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Per Se -- The Cocktail


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#1 beans

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Posted 09 May 2004 - 09:45 AM

Per Se is careful to present cocktails that are not palate-killers. The house drink is vodka with Pineau des Charentes, a hybrid of Cognac and wine-grape juice. Pineau is naturally sweet and makes a very smooth cocktail with a simple taste that is elusive to the point of erudition — much the intention of the house. (It's also $17.) With a severely designed garnish that changes seasonally (on Wednesday, a raspberry bookended on an acrylic skewer by two sliced grapes), the Per Se is as cerebrally cool as it is cold to taste.


Interesting to note that they will soon be making their own tonic from quinine powder...

Today's William L. Hamilton's full column can be viewed here.


Cheers!

#2 cdh

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Posted 09 May 2004 - 10:21 AM

Huh? :blink:

"taste that is elusive to the point of erudition"????? Huh? What does this mean?????

So invisible it is learned??? ! :blink:

This just doesn't make any sense to me. Is he trying to say that it is subtle in its simplicity, or that its apparent simplicity masks an underlying complexity, or was he just reaching for an apropos alliteration that the Times editors let slide?

Maybe I'm just dense, but that description makes no sense and is all but worthless to me. Anybody care to clarify it for me?

Edited by cdh, 09 May 2004 - 12:24 PM.

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#3 JAZ

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Posted 09 May 2004 - 06:09 PM

Perhaps it's that it's so inherently tasteless that one has to have a learned imagination to discern any taste at all?

I have to agree, as far as descriptions go, it's worthless. And while we're at it, what's a "severely designed garnish"?

#4 slkinsey

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Posted 09 May 2004 - 06:28 PM

The recipe is something like this:

2 parts Ciroc Vodka
1 part Pineau des Charentes (a sweet blend of Cognac and wine-grape juice)
Dash Grand Marnier
Garnish

The first two ingredients are stirred with ice and strained into a cocktail glass that has been rinsed with Grand Marnier.

For this they are charging 17 dollars? We're talking about maybe 4 dollars of ingredients.
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#5 mongo_jones

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Posted 09 May 2004 - 11:16 PM

sam, you're forgetting the elusive erudition that goes into the cocktail. can't put anything as crass as a number on that.

#6 slkinsey

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 05:00 AM

Oh yea... I guess that means that whoever came up with the cocktail had a lot of cocktail "book learning" but was extremely difficult to nail down as to which books he had read. That's gotta be worth another 10 bucks right there.
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#7 beans

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 10:55 AM

Geesz, you guys are a tough crowd! :biggrin:

It's Per Se!

It's Thomas Keller doing cocktails!

Of course this one is so subtle that it is meant to be sipped, enjoyed and not to interfere with one's palate. And any skewers that I'm directed to place, exactly in this order, one raspberry, two grapes and finishing with another raspberry is severely designed!

As far as price of the drink, I'd estimate it is on the dot.

DISCLAIMER, Part I: While prices fluctuate and/or vary from state to state, month to month, etc. This is the following per Ohio Wholesale Price List, as published by the OLBA.

(All 750ml bottles, and following that quoted cocktail recipe).

Ciroc: $25.45
Grand Marnier: $29.30
Pineau de Charentes: $49.95*

*DISCLAIMER, Part II: Now the Pineau des Chantres isn't available in Ohio, and I had to web search for a price, which may be more of a retail price than a wholesale price, but it seems in line and will come close to painting a fair liquor cost picture for this illustration.

A 750ml will yield 25.35 one ounce shots. So, for this would be the cost for the following:

Ciroc: $1.0039 an ounce
Grandma: $1.155 an ounce
Pineau: $1.9704 an ounce

2 parts Ciroc + 1 part Pineau + a dash (I assigned that to be approximately 1/8th of an ounce, or thereabouts) of Grandma = $4.1225 per drink

$1.0039
1.0039
1.9704
$3.9782
+ .1443 (for the "dash" 1/8th of the Grandma: 1.155/8)
$4.1225

So, okay these are all good ballpark figures and for the sake of simplicity Mr. Keller is shooting for a straight line, ambitious liquor cost of 20 percent, the drink would be $20.6125; however if it were at a 25 percent liquor cost, then the drink would be $16.49.


