I’m not sure why I waited so long to get my copy of Jim Meehan’s The PDT Cocktail Book. Perhaps it is that to drink at PDT you need to make a reservation. And, you don’t enter PDT itself. You walk past the video games in the Crif Dogs restaurant, enter a phone booth, and speak to the PDT hostess. If you do have a reservation, the wall opens and you enter the most famous speakeasy in America.
Jim opened PDT in 2007 a mere ten years ago and yet, in cocktail history terms, a period of ancient history. The cocktail reservation had begun, Jim was working the New York City bars, and he joined a small team to fashion PDT: a bar of elevated design and beverages with that Harry Potter telephone booth touch.
The cocktail recipes, Section 2, are sandwiched between an introduction to cocktails, Section 1, and a presentation of the hot dogs and finger foods that you can enjoy with your beverages, Section 3.
Section 2 is 220 pages with roughly 700 recipes arranged in alphabetical order. Each beverage, whether a classic or a new concoction, reflects the meticulous grooming that has made Jim recognized as mixologist par excellence. Take, for example, a cocktail called the Henry Hudson, named for the explorer on the 400th anniversary of his NOT discovering a pathway to Asia. So, Jim’s happy riff includes: Bols Genever, Chardonnay, lemon juice and simple syrup, plus something called van Oosten Batavia Arrack. That last ingredient is a sugarcane spirit form Indonesia, a place Hudson never managed to find.
We can speak about “the world of cocktails.” In this book, that world is actually present and, as the Henry Hudson shows, sometimes the entire world is swirling in your own personal glass.
For classics, you will still find Jim’s hand in sculpting a new look for old gems. Take, for example, the Margarita. In Jim’s version, it is 2 ounces of tequila, .75 ounces Cointreau, .75 ounces lime juice and .25 ounces agave syrup. Those proportions are quite different from the usual 3-2-1 [tequila, triple sec, lime juice] bar version. No triple sec here. And no simple syrup. Instead just that little dash of agave syrup, supplying a smoky haze that runs in unison with the tequila.
Where to start with the book? Open it to a page, any page. You’ll be charmed, intrigued, and quite possibly on your way to your spirits store to secure some supplies. Yes, using The PDT Cocktail Book means your inventory of booze will expand. So will your horizons.