So many cocktails appear to be named after tony locales, and the Park Avenue Cocktail fits right in with that. Though it’s been a long time since I’ve been to New York City, and I can’t conjure an image of the street, it does appear to play host to some of the biggest corporate powers extant: Bristol Meyers, Major League Baseball and Deutsche Bank among others are located there. Make of that what you will.
As for the drink’s history, while it’s featured in Ted Haigh’s epochal “Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails,” there’s no particular story to tell, though Haigh wonders why the tropical touch of pineapple juice came to be associated with a seat of wealth and power. I haven’t a clue, but I do know this is a nice, simple drink that’s got plenty of mass appeal and is pretty hard (though not impossible) to mess up. It’s also potent enough that you might not need a second one.
The Park Avenue Cocktail
2 ounces dry gin
3/4 ounce pineapple juice
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
2 teaspoons orange curacao
I tried the Park Avenue Cocktail with at least two different brands of every ingredient, and usually more. With one or two exceptions, whichever ingredients I used resulted in a drink that was sweet without being insipid and complex enough to be worth any cocktailian’s time.
Getting into the specifics, I’d be the first to admit that the Park Avenue would undoubtedly be better with fresh pineapple juice, but since I’m much too lazy to cut one up, I used Dole and Trader Joe’s brand juices, which are both at least “not from concentrate.” My gins were Boodle’s, Gordon’s, Prairie Organic and Bulldog. I used Noilly Pratt and Martini sweet vermouth, and my curacaos were Hiram Walker, Pierre Ferrand Dry and Grand Marnier.
The latter, I believe, technically qualifies as curacao, but when combined with the Bulldog Gin, it resulted in the only version of the Park Avenue Cocktail I made that was a flat-out failure; the flavors just didn’t blend at all and the result was, to use a technical term, nasty. Bulldog is good stuff but very complex and bitter, so I think my gin choice was probably partially at fault. On the whole, I would stick with your more standard dry gins for this one. Hendrick’s, with its cucumber infusion might be interesting…or really bad. Your basic Bombay Drys, Beefeaters and Tanquerays should be great.
Moving back to the curacao, though it’s actually the smallest ingredient, it’s impact on the final product was major. Those who like their drinks slightly less sweet and more complex should definitely try out the Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao. It’s only a bit less sweet than a standard orange curacao and the overall result was, to my taste buds, more complex and appealing. Considering that cocktail uber-historian David Wondrich was involved with its creation, I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s such a good product that plays nicely in good mixed drinks.