"I have an unorthodox request for the ingredient," said Jason Cevallos, who tends bar at the Office, the private lounge in the basement of the Aviary. Instead of an ingredient per se, Cevallos wanted to challenge David Hermach, a barkeep at Clark Street Ale House, with what might be called the essence of a cocktail—specifically, the Dirty Streisand, a drink that Cevallos said "has never been perfected, but has been attempted numerous times." Which evades the central question: What the hell is a Dirty Streisand?
Hermach wasn't any the wiser. And when he contacted his challenger, Cevallos was coy, directing him simply to "think Manischewitz and gefilte fish." So just in time for Rosh Hashanah, Hermach got to work.
Forget the apples, honey, and challah, though. Hermach began by riffing on the notion of a "dirty cocktail." A dirty martini incorporates a bit of the olive brine. What would a dirty manhattan be like? Then there was the Streisand factor—but the woman contains multitudes!
In the end Hermach produced a drink with elements of both high and low cultchah, port and the Italian amaro Fernet-Branca representing the former, a high-proof rye the latter. The result, he says, "is rich, smooth, and somewhat heady," but balanced, with "a touch of salinity."
So has the Dirty Streisand been perfected at last? Hermach modestly designated it the first of many Streisands to come.
Dirty Streisand #1
1 oz Noval Black port
1 oz Rittenhouse Rye
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Dolin dry vermouth
1/4 oz Fernet-Branca
kalamata olives, for garnish
Combine ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir thoroughly, enough so that the ice visibly starts to dissolve. Strain into a chilled martini glass or coupe and garnish with kalamata olives.
Hermach has challenged Sean Still of Double A, the "speakeasy" in the basement of Mercadito, with fresh figs, though not without regret. "I would love to challenge her with the fabled (in my own mind) cocktail the Whiskey Valentine, a drink I half remember creating late one evening after hours," he texted me. "All I can recall is that it contained whiskey, rum, and grenadine and was delicious." But with apologies to Barbra, enough is enough.