NewVillager Samples Mister H’s Best Vodka Cocktails

You can’t swing a MacBook without hitting a “multi-media artist” these days, but NewVillager’s broad and accomplished body of work all but renders the term an understatement. There’s the music, of course, like the band’s new single, “LightHouse,” an uplifting track from their upcoming self-titled debut album (out on IAMSOUND in August) that replaces typical indie-rock brooding with sheer, unadulterated happiness. There are the videos: “LightHouse” takes the costumed fantasy world of early Björk and adds to it modern dance, magic potions, and a woman inhaling all the life force in a room, or possibly just a very long piece of cotton. There’s plenty of writing: founding members Ben Bromley (left and right) and Ross Simonini (center) lovingly lay out the “NewVillager mythology” on their website; Simonini is the interviews editor for literary journal The Believer. There’s modern art, photography, and even NewVillager games, such as the one they play in the video for “Rich Doors,” which depicts a 27-person integrated event that involves, in part, a fluorescent green ball.

And now, the bi-coastal artist collective can add “cocktail taster” to their resumes, thanks to a recent evening spent critiquing vodka-based libations at Mister H, an exclusive lounge in the new Mondrian Soho hotel. It was a warm spring evening when we met Yusef Austin, a master mixologist with more than a decade of experience creating drinks for trendy nightclubs and parties around the world. As the cocktails started arriving, Bromley and Simonini pondered their unique charms, which actually paralleled the band’s artistic ethos, always resting on the friction point between opposing forces.

Exotique: 2 oz. Stoli Elit vodka, 1 oz. passion fruit juice, ¾ oz. cardamom and star anise elixir, ½ oz. fresh lime juice. Add pink peppercorn. Shake and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with pink peppercorn d ust and a hibiscus flower. Ben Bromley: The crystals on top form the spiral arms of a galaxy or hurricane. It’s a spinning pattern—a recurrent form. This drink is a force of nature. It reminds me of a cocoon house. Ross Simonini: I was hoping to taste the pepper more, but our collective youth is embedded in the effervescence of this drink.

Melons: 2 oz. Stoli vodka, 1 oz. cantaloupe puree, ¾ oz. rosemary-infused aquavit, ½ oz. fresh lime juice. Shake and serve in a rocks glass. Garnish with a cantaloupe wedge or rosemary sprig. BB: Rosemary takes me to a darker place, even though it’s a summer drink. It oscillates—my mind doesn’t know which flavor to accept. RS: The flavor comes alive in your nasal cavity. It feels like I’m making a conflicted decision between the rosemary and melon, and I need to transform myself to accept them as one. It’s like I’m opening a door. On one side, there’s a forest. On the other, only me.

Nasty Pepper: 1 ½ oz. hibiscus-infused Stoli vodka, 1 ½ oz. pepper-infused Don Julio Reposado tequila, ¾ oz. Cointreau, ½ oz. agave nectar, ¼ oz. fresh lime juice. Shake and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and lime wheel. BB: It’s like the fires of transformation. The fire just passed through my heart and it’s making its way down. It feels like something new has come through me. May I have your cantaloupe? RS: It’s a conflagration in my mouth. I’m standing on the edge of sour and spicy, and it makes me question whether I’m in one state or another. It’s burning in the back of my throat, as if a crow were pecking its way out of me.

The NewVillager: 2 oz. Stoli vodka, ¾ oz. fresh lime juice, ¼ oz. Crème Yvette liqueur, 4 drops plum bitters, ½ oz. simple syrup, 3 large sprigs of ai basil. Muddle basil with lime juice. Add remaining ingredients, shake, and strain into martini glass. Float the bitters on top. RS: The tartness makes me obsessively touch my tongue to the roof of my mouth. It’s nice, like a crack of light. I’m a house of light and I’m seeing where I’ve never seen before. The basil is making love to a lime on the back of a black sea turtle somewhere between Thailand and Mexico. BB: What Ross really means about light is that he’s a lightweight.

120 mph: ¾ oz. Stoli vodka, ½ oz. Kahlua, ½ oz. espresso. Rim a shot glass with half cocoa powder and half cayenne pepper. Shake and strain into shot glass. BB: This is the recapitulation of the whole cycle. It sparks your consciousness anew. The pepper reminds me of that point of transformation. The heat remains on the lips and makes me want to kiss someone. RS: It’s a mirror, a Jungian shadow of the Nasty Pepper. I’m just going to lick around the circle. Now it’s all coming back to me: I’m remembering that every glass I’ve ever drunk out of has been a circle. The coffee completely wipes away the intoxication and brings you back to clarity. It’s a freeway overpass, the yin and the yang.

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