After Tasting Many New Drinks, Robert Siegel Finally Gets His Own : The Salt For the past few years, bar reviewer Emma Allen has introduced us to great drinks. This year, she surprises retiring host Robert Siegel with a cocktail designed just for him.

The Ultimate Cocktail To Send Off An NPR Host: 'Radio Silence'

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For the past few holidays just before New Year's, Emma Allen has introduced us to new drinks. There was the Sakura martini.


EMMA ALLEN: There's this brined cherry blossom in the bottom.

SIEGEL: And a frozen fruity rum drink called The Painkiller.


ALLEN: Sort of a la 7-Eleven, like a Slurpee.

SIEGEL: All in a day's work because Allen has covered the New York bar scene for The New Yorker over the years - tough gig, but somebody had to do it. This year, she joined us from the Grand Army bar in Brooklyn with one of the city's most popular bartenders, Damon Boelte. He has invented a new cocktail which she is very excited about. Hi, Emma.

ALLEN: Hi there.

SIEGEL: Tell us about the Grand Army bar and this bartender.

ALLEN: Well, so I'm seated here at the Grand Army bar on a leafy, charming corner of Brooklyn. The fire is burning in the fireplace. So pretty much a good place to be with a drink in hand.

SIEGEL: So let's hear now from Damon Boelte, who also, by the way, has a weekly Heritage Radio program called The Speakeasy and who's at the Grand Army bar, which, if you don't know Brooklyn, we're talking about the very epicenter of hip.

ALLEN: (Laughter) Damon Boelte, let me add, is from Lone Wolf, Okla. And you can't see him, but he is prodigiously bearded and long-haired. So we got Joni Mitchell hair plus beard, (laughter) cowboy hat on.

DAMON BOELTE: Hey, Robert.

SIEGEL: Hiya, Damon. And first, tell us, how often do you concoct new drinks there at the bar?

BOELTE: Pretty much on a nightly or hourly basis, guest by guest, so we're happy to come up with something on the fly.

SIEGEL: Well, tell us a little about the inspiration for this new drink, which you'll be making there in New York for Emma. And while you do that, by the way, our staff mixologist, Carol Klinger, the Vanna White of cocktails at National Public Radio, will make one of them for me right here in the studio in Washington.

BOELTE: Great. So I know you're a big fan of martinis.


BOELTE: Kind of playing to my audience, you know? To me, a martini is more than just gin and vermouth and bitters. You know, you can throw sherry in there for the vermouth. You can modify it with chartreuse or things like Benedictine. But for me, a martini's always something that's very clean and also slightly reflective.

SIEGEL: So by reflective here, you mean that it should - it's kind of a thoughtful experience, a thinking-back-on-things experience.


SIEGEL: It's not how the light bounces off the martini glass. That's not what you're talking about.

BOELTE: Well, we'll be mixing here...


BOELTE: ...In some antique Waterford Crystal. So, yeah, you get some resonance and reflection. But I - to me, I feel like a martini is something that you sit with. And this one definitely is - the Benedictine being a over-500-year-old French liqueur with honey notes and brandy, and that paired up with some sherry, you know, it's something you sip on. You don't really slam it. Then I'm going to be using Brooklyn gin.

SIEGEL: Well, why don't you take us through the recipe and how you're making it? And our very own Carol Klinger will follow along.

BOELTE: All right, Carol, you ready?


BOELTE: So just do one healthy dash of Angostura bitters.

SIEGEL: There you go.

BOELTE: A quarter ounce of Benedictine. You got that?

SIEGEL: It's coming.


SIEGEL: Benedictine. Roger.

BOELTE: OK. Moving on to the Manzanilla sherry. You can use Fino sherry. So we're going to go about three-quarters of an ounce of that.

SIEGEL: Sherry in.

BOELTE: OK. And then 2 ounces of gin. And whenever you're building a cocktail, you always want to start with the smallest...

SIEGEL: Really?

BOELTE: ...Proportion first. Yeah, because if you mess up then you haven't wasted 2 ounces of gin.

SIEGEL: (Laughter).

BOELTE: So typically what we do in this situation is you build all the ingredients in the mixing glass first. That way you're not building over ice because every ingredient you pour over the ice cubes is going to start diluting...

