Five NYC cocktails not to miss…

At the globally renowned restaurant, The Aviary NYC at Mandarin Oriental, New York, chef Grant Achatz isn’t just about ‘molecular’ gastronomy – the same movement has taken over the tumbler, too, making him the Willy Wonka of the cocktail world

Olivia McLearon is production editor on Mandarin Oriental and contributor to British Airways’ High Life magazine and High Life China

Ever since The Aviary NYC, the New York outpost of superstar chef Grant Achtaz and partner Nick Kokonas’s The Aviary in Chicago opened, it’s been a go-to for gastronomes and cocktail connoisseurs alike. Paying tribute to the historically rich cocktail culture of New York City, Achtaz has applied his science-minded approach and ramped it up several notches to produce one of the most highly imaginative drinks menus in the world. Paired with the panoramic views from the 35th floor from Mandarin Oriental, New York of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, it’s unforgettable. Enjoy the three-course cocktail tasting experience, or go ad hoc.

Wake and Bake

Best way to drink? With a classic brunch

The inspiration: The Manhattan cocktail and a New York breakfast

Served in a small, clear ‘aroma pillow’, cut open in front of you to release the scent, the smell and taste of the Wake and Bake, encapsulates a NYC breakfast. There are hints of bagel, coffee and orange juice (infused into vermouth), mixed into a rye whiskey base. This is a one-off theatrical experience, but with the flavours to match.

Verdict: a thrilling way to start your Aviary NYC cocktail journey

Carrot Cake Ramos 

Best way to drink? With a decadent afternoon tea

The inspiration: New Orleans’s Ramos Gin Fizz

Carrot Cake Ramos  is a creamy, rich twist on the classic, Ramos Gin Fizz. A delightful mix of rooibos, cream cheese, walnut and spice, Aidan Bowie, bar director explains: “We have taken the Ramos Gin Fizz idea, but twisted the ingredients to pay tribute to the carrot cake. Gin is swapped for rum, which has been infused with classic carrot cake ingredients (mace, cinnamon, carrot and ginger). Cream cheese replaces the dairy element and fresh carrot juice brings the acidity. There are other ingredients, but the staff are sworn to secrecy.” The only way to work it out, would be to order one for yourself.

Verdict: delicious, but just pipped to the post by the Zombie Panda for me

Boom Goes the Dynamite 

Best way to drink? In lieu of a dessert wine

The inspiration: autumn in New York

Like a richer, tastier rum punch, the Boom Goes the Dynamite arrives at the table in a light bulb. As Bowie says, “The cocktail, which contains rooibos, vanilla, violet, verjus and rum, is made at a really high temperature before dry ice is added, creating an aroma of vanilla and violet before cooling down to a rich, warming temperature.” After the initial wow/Instagram moment (#molecularmixology), it’s moved on to its side to release the aroma to the drinker. Hidden away like scientists working on a top-secret project, the bartenders mix your drinks behind a glass wall that reflects the views of the city. Just catching a glimpse of your cocktails being created, elicits a thrill.

Verdict: sweet, but complex and with a touch of drama

Lovely Bunch

Best way to drink? With a sense of humour

Inspiration: the original porthole cocktail, designed for The Aviary in Chicago

Served in a round bottle named a porthole, the Lovely Bunch is a mind-blowing mix of reposado tequila, banana liqueur, verjus blanc and seedlip spice – and it really packs a punch. As Bowie explains, “The drink develops as it sits at your table, then continues to change as you drink it. We change the cocktail ingredients seasonally and depending on the time of year, it could contain mocha chai tea, banana chips, an ancho chilli, cinnamon, blood orange and French curry spices. The drink changes in myriad ways from start to finish, thanks to the spices, the freshness from the citrus fruit and warm mocha chai flavours from the tea.” 

Verdict: a riot of flavours and a show-stopping cocktail to swoon over

In the Rocks 

Best way to drink? As a nightcap

Inspiration: The Times Square New Year’s Eve Ball Drop

In the Rocks is similar to an Old Fashioned, but with a few Achtaz twists. Served inside a large spherical ice cube – The Aviary prides itself on its innovative ice programme – the ice cubes contain the flavours that enhance the drink as it melts. And it comes capped with a mini slingshot that drinkers pull up and release to break the ice below. Don’t be shy: give it a proper whack and you’ll release the vermouth, Campari and bourbon. Sit back on one of the curvilinear sofas and drink In the Rocks, and the views at the same time.

Verdict: short, strong and totally sublime

Book your stay at Mandarin Oriental, New York

With soaring views of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline, Mandarin Oriental, New York is a luxury hotel right in the heart of the city