Winter Cocktails with Dante's Naren Young
The creative director of the newly-tapped “world’s best bar” shares a recipe for Calypso Coffee and his go-to spots for a cozy winter cocktail.
There are few New York institutions with a legacy as rich as Caffe Dante’s. The century-old bar and restaurant in the Greenwich Village made a name for itself in decades past as a hangout for cultural icons like Anaïs Nin, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, among many other beatniks, artists, and writers. Now a registered New York City historic landmark, Dante has most recently received attention for its “world’s best bar” accolade. So we figured, who better to tap for a winter cocktail recipe than Dante’s creative director, Naren Young. Here, Young shares a recipe for Calypso Coffee along with his go-to spots for a cozy cocktail as the weather drops below freezing.
What ingredients do you like to work with during the cooler months when creating cocktails?
Naren Young: Like a lot of bars, we gravitate towards more warming, spicy ingredients: brown spirits, any sort of whiskey to various brandies whether its cognac, almanac, calvados; aged tequila, aged rums—and then we pair those with similar flavors like dried fruits, spices, pepper, chili, ginger, and on top of that whatever is in season. So as we move closer to December and January things get a little bit bleak in New York, but for now we’re still using things like Concord grape, pomegranates, pears, apples, pumpkins, squashes—some of which would have been fairly unusual in drinks a few years ago, but now its not unusual to see root vegetables popping up in cocktails. We use that as our framework and then we see what we can use to create a balanced menu that will get people excited at Dante.
What are some of your go-to spots downtown for a cocktail during winter; what makes each notable and what do you order there?
NY: I really like the Library bar. NoMad can get a bit crazy so I like the solace in there. It’s secluded and bit more refined, relaxed and not too busy. It’s a great place to have a glass of champagne, a martini, or a hot drink in the winter. I like The Irving, which I think doesn’t get enough praise. It’s a really nice bar just off Union Square—beautiful venue, stunning cocktails, great staff. It’s a nice place to get out of the cold and grab a comfortable lounge. And for something a bit more down-to-earth, I really like the Swift [Hibernian Lounge], which is an Irish pub on East 4th. It’s a good place to sit at the window, especially if it’s snowing and have a Guinness or a nip of whiskey. I love going there and just chilling out.
And how about further afield in Brooklyn—do you have a go-to spot?
NY: I like the Grand Army, it’s a great neighborhood bar. They’ve got an open fire and a really interesting beer and wine list. They do great bar food, nice cocktails. I also like the Long Island Bar over on Atlantic. They do some great classic cocktails—it’s a nice place to have a Manhattan or an Old Fashion, and is manned by some of the great bartenders of the city.
Naren Young’s Calypso Coffee
½ oz. Frangelico
½ oz. honey
3 dashes spice tincture
Preheat a toddy glass with hot water (discard)
Fill halfway with espresso coffee
Add ingredients and float vanilla cream on top
Garnish with grated cinnamon
WORDS Edwina Hagon
PHOTOGRAPHY Steve Freihon