When a new cocktail hits the menu at stunning New York City drink destination The NoMad Bar, it's already been through rigorous development. Bar director Leo Robitschek explains that the process begins with "open-ended recipe testing" based off the upcoming season and which cocktails are coming off the menu.
The bartenders are also asked to consider what ingredients the kitchen will be using and whether there are any leftovers that can be repurposed for a waste-free cocktail experience. The proposed drinks are tasted — including as they sit, so Robitschek can see how they fare after one or even five minutes — and are either shelved or moved through to the next round. In this second round of tasting, Robitschek and the head bartenders try the cocktails again, paying close attention to whether their "palates are still in the same place, that we still think it's delicious, and the drink is not something we tried at the end of tasting and only thought was delicious (we call those ‘two drink cocktails')."
This journey resulted in the Spicy Carrot Colada, a cocktail Robitschek built for The NoMad Bar's winter menu. Robitschek says the drink is a good reflection of the venue's cocktail-making philosophy, which comprises three key aspects: classically-driven cocktails, where each drink is rooted in cocktail history; spirit-forward cocktails, where the primary ingredient, whether spirit or beer, is the focus of the cocktail and the other components enhance that flavor; and embracing the modern techniques and ingredients that come with having a serious restaurant kitchen at the bar's disposal.
As for the Spicy Carrot Colada, the starting point of the drink, the piña colada, is a familiar cocktail staple. The kitchen had been serving Yaya carrot juice, which Robitschek found to be "completely different from carrot juice I've had anywhere else" with "a sweet and earthy" flavor and a texture that reminded him of pineapple juice. From there, his idea to build an earthier piña colada was born, where carrots replace the pineapple. But the drink is spirit-forward. Yes, carrots are used in the cocktail, but they are meant to enhance the earthiness and sweetness of the rum. For his spirits, he chose Cruzan Black Strap rum, which has a "burnt molasses toffee quality" that Robitschek had in mind as he was dreaming up the drink. He also uses Amaro Foro, a newish product that adds bitterness to the sweet carrots as well as citrus and mint notes. The final boozy component is Angostura bitters, which brings the spice. And there's some modern technique too. The coconut syrup is made with the help of an iSi canister, a modern kitchen favorite.
The NoMad Bar serves two variations of the drink: a warm version for brunch — which emphasizes a richer, almost carrot-cakey flavor — and a cold version — where the bitter notes come to the foreground and the coconut shines. "This was a fun cocktail for me to create," says Robitschek.