A '$4 Slushie' Tops Critic's List Of Best Cocktail Of The Year New Yorker writer Emma Allen shares her favorite cocktail of 2016 with NPR's Robert Siegel. "The Painkiller" — which Allen calls "a $4 slushie" — is served at Johnson's in Bushwick, N.Y.
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A '$4 Slushie' Tops Critic's List Of Best Cocktail Of The Year

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A '$4 Slushie' Tops Critic's List Of Best Cocktail Of The Year

A '$4 Slushie' Tops Critic's List Of Best Cocktail Of The Year

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Last year around this time we introduced you to Emma Allen of The New Yorker, who has one of the most interesting beats in journalism. Emma covers the New York bar scene. And while that entails reviewing everything from bar room decor to bathroom cleanliness, it inevitably includes what's served up to drink, too. Last year, she introduced us to the best drink she'd had all year, the Sakura Martini, and we invited her back to our New York bureau to share with us the distilled spirit of the year 2016. Emma, welcome back.

EMMA ALLEN: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: How was your year of barhopping, elbow bending and trenchant writing?

ALLEN: (Laughter) It was a fun one. I feel like certainly a year that required some stiff drinks, but, you know, it's good when it's on the employer's dime.

SIEGEL: The New Yorker subscribers appreciate that.

ALLEN: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: Are there any notable trends in the New York bar scene you can tell us about before we get to your recommended drink?

ALLEN: Sure. There's a big rise of the aperitif and digestif, I think, in cocktails. It's not just your rail liquors anymore. You know, one of the drinks of the summer, certainly one of the drinks I drank a lot of the summer was the Aperol Spritz, and Fernet and Coke has become quite popular.

SIEGEL: Fernet and Coke?

ALLEN: It's Fernet-Branca, which is a digestif, and you mix it with Coca-Cola and thereby hide the poisonous taste of a digestif.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) I see. Well, this does not describe the drink that you recommended, that was your - roughly speaking your drink of the year. It's called The Painkiller. Tell us about it.

ALLEN: The Painkiller, that's like the punch line for 2016. The Painkiller, well, the one I wrote about is at this bar in Bushwick that's called The Johnson's, which is the sibling bar of a really dank, disgusting Lower East Side dive called Welcome to the Johnson's. But the Johnson's in Bushwick is the sort of cleaned up younger sibling. And they have a slushy machine there, sort of ala 7-Eleven, like a Slurpee cocktail. And they serve it from this machine, The Painkiller, which is a rum-based coconut flavored - it's got some pineapple in there, some orange. And during the day it costs as little as $4.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) I see...

ALLEN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...Well, what an amazing coincidence because we just happen to have in the studio this afternoon some rum, albeit not the brand that you recommend, some pineapple juice, cream of coconut, orange juice, some nutmeg, cinnamon, it's all here.

ALLEN: Indeed a coincidence.

SIEGEL: And so given that opportunity, we thought we would bring in our staff mixologist Carol Klinger, who usually is our chief booker and finds all kinds of people.


SIEGEL: And that's Carol pouring some - is that the rum, Carol? And plenty of it, haitian rum, into a mixer. Next comes pineapple juice.

ALLEN: I've got a paper cup of water. I feel like...

SIEGEL: You're joining in with that?

ALLEN: ...Short end of the stick here.

SIEGEL: Well, here comes some orange juice. Now we have a can of cream of coconut.

ALLEN: Yeah, this is certainly - it's like a Tiki-like drink, it sort of has that pleasing sunblock taste.

SIEGEL: Yes, actually one of the glasses I see that's going to be filled up soon looks like it was bought at the gift shop on Easter Island. It's, you know, one of those Moai faces.

ALLEN: Yeah, legend has it this drink originates I think at the Soggy Dollar Bar, which is in the British Virgin Islands, although with these things one never knows.

SIEGEL: Now it's time to blend.


ALLEN: Success?

SIEGEL: It looks it, and now Carol is pouring the mixed drink into an enormous bowl with two straws in it. And now I'm being served. Emma Allen, your selected drink of the year. Carol has just placed a lei around my neck before I drink some of this. Ah, I feel no pain whatever (laughter).

ALLEN: (Laughter) Lime and the coconut, works every time.

SIEGEL: Well, it's very fruity and it's a rum drink and it's cold, so it's a refreshing drink. I have to say that, you know, the color after you have the pineapple and the orange and the rum - it's a dark rum that we have - it's not - from a presentation standpoint, it's not the most attractive liquid I've seen.

ALLEN: It's sort of a Band-Aid color, right?

SIEGEL: (Laughter) Well, that wasn't the first thing that occurred to me, but that works, yes. It's kind of a Band-Aid color, like a very smoky ale that we'd ordered. And since I'm feeling no pain, it must be effective. It's - this is The Painkiller.

ALLEN: Yeah, the color - the presentation matters less and less as you go on.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) I see.

ALLEN: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: That is The Painkiller from Johnson's...

ALLEN: The Johnson's, yes.

SIEGEL: ...The upscale Johnson's.

ALLEN: The upscale Johnson's with the clean bathrooms in Bushwick.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) Well, if there were no chance at a Bombay Sapphire gin martini, I could see ordering this drink.

ALLEN: Yeah, I wouldn't order a Bombay Sapphire gin martini at the Johnson's, you might get some looks.

SIEGEL: Is that right? (Laughter) That's not in?

ALLEN: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: Well, Emma, I hope you have a pain-free year.

ALLEN: (Laughter) Thanks.

SIEGEL: That's Emma Allen of The New Yorker, and our own master of the mixer, Carol Klinger.

ALLEN: You going to drink the whole fish bowl, or?


ALLEN: (Laughter).

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