Whew! :biggrin:





edit: egregious typo repair!

Edited by beans, 10 May 2004 - 07:23 PM.


#8 slkinsey

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 11:25 AM

Interesting, Beans, and thanks. We don't often see things from this perspective.

FWIW, I've seen prices for White Pineau Des Charentes as low as 40 bucks at retail. Assuming the wholesale cost is somewhere around 16% lower than that, we're talking about something like 34 dollars, or $1.3412 an ounce. Does that sound reasonable?

That would give us

$1.0039 : ounce Ciroc
$1.0039 : ounce Ciroc
$1.3412 : ounce White Pineau Des Charentes
$0.1443 : dash Grand Marnier
$3.4933 : total

At 20% : $17.46
At 25% : $13.97


Would you say that 20% ingredient cost (i.e., a 500% markup) is standard in the business? It certainly puts the wine markups everyone is always complaining about into sharp perspective.
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#9 beans

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 11:46 AM

Would you say that 20% ingredient cost (i.e., a 500% markup) is standard in the business?

Sort of. Liquor Cost is usually different than Food Cost, which is usually at about 33 percent.

However, I've never looked at it from the huge ___ (say 500) percentage markup, but that depends on the boss and how they look at it! :biggrin:

I learned from the __ (say 20) percent Liquor Cost perspective. And at 20 percent, that is quite nice and something to boast about. :smile:

For the much of the restaraurant/bar industry: 24-26 percent Liquor Cost is the norm.

Right now we are kicking butt with a tight group of new, very sharp roster of tenders and are at 21 percent, but that will flux up to 23 percent as the Summer sun shines -- a freaked out barback drops a case of bottled beer or someone, while in a hurry, slams down a hand blown bottle of Patron on the Glastender, stainless steel "steps" and inadvertently breaks the bottle. :rolleyes:

Smart managers know that a well liquor drink is not priced at that designated/targeted Liquor Cost and is quite a tidy profit for the house when a guest orders same. Upselling to a call or premium brand only helps out a server's cover average and their own tip earnings.


Back to Per Se, the restaurant or house signature cocktail, I can't even fathom the costs that Keller operates at!

#10 slkinsey

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 12:04 PM

Given that Per Se doesn't figure to have a busy or significant bar scene, I would imagine that they don't have too much breakage/shrinkage to deal with in the bar area. They probably also don't even bother stocking well liquors (although that is only a guess).

Based on this drink, anyway, I'd guess they're trying to operate on 20% liquor cost.



Back to Per Se, though... I have to pick up some White Pineau Des Charentes and give it a try. Given the austerity and presumably subtle flavorings of this drink, I can imagine that the brand of vodka might actually make a difference, whereas I don't think it does in most cocktails (above the rotgut level, of course).
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#11 Fat Guy

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 12:11 PM

I had 3 of them at a 0% liquor cost at the pre-opening party, and I thought they made for excellent cocktails. The flavors were clear to me, not elusive, and it was a good food-cocktail -- I know this because I was snacking furiously while drinking them and it didn't interfere with the flavors of food the way a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned or something like that would.

There's also an interesting post related to the cocktail on the NY Per Se thread, by adrober.

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#12 slkinsey

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 12:49 PM

There's also an interesting post related to the cocktail on the NY Per Se thread, by adrober.

Which coclktail he didn't have there, right? I don't think his table had the signature cocktail.

Or, do you mean this:

I thought today's Sunday Styles' piece on the Per Se cocktail unintentionally got at what I was trying to get at:

"The Per Se [cocktail] is as cerebrally cool as it is cold to taste.  It is also so subtle as to be potentially banal. You have to hold its cultured thought tightly, to get to the bottom of it."

I think this describes the meal itself and explains why, despite the good efforts of everyone involved, I was slow to warm up to it.  To enjoy it you have to make a cognitive leap.  "Ah this is delicious because the crispy Carolina rice provides a textural component that contrasts nicely with the foie gras."  The yummy doesn't happen on an intuitive level.

