Earlier today we took a look at what goes into one of Leo Robitschek’s Cocktail Explosions — the large-format Big Gulps served in supersize spigot jars filled with crushed ice. (For the drink that Robitschek calls a Madison Park Smash, pictured, that would be eight ounces of Pierre Ferrand cognac, eight ounces of Royal Combier liqueur, six ounces of lemon juice, two ounces of Demerara syrup, about an ounce of Angostura bitters, and 200 ounces by volume of crushed ice, not to mention six lemons and a quarter pound of mint for garnish.) Not exactly a quick one for the road. Here’s the NoMad drinks czar himself to further explain the thing.
1. Don’t call it a punch.
“The difference is that a Cocktail Explosion is a complete cocktail: There are aromatic components and it’s garnished just like an individual cocktail. And besides, my OCD doesn’t really allow punch bowls to happen. I don’t like to see people serving things from ladles and spilling drinks.”
2. Mason jars are so over.
“The idea just came to me a few years ago when we set up this stand for the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party on the patio of Eleven Madison Park, and we were doing Pappy Van Winkle cocktails served from this etched-glass, five-gallon vessel with a spigot that I found at this housewares showroom on 27th Street. It was like one of those containers you see people sell lemonade from at lemonade stands. From then on, I wanted something like that that was going to be clean and easy to serve from. For the NoMad Bar, we commissioned a few different glass blowers to make something for us; unfortunately, none were as perfect as the ones we found on an antiques website.”
3. Bigger ice isn’t necessarily better ice.
“A lot of people have the misconception that when you have a drink on crushed ice, it’s going to be more dilute, and while you do get more dilution right off the bat, if you look at the dilution curve, it dilutes a lot slower. Making a cocktail on crushed ice actually has a specific purpose. If you make something and shake it and serve it up, you’re obviously not going to get more dilution but it’s going to get warm with time. If you make something on the rocks, you’re going to get increasing dilution; it’s going to be slower at first but then have a steady dilution rate. But with crushed ice, you’re able to chill down that glass a lot quicker and it will maintain a colder temperature because there are more points of contact touching the glass than there would be with bigger chips. And you’re not really touching the vessel with your hands, so you’re not transferring heat to it.”
4. Everyone loves a bargain.
“We had to raise the price from $90 to $110, but considering the labor and that you get at least eight cocktails, that works out to $13.75 per drink, which is less than the $16 cost for an individual cocktail at NoMad Bar.”
5. It pretty much sells itself
“We make about eight Cocktail Explosions per evening on average. It’s really a chain reaction: “Oh, my God, I want one of those!” You’d assume it would be someone who’s entertaining and being festive, for a birthday or bachelorette party. But we’ve had everyone from people conducting a business meeting to a couple on a date, which we really don’t recommend. But it was okay because they ended up staying at the hotel.”