Bourbon: American as Apple Pie

Bourbon. The very word conjures something classic—say, a chance encounter at a dive bar in a ’40s film noir. The girl’s got moxie, so she takes it on the rocks, the same as the mysterious stranger with his brim pulled low. She matches him drink for drink as the clock ticks on toward midnight. At the witching hour, she gets up to leave and sidles past Mr. Tall/Dark/Handsome, and her satin heels are nearly out the door when he reaches out and pulls her into a long, smoky kiss. I’m not promising bourbon can do this for you. But try ordering it the next time you saddle up at your favorite watering hole. Chances are, the bartender will have a decent selection. Because bourbon’s back, baby, and with a bang.

An American classic if there ever was one, bourbon got its start in the limestone waters of Kentucky, where most bourbon is distilled to this day. The corn-based liquor gets its smooth, sweet smokiness from the charred interiors of new white oak barrels. To learn more about bourbon’s colorful history and that of its kissing cousin, Tennessee Whiskey (e.g. Jack Daniel’s), check out Fred Thompson’s new book, Bourbon. Thompson also breaks down the whole small-batch and single-barrel thing. But the real reason to pick this up? Fifty fine recipes, from the evergreen mint julep to the author’s bourbon balls.

A true southern comfort, the mint julep is due for a comeback. We’re hoping to taste-test the perfect bourbon to mix in this drink at next month’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ festival in NYC. In the meantime, we’re ringing in a minty-fresh New Year with the book’s silver-cup classic from the famed Greenbrier; along with a festive spin, the Sparkler. Bubbles up!

The Greenbrier’s Mint Julep 12 fresh mint sprigs, plus 2 sprigs for garnish 2 oz simple syrup Crushed ice 4 oz bourbon (Thompson’s preference: Maker’s Mark)

Place two old-fashioned glasses or julep cups in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Place 6 mint sprigs and 1 oz simple syrup in the bottom of each glass. Muddle until the mint is crushed. Fill the glasses with crushed ice and divide the bourbon between the glasses. Stir until the glasses are frosted and the drink is extremely cold. Garnish with the remaining mint, and serve. Serves two.

Mint Julep Sparkler ¾ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves 1 tbs superfine sugar 4 oz bourbon One 750-ml bottle very cold Champagne

1) In a small bowl, combine the mint leaves, sugar, and bourbon. Crush this mixture slightly to extract flavor from the mint. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least six hours; overnight is much better. The flavor continues to improve the longer the mixture is left to marry. 2) Remove the bourbon mixture from the refrigerator and strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, pressing hard on the mint leaves to extract every bit of juice you possibly can. Discard the leaves. 3) Spoon 2 tsp of the bourbon-mint syrup into each of the six Champagne flutes. (You’ll have enough syrup left over to make another batch.) Equally divide the Champagne among the flutes, and serve immediately. Serves six.

Note: the presentation and flavor of this drink are much more impressive when the Champagne flutes have been placed in the freezer for several

Whisky Bar None: A Boozy Scottish Dessert

It’s that time of year again, when we venture out into the bitter cold and brave the vast retail wilderness in quest of holiday treasures. Exactly one hundred years ago, also at this time of year, Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton was out freezing his bum off on a quest for the South Pole. To warm the crew’s spirits, they brought along a few cases of McKinlay and Co. “Rare Old” whisky — at £1.40 a case, hardly the good stuff, so they probably weren’t overly put out when bad weather forced them to dump it not a hundred miles short of their goal. It’s been sitting there ever since, frozen solid. Next month an expedition team plans to retrieve a sample in an attempt to replicate the original liquor. Hey, I’m down for a whisky popsicle. But I think I’ll skip the trip down south and instead whip up an Iced Cranachan, a frosty spin on a traditional Scottish dessert.

