Evan Lopez is the director of the Living Room Bar in the lobby of the W New York Times Square, and he is friendly, with a firm handshake. But he was all business as he set about displaying some of the ingredients for the Living Room's new cocktail.
There was Wray & Nephew rum. A bottle of Martell VS cognac, and some Angostura bitters. Then there was mezcal and another bottle of cognac. More rum. There was a tiny bottle of Underberger herbal bitters from Germany. And that was only about a third of what it takes to make the A-Z cocktail.
The premixed versions of the A-Z cocktail at the Living Room bar at the W New York Times Square. Photo Credit: Rebecca Tobin
The drink, which was created by the London-based consultancy Bompass and Parr, has 26 ingredients, each corresponding to a letter of the alphabet.
Of course, a marquee cocktail isn't a new premise. There have been drinks with three- and four-figure pricing and drinks dusted with gold flakes. There's always that rare vintage of wine for oenophile bragging rights. W prizes regional focus, Lopez said, and that is reflected in the bar's specialty cocktails, which are themed to and named for New York neighborhoods.
But with the evolution of serious cocktailing -- mixology, historical recipes and the ubiquitous seasonal drinks lineup with all the ingredients and brand names listed prominently on the menu -- the bar, so to speak, always gets higher and higher. Perhaps the Living Room being the only place in the world (maybe?) where one can order a Sunset Park Mule with Avion Reposado tequila is not enough.
"The competition has just blown up exponentially," Lopez said. "It's a constant battle. You walk out the door and you have a million bars, a million cocktails."
The A-Z came together via a partnership with the W, its public relations agency and Bompass and Parr. It took four days to figure out how to make a drink that encompassed 26 items with a-to-z names and to do it in a way that actually made a harmonious drink. "As you can imagine, with so many ingredients, this was no easy task," said Bompass and Parr co-founder Harry Parr.
In an email, Parr explained his inspiration. "New York City's hotels have been the birthplace of some of the world's most epic cocktails over the past 200 years. We wanted to create a drink for W New York Times Square that shows you can achieve refinement even when dealing with the most complex of formulas." He added that the multiplicity of ingredients, and their origins, was a nod to the "crossroads" of Times Square and the W's global guests.
It took Lopez a couple of minutes to put together a version of the drink based on the ingredients he had on hand, and then he served me what most guests will receive: a cocktail poured from a premixed batch. The measurements of some of the ingredients are so tiny, so precise, that hand-making it every time would be difficult. Not to mention a drain on the bartender's precious time.
A to Z cocktail from Travel Weekly on Vimeo.
The drink is positioned as a centerpiece of the Living Room bar's offerings, and it's also available in a complimentary, premixed bottle in the hotel's Wow Suites. All of the ingredients will be listed in an insert in the bar's menu, along with their geographic origin (for example, Nine Leaves rum from Japan and Botran Solera rum from Guatemala), as well as its premium price, $36.
Lopez called the A-Z primarily a rum-based drink, but when I tasted it, the mezcal and cognac flavors stood out to me. Despite all that went into it, I found the cocktail was very easy to drink and would probably appeal to a broad range of tastes. It was a little sweet, but not overly so. At 90 proof, though, it is strong. And, without a doubt, memorable.