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Dewar’s, Thinkers, and Penicillin Drinkers

By Craig Cavallo

Published: December 10, 2012 under Dining & Food

Sam Ross at the helm preparing his signature drink, the Penicillin.

Photo: Craig Cavallo

Sam Ross at the helm preparing his signature drink, the Penicillin.

Let the tasting begin.

Photo: Craig Cavallo

Let the tasting begin.

An old Cynar mural inside Milk & Honey which will become Attaboy at the end of the month.

Photo: Craig Cavallo

An old Cynar mural inside Milk & Honey which will become Attaboy at the end of the month.

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Some people say you’re supposed to drink scotch with ice. They claim it brings the beverage closer to the temperature at which it had been stored for years before it reached the glass. Others find the mix of frozen water and scotch sacrilege. John Dewar and his brother Tommy were happy so long as the drink was making its way to someone’s gullet, and when Sam Ross invented the Penicillin at Milk and Honey in 2005, it introduced the brand to a new demographic.

Milk and Honey was ahead of its time when it opened on Eldridge Street in January 2000. The low lights, pristine cocktails, big band soundtrack, and entrance by referral and appointment only laid the foundation for many a speakeasy to come. The bar will close at the end of the month and reopen early next year under Ross’s direction as Atta Boy. Milk and Honey will move uptown, but before it does, Dewar’s wanted to host an event where the Penicillin was invented.

Patrons of Milk and Honey were asking for Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, and other classic bourbon-based drinks with scotch in place of Kentucky’s finest. The distilled Irish spirit was no longer ordered only by old men in pastel colored cardigans, but by a young crowd with a discerning palate. The Dewar’s-based cocktail signified a shifting public palate. As a result, the Penicillin has been replicated on cocktail menus far and wide. The original is a blend of Dewar’s White Label, lemon juice, sweetened ginger juice, and honey. It’s finished with a float of Islay whisky that flirts with the consumer’s sense of smell and adds depth and dimension to an already unique cocktail.

Dewar’s embraces its role in the somewhat recent scotch resurgence. The brand hasn’t decided to make flavor-infused scotches as a result. Instead, Dewar’s chose to carry on with century old ideals that have defined the label since 1898 and make a product the Dewar brothers would be proud of.

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