Surely, one of the most difficult parts of writing a column about cocktails is trying to decide which cocktail to write about. It’s even more distressing than the thought of future cirrhosis. Every cocktail list is an adult’s version of the Dylan’s Candy Bar menu; there are so many brand new combinations of familiar ingredients. Therefore, on nights on which I decide to plunge myself drunkward in the face of future liver failure, I am often paralyzed by indecision. When anxiety hits, I always resort to the trusty acronym ALTYB (Always Listen To Your Bartender) and I hand over the reins to my night’s cocktail steward.
When I was handed the cocktail list at Pearl’s Social & Billy Club, I started with my usual “I want this, and I want this, and this.” Finally I narrowed it down to two cocktails, but the decision was still too hard. To the rescue: my companion, Mayra Gallegos, who directed me to the Gucci Maine #2 with a look that said, “C’ mon, this is Gucci Maine. How can you be thinking of ordering anything else?” I waffled briefly, tempted by my second choice drink, The Stranger, but she was right. In the case of Gucci Maine #2, a rose with any other name wouldn’t smell as sweet, because the name is the cocktail and the cocktail is the name, which says a lot about this bar.
Let’s start by taking a good look at the ingredients of Gucci Maine #2 and how they interact with each other. The base liquor for this cocktail is Grenal’s gin paired with damson gin plum liqueur. Gertrude Stein said, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” but gin is no rose. It can take various strange forms, and that’s why we have a nice combination of plum-infused gin paired with more gin. After this interesting combination of gin flavor comes the addition of cinnamon syrup with fresh lemon juice that elevates your palate. Cinnamon and lemon also give off a distinct smell that defines the cocktail. But what raises the drink to baller status, deserving of its baller name, is the Prosecco.
Adrian Varallyay, the creator of Gucci Maine #2, likes to keep things “fancy all the time,” which is what draws him to the Prosecco. The story behind the name comes after a good old-fashioned bar brainstorm. “I was sitting at Pearls with Betsy Maher (the owner of Pearl’s) and Gavin Morse (another bartender in the neighborhood), trying to come up with a name for it. I wanted it to have a ‘baller’ name, and at one point blurted out, ‘something like Gucci Mane,'” Adrian told us via email. Unsurprisingly, he had been listening to a lot of Gucci Mane at the time.
Since Gavin is from Maine and the autumn flavors of the cocktail reminded him of Maine, Betsy gave her approval for Gucci Maine. But this is the second generation of the original cocktail, with gin taking the place of whiskey, and thus, Gucci Maine #2 was born. “One of the patrons at Pearl’s told Betsy that the second iteration actually captures, in terms of smells, Pearl’s in fall/winter: incense burning, along with the aromatized steam from the hot toddy water and hot cider,” added Adrian.
Great cocktails revolve around great stories, and great stories revolve around cocktails. Just like the moon orbits around the Earth and both of them orbit the sun. Once every 28 days, these simultaneous orbits give a great alignment and we, mere mortals, gaze at the full moon. In the greater scheme of cocktail drinking and making, there need be this certain alignment that makes baller drinks with baller names for baller nights.
N.B. Author does not regret the extended use of the word “baller”.
Bushwick Mixer is a weekly column somewhere at the crossroads of pop culture and mixology in the bars of Bushwick. Hashtag your photos of Bushwick cocktails with #BushwickMixer and let us know why they should be tasted by the author of the column.
Gucci Maine #2 is served at Pearl’s Social & Billy Club, 40 St. Nicholas Avenue for $12.