Before Jim Meehan opened PDT, he honed his craft behind the bar at a few different bars and restaurants in New York City. One of those places was Gramercy Tavern, and the Astoria Bianco was among the notable cocktails he created while tending bar there. It is a variation of an old classic called the Astoria Cocktail, found in The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book published by Albert Stevens Crockett.
2.5 oz. Tanqueray Gin
1 oz. Martini Bianco Vermouth
2 dashes House Orange Bitters (equal parts Regan's and Fee Brothers Orange)
Orange twist, as garnish
Tools: barspoon, mixing glass
Glassware: chilled coupe
Method: Stir ingredients with cracked ice and strain into a chilled coupe. Garnish with an orange twist.
The original Astoria Cocktail is essentially a really wet Martini made with Old Tom gin. It has twice the amount of vermouth as gin, which makes it a fairly light cocktail as well. The Astoria Bianco is not as light as the original, and is made with the modern London Dry style of gin instead of Old Tom. The subtle sweetness that's lost from swapping out the Old Tom gin is instead provided by the Bianco vermouth (hence the name) which looks like dry vermouth but is sweeter.
There is great complexity to this drink despite the deceptively simple recipe. It's a stiff drink to be sure, but the botanicals in the gin, vermouth, and orange bitters harmonize perfectly together. The light spritz of orange oil from the twist really lift up the drink's bouquet, so that your nose is enticed well before your lips get a taste.
The Astoria Bianco is a drink for Martini drinkers. I'm talking about real stirred gin Martinis with an appreciable amount of dry vermouth in them, not the 12 ounce shot of iced vodka shaken and poured into giant steakhouse Martini glasses. The drink determines the glassware, not the other way around.
*This post is part of a series in which Payman takes on the task of making and writing about every cocktail featured in the PDT Cocktail Book, as well as providing an awesome photo of each drink taken by Vanessa Bahmani Photography.
**Got a question? He can be found on twitter @paystyle, you can email him at email@example.com, or simply drop him a comment below.