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09.20.10 by  

Not-Your-Garden-Variety Herb Cocktails

NYC’s Duane Fernandez Jr. shares some DIY tips for adding flavorful window-sill ingredients to your drinks. Get ready to get down and dirty — anything green is fair game.

Rosemary, basil, mint and rose are just the beginning of the fresh, herbaceous ingredients Duane Fernandez Jr. is mixing into cocktails at Entwine, a sexy West Village bar that’s an extension of the partners family-style vibe. Walk in and you’ll be welcomed into their home, but don’t get too comfortable … every night you get something different, perhaps an easy night with great wine downstairs, or a party with awesome drinks upstairs. Either way, your night will be packed with flavor and friendship.

The cool, unassuming vibe reminds of us of the home bar we’d like to have.

served raw: tell us about the Entwine vibe.
Duane Fernandez Jr.: Entwine is family. Four of us were bartenders a few years back together so we have long-lasting friendships that have developed into what we call our family, and the vibe tends to lean that way with every guest.

to accomplish that, your hand-crafted cocktails play a major role … how do you keep it fresh?
I change up the menu twice a year, however, we keep the Entwine signature cocktails and some of the drinks our guests like. I’m also a USBG NY member. We meet a few times a week a discuss past, current and future products with which we look to create. Being a part of the organization inspires me to become more creative with my cocktails.

what are some of your go-to herbs?
I can’t live without my basil and rosemary. What wonderful flavors they bring to a cocktail. At the moment I’m working more with thyme, and tarragon is my favorite — it’s got an anise flavor that I’ve grown to love. I’m going to tackle cardamom next.

how do you balance herbs with other flavors?
I’m all about having the hint or essence of the herb in a cocktail. No one really wants to drink a salad. At the same time you never want to lose the herb with an overpowering spirit. They should complement each other. Adding lemon or lime to spirits and some syrup of sorts always blends the right cocktail.

what techniques do you use to incorporate the essence of herbs into your cocktails?
I use basic techniques infusing herbs in spirits or simple syrup, and of course muddling. My favorite infusion is our cucumber-infused gin, where we infuse cucumber, dill and celery in the spirit for a couple of days. The gin takes on the flavors of the herbs and veggies, adding to what is already a flavorful spirit. We use it in our signature Westsider cocktail along with lime juice, simple syrup and fresh cucumber.

do you have any signature drink tips or tricks?
There are some wonderful, amazing techniques that my fellow bartenders and mixologists are doing these days. I tend to be more classic and continue on the path of simplicity and elegance.

how about a signature cocktail for sipping upstairs and downstairs at Entwine?
Upstairs, it would be my signature cocktail, The Scotland Yard, a modernized Rusty Nail, which is an old classic that’s 2 ounces Dewar’s and 3/4 ounce Drambuie. I’ve amped up the cocktail by adding fresh basil, lemon juice and ginger syrup. The Scotland Yard has won contests, been featured in the New York Times and was the cocktail for the Drambuie event at Tales 2010.

Downstairs is a little more relaxed and has a classic style. I’ve just created the Smoking Aces that combines aged tequila, maple and liquid smoke. The liquid smoke creates a scotch feel with the tequila. I’m really excited to see how this cocktail goes over.

Scotland Yard

Duane Fernandez Jr.’s signature cocktail.

  • 2 ounces blended scotch
  • 1 ounce Drambuie
  • 3/4 ounce lemongrass ginger syrup
  • Splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 leaves fresh basil
  1. Tear five of the basil leaves and add them to a cocktail shaker along with the scotch, Drambuie, syrup and lemon juice. Add ice and shake vigorously, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with the remaining basil leaf.

Lemongrass Ginger Syrup

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Peeled, thumb-size knob ginger
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, chopped
  1. Simmer all ingredients for 20 minutes, the strain. Refrigerate.

Smoking Aces

Aged tequila takes on a sophisticated scotch feel in this smoky cocktail by Entwine NYC’s Duane Fernandez Jr.

  • 3 ounces Don Modesto añejo tequila
  • 1 ounce maple syrup
  • 1 dash liquid smoke
  1. Stir and strained into a coupe glass.