Benromach was kind enough to supply the whisky (of a caliber I’d never leave behind, even if attacked by a gang of emperor penguins in a blizzard), as well as the recipe. This fancy parfait treat is just the thing to warm everyone’s holiday spirits (we won’t tell Santa about those extra nips you’re taking from the bottle — but you might want to leave him some, lest you risk having to stock up on carbon offsets for all that coal you’re about to get.) Typically it’s served with a raspberry coulis, but this time of year I’m dreaming of a hot chocolate, so I also improvised a sweet whisky-cocoa sauce that’d raise the ghost of a certain Christmas past. Mr. Shackleton, I presume?

Benromach Traditional Iced Cranachan Courtesy of Charles Lockley, Head Chef at Boath House Hotel, Nairn, Highland

Vanilla Parfait 6 egg whites 1 cup superfine sugar 1 ½ cup heavy cream 2 vanilla pods, de-seeded 1 tsp vanilla extract

Tuiles 1 ¼ tbs melted butter ¼ cup superfine sugar 2 ½ tbs pinhead or very fine oatmeal (finely ground oats work well) 1 ¼ tbs flour 1 ¾ tbs Benromach Traditional whisky ½ zest one orange

Coulis 1 cup fresh/frozen raspberries ¼ cup powdered sugar ¼ cup water 3 ¼ tbs Benromach Traditional whisky Juice of one lemon

Whisky Syrup 1/3 cup superfine sugar 3 ¼ tbs water 3 ¼ tbs Benromach Traditional whisky

To finish Raspberries, mint leaves, and runny honey 8 thin ready-made sponge rounds

To make the Vanilla Parfait Wipe around the inside of the mixing bowl with half a lemon and then discard it. This will ensure your bowl is free from grease. Put the egg whites and sugar into the bowl and place over warm water, whisking until the sugar dissolves into the egg whites. Now remove the bowl from above the water and whisk until firm peaks are made and the mixture is cool. The peaks should be smooth and shiny. Now whip the cream into soft peaks and add the vanilla seeds and essence. With a metal spoon gently fold in the meringue. Do not overwork. Place the mixture into molds or ramekins and freeze. Remove 10 minutes before serving so the parfait will turn out easily onto a plate.

To make the Tuiles Cream the melted butter and sugar together, stir in the sifted flour, orange zest, and oatmeal, then add the Benromach Traditional whisky. Lightly oil some parchment paper and place on a baking tray. Take spoonfuls of the mix and flatten into round discs onto the tray, making sure they are well spaced. Cook for 10-12 minutes at 350˚. Remove and leave to cool.

To make the Raspberry Coulis Place the raspberries, Benromach Traditional whisky, water, and icing sugar into a blender and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and stir in lemon juice to taste.

To make the Whisky Syrup Place the Benromach Traditional whisky, sugar, and water into a pan and gently bring to a boil. Lower the temperature and let the syrup simmer for five minutes until thickened slightly, then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

To Assemble First soak the sponge rounds in the whisky syrup. Then drizzle the raspberries with clear runny honey. Place a sponge on a plate and turn out the vanilla parfait onto it. Tumble the raspberries over the parfait and top with a tuile. Decorate with the mint leaves. Finish the dish by drizzling some of the raspberry coulis and more whisky syrup around plate. Serves 8.

Alternate Topping: Elizabeth’s Whisky-Cocoa Sauce 1 ½ tbs fine Dutch cocoa 2 tbs butter 1 tsp superfine sugar 2 tsp whisky Over low heat, melt butter in pan. Sift cocoa into butter, stirring gently. Add sugar and whisky and continue to mix until sauce is smooth and well blended. Note: from the original recipe, I converted dry and liquid ingredients from grams and milliliters as best as possible; a few ingredients were also Americanized for stateside shopping ease. Still don’t know what a “sponge round” is. A Nilla wafer, maybe?

