beaded metal curtains ripple gently with the breeze, it occurs to most diners at some point that life doesn’t get much better. The space was designated as a historical landmark by the city government in 1989—the only New York restaurant to be honored as such.

Now, you can attempt to recreate a bit of this atmosphere at home with The Four Seasons Book of Cocktails (Sterling Publishing; $17.95). Written by Fred Dubose with the assistance of Four Seasons bartenders Greg Connolloy, Charles Corpion and John Varriano, the book contains more than 1,000 cocktail recipes. Along the way, the authors mix in advice on technique, along with information on the ingredients and equipment necessary to stock your home bar.

These aren’t just cocktails. These are the classics: Rob Roy, Rusty Nail, Mint Julep, Singapore Sling. Simply to mouth the words is enough to transport us back to a bygone era. Alongside the concise and precise recipes, the bartenders sprinkle wisdom on topics such as glassware (“At the Four Seasons, women are frequently served drinks in stem glasses, no matter the cocktail. This makes for a more artistic presentation, and—in our experience, at least—women are more likely than even the most meticulous gentleman to keep a stem glass upright and upspilt.”).

If you’re of a certain age, you might wonder who on earth actually makes a pousse-café anymore; if you’re younger, you might wonder what I’m talking about. For the Millenials out there, the pousse-café is an after-dinner masterpiece created in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It consists of five or six liqueurs of different colors and specific gravities, poured slowly into a brandy snifter. If done correctly, the result is a layered kaleidoscope almost too beautiful to drink. Most recipes call for green Chartreuse, white Crème de Menthe, Galliano, Grenadine, Brandy, Vodka, Amaretto and Kirsch, ladled in slowly against the back of a spoon.

To go with all this booze, the book concludes with a chapter on bar bites. Naturally, they are arranged according to the seasons—Spring (white asparagus crostini; skewered hamachi with minted pea shoots); Summer (cherry tomatoes with peekytoe crabmeat; crisp squash blossoms); Autumn (potato-wrapped langoustines with caviar; new potato skins with crème fraiche and pesto); Winter (toasted brioche with quince and foie gras). If you’re up to replicating the classic cocktails, you can probably produce these tidbits at home.

This is a wonderful book about one of New York’s iconic restaurants. It allows us to relive an experience we’ll have on far too few occasions in life, but one which we can recreate and savor.

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