I'm curious. As the only one among us who has actually had this cocktail... did it strike you as cerebral -- something you had to do some paradigm-adjusting to fully appreciate?
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#13 Fat Guy

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 02:03 PM

Well, as you know I'm not much of a cocktail person -- kind of like my man Thomas Keller -- but I found it an entirely approachable mixture. Vodka, Pineau des Charentes, and a touch of Grand Marnier; a sensible, tasty, not-overpowering combination.

I don't really understand what the cocktail column in the Times is about. I mean, surely as a cocktail per se the Per Se is nothing remarkable. I guess the idea is that the restaurant itself is important so the cocktail is important by definition too. But surely something like our Flaming Orange Gully, designed by Dale "the king of fucking cocktails" DeGroff, is infinitely more worthy of coverage.

In any event, I'll try to pick up on adrober's larger conceptual thread over in the NY forum, but ultimately I don't agree with it with respect to the cocktail or the food. Per Se isn't about elusive or overly subtle flavors. It's about a certain kind of restrained perfectionism. The Per Se isn't necessarily a cocktail-drinker's cocktail per se; it's more of a cocktail to be served in advance of a multi-course tasting menu.

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#14 bergerka

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Posted 10 May 2004 - 02:14 PM

I don't really understand what the cocktail column in the Times is about. I mean, surely as a cocktail per se the Per Se is nothing remarkable. I guess the idea is that the restaurant itself is important so the cocktail is important by definition too. But surely something like our Flaming Orange Gully, designed by Dale "the king of fucking cocktails" DeGroff, is infinitely more worthy of coverage.

Given that it was in the Sunday Styles section, might it just be an attempt to cover which cocktails are hip, hot, new, now and happenin' for the trendy cocktail aficionado?

K
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Lobster hamster worchester muenster
Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi
Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert
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Provolone flatbread goat's head soup
Gruyere cheese angelhair please
And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.
--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

#15 Mulcahy

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 07:08 AM

For this they are charging 17 dollars?


It's an obscene amount of money for a drink. For this amount of money you can get a pizza, a decent meal at a chinese restaurant and a lot of other stuff. That being said, however, I was charged $14 for a very crappy martini at Town, which is supposedly famous for cocktails, at a cramped an uncomfortable bar. So I don't think that Per Se's pricing, given what others charge, is unreasonable.

#16 slkinsey

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 07:26 AM

. . . I was charged $14 for a very crappy martini at Town, which is supposedly famous for cocktails . . .

Interesting... I was served one of the best martinis I have ever had at Town's bar. It was a Hendrick's martini, served with a translucently thin slice of cucumber as the garnish and a little plate of cucumber and sea salt on the side. I liked it so much, I just had to rip it off, and this presentation has become a popular one among my friends.
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#17 Mulcahy

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 07:42 AM

Not to hijack this topic into either an a) discussion about Town or b) a discussion about martinis, but I think the basic difference in our experiences is that my martini was a vodka martini (gasps heard from purists :shock:). Seriously, I was served semi-chilled Grey Goose up with tasteless olives. No vermouth. The bottle was never seen near my drink. This was before I learned (this experience taught me) to order my vodka martinis heavy on the vermouth.

#18 beans

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 08:39 AM

I don't really understand what the cocktail column in the Times is about. I mean, surely as a cocktail per se the Per Se is nothing remarkable. I guess the idea is that the restaurant itself is important so the cocktail is important by definition too. But surely something like our Flaming Orange Gully, designed by Dale "the king of fucking cocktails" DeGroff, is infinitely more worthy of coverage.

Given that it was in the Sunday Styles section, might it just be an attempt to cover which cocktails are hip, hot, new, now and happenin' for the trendy cocktail aficionado?

K

What she said. :raz:

#19 Fat Guy

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 08:48 AM

I guess. Doing a story on the Per Se "we did it because every restaurant in New York needs a house cocktail, not because we give a shit about cocktails per se" cocktail seems to represent a fairly plodding vision of what represents "hip, hot, new, now and happenin' for the trendy cocktail aficionado." It doesn't sound as though the writer even liked it or found it particularly worthy of coverage. And what makes it hip? Per Se is anything but hip -- it's a staid, extremely low-key, aristocratic restaurant for rich people and hardcore foodies willing to shell out $500+ per couple for dinner. The trendy cocktail aficionado presumably doesn't give a shit what Per Se or any other four-star-caliber restaurant is serving -- that's not where the cocktail action is.

