Challenged with capers by Terrace at Trump head bartender Ingi Sigurdsson, Josh "Sonic" Relkin of Sable found his own dislike of them "tough to get past." In the end, he said, "it took a lot of work to make the capers work."
For one thing, capers are typically preserved in brine, which gives them their most notable attribute: saltiness. Relkin—a Johnson & Wales culinary grad who's worked in the kitchen at Per Se, New Jersey's Restaurant Nicholas, and Alinea—started out by soaking them. And soaking them. And soaking them some more, for a total of 12 hours, changing the water every two.
He then used the capers to flavor a bottle of Rittenhouse Rye, steeping them in it for another six hours to produce an infused whiskey with the greenish-brown color of a pond you probably wouldn't want to swim in. As a corrective for that he turned to the triple sec liqueur Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao, whose (dyed) orange color gave the drink a warmer, less brackish hue. Artichoke, he thought, would complement both the capers and the peppery taste of rye, so he used the savory Italian artichoke liqueur Cynar to play up those flavors. Lemon and cucumber freshened things, but thanks to the infused rye, which "came out a little more capery than I wanted," Relkin remained unconverted—though he would consider putting the drink on the menu.
The name is a nod to The Great Muppet Caper; Relkin, a Muppets fan, also sports a tattoo of Animal among those on his sleeve.
Step-by-step instructions for making a Sable bartender's caper cocktail
Josh "Sonic" Relkin demonstrates his rye-based summer drink, the Great Cocktail Caper.
View a slideshow of Ingi Sigurdsson making a sweet potato cocktail.
The Great Cocktail Caper
1 oz caper-infused Rittenhouse Rye*
1 oz Cynar artichoke liqueur
3/4 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
1/4 oz simple syrup
3 cucumber slices
Dash of celery bitters
Combine the lemon juice, simple syrup, and Curaçao, then place two of the cucumber slices in the mixture and muddle them. Pour in the infused rye, Cynar, and two dashes of celery bitters. Add ice and shake well. Double strain over ice in a rocks glass and garnish with the third slice of cucumber.
* Caper-infused Rye
Soak a jarful of capers in water for 12 hours, changing the water every two. Drain the capers and steep in a bottle of Rittenhouse Rye for six hours. Strain.
Relkin has challenged Micah Melton of the Aviary with goat cheese. "Lots of cocktails use dairy," he said, "but goat cheese is . . . a little bit different."