For me, one of the most exciting things about living in a city like New York is the chance to get in on the ground floor of a fantastic new restaurant. Not too long ago I visited a spot that’s already one of my favorites—at the crossroad of St. Nicholas Avenue and 118th Street in Harlem sits The Cecil, which just might be the first Afro-Asian-American brasserie to grace our city’s dining scene. The food is remarkable—fusion dishes like oxtail dumplings with green apple curry, giant spicy prawns over yam flapjacks with piri-piri sauce, and cinnamon-scented fried guinea hen and bourbon-praline ham—but it’s the cocktails that really dazzle. Mixologist Tim Cooper draws from the same geographic inspirations that the kitchen does, resulting in concoctions like a chile-honey spiked West African peanut punch, or my favorite, the Toasted Sesame Highball, an aromatic libation that takes the classic Tom Collins and pushes it a continent or two further. Gin is combined with toasted sesame oil (it sounds odd; it tastes amazing), then shaken vigorously with muddled cucumber, lemon juice, and simple syrup, and topped with a splash of fizzy club soda. The result is a tall, nutty-sweet drink perfect for sipping while navigating the menu—or at home, or really anywhere.
Friday Cocktails: Toasted Sesame Highball