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#20 Mulcahy

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 08:57 AM

The trendy cocktail aficionado presumably doesn't give a shit what Per Se or any other four-star-caliber restaurant is serving -- that's not where the cocktail action is.


It's down the hall at the Stone Rose.

#21 bergerka

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 09:12 AM

I guess. Doing a story on the Per Se "we did it because every restaurant in New York needs a house cocktail, not because we give a shit about cocktails per se" cocktail seems to represent a fairly plodding vision of what represents "hip, hot, new, now and happenin' for the trendy cocktail aficionado." It doesn't sound as though the writer even liked it or found it particularly worthy of coverage. And what makes it hip? Per Se is anything but hip -- it's a staid, extremely low-key, aristocratic restaurant for rich people and hardcore foodies willing to shell out $500+ per couple for dinner. The trendy cocktail aficionado presumably doesn't give a shit what Per Se or any other four-star-caliber restaurant is serving -- that's not where the cocktail action is.

*sigh* anyone know where I can find the sarcasm tags? apparently my post was too subtle. :rolleyes:

My point was that someone - the Times? the restaurant? only their hairstylists know for sure - was trying to make it SEEM "hip, hot, et al" by putting it in the Styles section instead of, say, Wednesday's Dining Out. Then again, not being a trendy cocktail aficionado myself, I wouldn't REALLY know (I tend to think of myself as a cocktail classicist, really, although always willing to experiment).

Since when has ANY cocktail located in that section been about the cocktail, per se (*snort*) instead of, well, the nifty-poo stylishness of the location, the bartender or the glass it's in?

K
Basil endive parmesan shrimp live
Lobster hamster worchester muenster
Caviar radicchio snow pea scampi
Roquefort meat squirt blue beef red alert
Pork hocs side flank cantaloupe sheep shanks
Provolone flatbread goat's head soup
Gruyere cheese angelhair please
And a vichyssoise and a cabbage and a crawfish claws.
--"Johnny Saucep'n," by Moxy Früvous

#22 J_Ozzy

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 10:11 AM

I don't know about everybody else, but $40 for pineau des charentes? :wink:
A quick search here in Ontario turned up several varieties for less than $20 canadian.
I guess Beans' disclaimer holds true .

#23 slkinsey

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 10:19 AM

Very interesting. Those prices range from $8.15 up to $23.95 for 750 ml. Those prices may be so low, however, because the store is owned/operated by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and therefore perhaps not taxed.
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#24 beans

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Posted 11 May 2004 - 10:23 AM

Anytime I get to a LCBO I've found many a French product much cheaper than I'd find, if it is even available, at home state oHIo. Champagne comes to mind because the last bottle I purchased was about $24 Canadian and it retails for about $50 US in my local wine shops.


edit: clarity

Edited by beans, 11 May 2004 - 10:25 AM.


#25 slkinsey

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Posted 07 June 2004 - 12:45 PM

Well... I think we finally have a reasonable idea of what Pineau des Charentes costs. I saw a bottle of it at Union Square Wines for abour 24 bucks and couldn't resist giving the Per Se Cocktail a try.

And...

It's really good. Not too complicated. Slightly sweet. Subtle flavors. The vodka more or less serves to dilute the otherwise strong/sweet Pineau des Charentes, which allows its flavors to be experienced on a more "clean canvass" without overloading the senses with too many strong flavors. It's a winner, and one that we will continue to make.

One note on "rinsing the glass" though... I always keep around 10 or so cocktail glasses in the door of my freezer. When rinsing a cold glass with anything sweet like Grand Marnier, the amount of liquor that adheres to the glass is significantly greater when the glass is freezer cold than it would be when the glass is at room temperature or has been briefly iced. For this drink, rather than the whole "rinse and shake" procedure, which inevitably wastes a bit of (rather expensive) Grand Marnier, I settled on around a half-teaspoon for each drink, which I think gives the right flavor. I still swirl the Grand Marnier in the glass, because I think it's a nice bit of show, but the GM never quite coats the inside of the glass due to thickening from the cold.
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