SIEGEL: Right.

BOELTE: ...At a different rate. So it'll throw off the balance of the drink. By the time you shake or stir a cocktail, it's around 15 to 18 percent water by the end. And dilution is key. So crack a couple of ice cubes.

SIEGEL: Carol's getting into it here.

BOELTE: Yeah (laughter). Well, it's fun.

KLINGER: It's - my tapper's not cracking it very well. I'm going to try my (unintelligible). It's all over the place.

BOELTE: You're really going for it (laughter). And the reason why we crack these cubes is because if you just stir with the ice cubes as they come out of the machine they are very cold, and they won't really dilute very quickly. So we crack a couple of them so you have smaller shards of ice, which will actually melt quicker.

SIEGEL: And you want them to dilute, you're saying. That's a plus. That's necessary.

BOELTE: Absolutely.


BOELTE: It's a major part of the cocktail.

SIEGEL: Here comes the ice into the mixing glass there.

BOELTE: Sounds lovely.

SIEGEL: Right.

BOELTE: So you're going to give that a stir for about let's say maybe 30 to 40 stirs.

SIEGEL: Stirring a little bit.

BOELTE: It's important to note that a martini classically is stirred and not shaken. It wasn't until the Bond movie came out that that changed. And the reason why it's stirred and not shaken is because there's no citrus or dairy or anything that needs to be agitated from, you know, rigorous shaking. Again, with a martini, it should be clean and elegant without bubbles in it.

SIEGEL: Well, is - do you think we're ready now to...

BOELTE: So strain that off into a martini glass. And once you've strained that off completely then you can peel a nice swath of lemon peel and then express that over the top, kind of squeeze it. So you'll see the oils shoot out over the top of the glass and make a nice little oil slick.

SIEGEL: This is what you mean by expressing, is squeezing...

BOELTE: Expressing the oils. Yeah.

SIEGEL: ...The oil out. Yeah.

BOELTE: And then the outside of the peel you'll rub around the very rim of the glass, and then drop it in. And then you have your martini for the winter or summer.

SIEGEL: Damon Boelte, thank you very much. Before we turn to Emma Allen, can you just - what's the name of this drink?

BOELTE: Well, in the interest of reflection, I named this one Radio Silence.

SIEGEL: Radio Silence. OK. (Laughter) Damon, thanks a lot.

ALLEN: (Laughter) This drink was especially inspired by the end of your tenure on the air, which - we're all saddened by it, but what better excuse to drink away our sorrows?

SIEGEL: (Laughter) OK.

ALLEN: Have you sampled yours yet?

SIEGEL: No, I'm waiting for you.

ALLEN: All right. I'm about to take my first sip.

SIEGEL: Very good. Damon Boelte is the co-owner and bartender at the Grand Army bar in Brooklyn. Emma Allen is the New Yorker cartoon and Daily Shouts editor. Thanks to both of you, and bottoms up.

ALLEN: Thanks for the excuse for an afternoon martini.

SIEGEL: Same here.

ALLEN: (Laughter) Cheers.

BOELTE: Cheers.

SIEGEL: Cheers.


FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) Come fly with me. Let's fly, let's fly away. If you can use some exotic booze, there's a bar in far Bombay. Come fly with me...


Well, Robert, you and I are both here sampling the Radio Silence cocktail which barely assuages the sadness we feel, the fact that one week from today you'll be signing off from this show for the last time.

SIEGEL: It's assuaging me pretty well right now, actually, and...

SHAPIRO: Is there anything left on your bucket list?

SIEGEL: On my bucket - I've had great opportunities to do so many things that I've wanted to do. I guess another couple of martinis.

SHAPIRO: All right.

SIEGEL: And...

SHAPIRO: It's Friday afternoon.

SIEGEL: ...If we could find those 13 works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the next week that, too, would be really satisfying.

SHAPIRO: Well, Robert, happy New Year. I'm glad we have at least one more week with you.

SIEGEL: Happy New Year. I'll see you on Tuesday. Enjoy the weekend.

SHAPIRO: You, too.


SINATRA: (Singing) Starry-eyed. Once I get you up there I'll be holding you so near. You may hear angels cheer 'cause...

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