7.10.19 / New York / New York

First Glass: The Derelict at The Polynesian

“After the first glass you see things as you wish they were…”

When it comes to summer cocktails, there aren’t many places that rival The Polynesian. Just over a year old, The Polynesian has been Major Food Group’s breeziest bar yet: tropical teal and gold accents furnish the space, and there are planters abound both inside and out at the terrace bar. Of course the stars of the show are the unique cocktails—wonderfully weird concoctions by beverage director and tiki maestro Brian Miller. It’s the allure of a great tiki bar; you just embrace the fruity flavors, the elaborate garnishes, and the eye-catching glassware—as long as you have someone like Ray Sakover to bring it all to life.

Originally from San Diego, Sakover had only bartended at a neighborhood whiskey bar upstate in Berkeley before moving to New York four years ago, but he quickly flourished in the world of cocktails. His first gig in New York was at the Happiest Hour, and its subterranean cocktail den Slowly Shirley. “[The Happiest Hour] was definitely a fun place to work. I cut my teeth in a large, high volume bar. And Slowly Shirley is kind of the opposite, more detailed oriented, cerebral; the cocktails are a little bit more avant-garde.” Crafting high-quality cocktails for discerning guests and, more importantly, providing the refined experience they expected was a tall order, but Sakover attributes his skill to his natural desire to grow. “I think its part passion, part perseverance. Lots of experimentation; the R&D process makes you a much better bartender, and the peer review, having other people taste your cocktails. And just knowing that you’re always learning.” Slowly Shirley was also where Sakover met Miller, who noticed that attitude and opened up a whole new area of exploration. “He was more or less my first exposure to the world of tiki. It was super fascinating, I would pick his brain as to what books I should read, what cocktails I should be drinking and making, and then when I found out he was opening his own tiki bar, I jumped at the opportunity.”

[Ray Sakover]

So it makes sense then, that when Sakover thinks of The Polynesian, he thinks of The Derelict. “This cocktail compiled ingredients that Brian Miller chose, it’s all his favorite ingredients essentially in one cocktail.” On paper the list of booze involved might make your head spin, but The Derelict blends them with the right amount of sweet tropical flavors. “You have 4 different rums, you have bourbon which was his first love before his trail down the rabbit hole of tiki and rum, then you have some banana some passionfruit, some cinnamon which adds a little spice, and then your angostura bitters and some absinthe.” The final touch is a scooped out lime filled with banana chips and 151 rum, and then lit on fire (before being blown out—an important step) all for the aromatics (seriously, don’t try to drink it). “The cocktail is amazing, beautifully balanced, quite aggressive as well, but I think elegantly balances all of these ingredients in a cocktail that is deceptively…high octane.” So, why then is it called The Derelict? “We’re all kind of pirates here. Brian’s the captain, I guess I can be his first mate, and I feel like this aptly represents us all here.”

Sounds easy enough right? But now comes the hard part: finding a mug that’s as cool as this one to house it.

The Derelict

.75 oz lime juice
.75 oz grapefruit juice
.25 oz lilikoi puree
.25 oz Don’s Spices #4
.50 oz Demerara syrup
.75 oz banana blend
2 dshr dshs Angostura bitters
4 dshr dshs absinthe
.25 oz Hamilton 151 proof Demerara rum
.50 oz Hamilton Navy Strength rum
.50 oz Appleton Rare Blend 12yr rum
1 oz Buffalo Trace bourbon
1 oz El Dorado 12yr rum

Flash blend for 5 seconds with one measuring cup of crushed ice & dump into a Derelict mug, top with crushed ice. Garnish with a lime shell filled with ground banana chips & a small amount of citrus oil and set aflame.

[Photos: Yumi Matsuo for A Hotel Life]

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