My taste in mixed drinks has drifted away from the elaborate concoctions that marked the early days of the cocktail revolution. Most busy bartenders, eager for streamlined recipes, will say the same. But something just happened as Jesse Cornell began dipping enthusiastically into various French spirits for a beguiling new fall drink at Restaurant Neuf called Les Arbres, Les Feuilles, Le Râteau ("the trees, the leaves, the rake.") The brandied backbone of cognac took on the quinine-tinged wine aperitif called Byrrh. Then came the honeyed Armagnac notes of Skerzo liqueur, the spice of Barrow's Intense Ginger, an aromatic whiff of allspice and orange bitters. With a cocktail cacophony still at risk, it was the pour of Lustau's East India Solera sherry both broodingly sweet and salty, with an almost tea-like texture that brought it all together in equalized harmony, plus a squeeze of lemon for a bright finish. It's so elegantly done a new layer is revealed with every sip. But with no fewer than 10 different bottles required to create it, I suggested a better name might be "bouteilles, bouteilles, bouteilles." Cornell sighed and conceded: "If this takes off, I'm screwed."
- Craig LaBan
"Les Arbres, Les Feuilles, Le Râteau" $14, Restaurant Neuf, 943 S. 9th St., 215-309-5847; neufphilly.com