The Dutch's Naren Young Talks Barrel-Aging Cocktails, Stealing Pickled Ramp Juice

Naren Young ramps it up.
After months -- or was it years? -- the Dutch has finally arrived. Foodies are duly losing their minds, but drinkies (you know who you are) are also flocking to the place. Head barman Naren Young enlightens us about what they're so excited about, including that barrel-aged cocktail you've heard tales of.

You're still at Locanda, but also getting the Dutch cocktail program off the ground. How are you splitting your time?

I'm stationed at the Dutch at least four to five nights a week, but still manage the seasonal cocktail menus at Locanda Verde.

What's good to drink at the Dutch?

Our focus, where possible, is on craft American spirits. Not exclusively, of course, but where we could find some really interesting, unique, artisanal spirits, we've certainly gone after these. American whiskey is a big focus for us also, whether it be white whiskey from Wisconsin, moonshine from Virginia, to corn whiskies, loads of bourbon, Tennessee whiskies, Canadian. As for the cocktails, we have a mix of classics and some originals of my own. We have a small list of 10 drinks that is well-balanced and hopefully has something for everybody.

We hear you're barrel-aging cocktails. What's up with that?

The first drink I've experimented with is the classic Brooklyn Cocktail (rye, maraschino, dry vermouth, Amer Picon), which we laid down in a five-gallon barrel for about five weeks. After that time, it emerged intensely dark and rich with a much deeper complexity than when it went in. People literally lapped it up. We sold the entire barrel in one week. Now I have three barrels laying down, which will rotate so we never run out again. It's essentially the Manhattan lover's Manhattan.

You also worked on the Teqa program. Is tequila something of a darling of the moment?

I'm not involved in that program anymore. But to answer your question, tequila has been on a slow and steady climb upwards because people are finally starting to realize what quality tequila actually means. For too long, people didn't know any better and were happy to drink nasty tequila just to get messed up. Now you can buy tequila for $300 a
shot! Who would've thought?

Do you have a favorite spirit or ingredient these days?

I really like using fresh herbs in the spring because they add such beautiful yet delicate nuances to light spring spirits, such as blanco tequila, pisco, white rum, and, of course, gin. I am particularly proud of my Pickled Ramp Gibson right now, which is essentially a
Dirty Martini -- which I hate! -- with the local Breuckelen Gin, Dolin dry vermouth, lemon bitters, and some pickled ramp juice that I "borrowed" from our chefs. It's selling much better than I expected and is an amazing partner to a plate of fresh oysters.

You also write about cocktails for magazines. What's your favorite booze book?

I really like Imbibe by David Wondrich and have read over that several times. He has an amazing way of telling the history of alcohol through the lens of what was happening socially during a certain period. And his style is very witty and humorous, which is refreshing.

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