by Nandini Natasha Austin
An Enchanted New York Night for the 11th Annual Central Park Conservatory Benefit.
It was a hot balmy summer night in Central Park when we first arrived at what seemed like an enchanted garden. With its luscious scents of flowers and romantically constructed grounds, we might have stumbled upon a scene from C.S Lewis’s ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.
With the first sip of of the our cocktail, I was transported back to a magical time and place. Was it in Narnia that you might find such a lush setting and the promise of an enchanted mystical night? To be more down to earth, I thought to myself, my spirits were probably helped along by my first sips of the mezcal-based drink The Cocktail Architect had created for the occasion. Our unique drink and this lovely evening in the middle of Manhattan would build a long lasting memory that myself and many of the attending guests would remember long after the event faded from our calendar apps.
This mystical venue – otherwise known as the Conservatory Garden – can be found just inside Central Park at Fifth Avenue and East 105th Street. At its flowery best this time of year, was this stunning backdrop for the Central Park Conservancy’s 11th annual summer benefit. We were honored that The Cocktail Architect was part of such a dreamy night providing specially crafted Mezcal cocktails for the event.
A bit of history: the Central Park Conservancy is a private, nonprofit organization, formed by a group of concerned citizens in 1980 who were determined to improve the condition of Central Park. It took years and the generosity of many individuals, corporations, and foundations, along with the City of New York, to bring the park back to the lush garden we were enjoying this evening. The model of cooperation among many groups developed by the Central Park Conservancy has made it a leading example for urban park renovation worldwide.
What was our task at hand? To create a unique drinking experience for the mix of young entrepreneurs, old money and all the others who form a crucial part of the Conservancy’s fundraising network. We thought this was the ideal crowd to introduce to Tres Papalote, a new Mezcal brand we represent. This artisanally-made Mezcal is carefully harvested from wild-growing Cupreata agave plants. This is one of many agaves that are used to make Mezcals, as Tequila uses Blue agave. these agaves can only be found in the mountains. The plant must reach a specific maturity before it can be cut which means the harvesters must travel by foot or on donkey to reach the plant, arduous work but definitely worth it.
To align with the conservancy green initiatives and it being summer, we opted for Cucumber as the main ingredient. If you are anything like me, I tend to drink cocktail after cocktail, forgetting to switch to water in between each cocktail – does anyone do that really? However as the drinks flowed, I told myself that by drinking the cucumber juice I was rehydrating as cucumbers are known for doing just that!
Anyway, they really helped balance the cocktail, adding a flowery light undertone. As we support every local and lovingly hand made all of our cocktails , we sourced the cucumbers fresh from Union Square Farmers Market and meticulously scooped out the seeds with a large silver spoon. We then blitzed the cucumber into our blender creating the most sublime watery green cucumber juice.
Cucumbers are also known to fight the heat inside and out, another reason why we chose to pair it with Mezcal which is known for its rich yet light smoky flavor and elegant herbal and citrus notes.
The whole drink took on another dimension once the agave was added for a dash of sweetness, the citrus added a light zing to the drink. For a bit of heat and fun we garnished the drink with a fire roasted Jalapeno that had been blackened on the grill. This added a nice kick of heat at the end, when you tasted the fiery roasted Jalapeno.
Our Tres Papalote Up in Smoke Cocktail:
As the night went on, we mingled with New York’s conscious, young professionals and listening to live music on the garden’s pergola from High & Mighty Brass Band. We marveled as the guests came back for more of our cocktails whilst enjoying mouthfuls of delicious morsels. One bite in particular that paired exceptionally well with our signature cocktail was a delightfully crunchy vegetable samosa accompanied with a spicy chutney from Masalawala!
Sitting beneath a canopy of wisteria and overlooking the acres of gorgeous fountains, blooms and lush landscapes, I felt a sense of satisfaction. Knowing once again The Cocktail Architect had delivered on creating long lasting memories through cocktails. And on that magical night we helped The Conservancy to continue their works, keeping Central Park beautiful for current and future generations to come.
Yusef and Nandini Austin; The Cocktail Architect Creators
To make the cocktail
Recipe Up in Smoke :
In a shaker with ice combine the following :
Garnish : Roasted Jalapeno