The Good Shepherd: A Stout Post-Thanksgiving Pie

If you put on Thanksgiving dinner this year, you’ve probably been avoiding the kitchen the last few days, taking it easy, microwaving leftovers. I was only a grateful guest this time around, but working up a homemade pecan-pumpkin pie was enough to justify a trip to the local pub. A friend recently tipped me off to the Bronx Ale House, a cozy new brew joint that more than meets the needs of northern Manhattanites and western Bronxites. Just down the street from the landmark Riverdale Diner, this cheery, boisterous tavern boasts a daily menu of compelling craft beers on tap, along with great comfort grub like cheesy chili-bacon fries and beer-battered dill pickles. I settled in next to the crackling fireplace and indulged in a sweet dark Ten Fidy (easily my new favorite stout) and a succulent beer-marinated Kingsbridge steak sandwich. That stout got me thinking about a cold-weather pub grub fave: shepherd’s pie. In the spirit of fine beer, comfort food, and a handy way to use up some of those Thanksgiving leftovers, here’s an easy, cheesy recipe for shepherd’s pie that’ll put a little Bronx in your Brit.

Elizabeth’s Cheesy Shepherd’s Pie

¾ cup carrots, peeled and chopped into small chunks ¾ cup frozen corn ¾ cup frozen peas ½ container white mushrooms, sliced 3 small sweet onions (cipollini if available), chopped 1 ½ lb ground beef 1 ½ lb potatoes 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 1/3 cup beef broth 1/3 cup dark beer, preferably sweet and rich 2 tbs each flour and melted butter, mixed well 1½ cups grated white cheddar ¼ cup sour cream ½ stick butter ¼ cup minced chives (for garnish) Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In pot, boil potatoes until tender, drain. Mash well with sour cream, two pats of butter, salt and pepper, set aside. In large saucepan, season ground beef with salt and pepper, cook until browned. Drain any excess oil from pan. Add carrots, peas, and corn to meat and return to low heat, stirring occasionally. In another saucepan, melt 3 pats butter. Add chopped onion and mushrooms, sauté lightly. Turn up heat to high, adding first beer, then beef broth and Worcestershire to sauté. Stir until liquid is reduced, then add flour/melted better mixture to make a gravy. Remove all from heat. Stir sauté/gravy into meat and vegetables. Set aside. Preheat oven to 400˚. In casserole dish, sprinkle a thin layer of grated cheddar. Spread meat and vegetable mixture over cheddar. Smooth mashed potatoes over meat/veggies. Top potatoes with another layer of cheddar. Sprinkle with chives, salt, and pepper to taste. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, then broil for 5 minutes more, until browned and bubbly on top. Serve with additional dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Classic Cocktailing: A Brandy Alexander from Assouline

Do you remember the first drink you ever ordered? Mine was an Amaretto sour — not very adventurous, and though I like them to this day, I’ve been fine-tuning my drink list ever since. I’m now partial to sidecars, although more often than not, a bartender turns me down. So I’ll ask for something easier — a lemon drop, a mojito, or, facing a very limited bar, that girly drink every mixologist knows how to mix: a cosmo. But I’m always embarrassed to utter that word. I am not a cosmo girl. They’ll do in a pinch, but how much lovelier to saunter up to a long bar and order something refined, raising one’s eyebrow and rolling each syllable off the tongue — Bran-dy Al-ex-an-der, or Sing-a-pore Sling? The elegant romance of these classics is evoked by Assouline’s glossy new picture book, Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel.

With every page, I built up a new drink list filled with deliciously civilized things to order (and utter): Rob Roy, Stinger, Gimlet, Mint Julep, Moscow Mule … Sloe. Gin. Fizz. Now to convince my local bartender to make them. Modern mixologists do cartwheels trying to impress patrons with New and Improved concoctions. I’m all for experimentation, but there’s something about the Old Fashioned. As they say, everything old is new again. Impress the hell out of your Thanksgiving gathering (especially grandma) by serving up the perfect complement to pumpkin pie: the Brandy Alexander. Created in the twenties, this creamy classic John Lennon is said to have called his “milkshake” is sprinkled with the same key spice that makes your pie sing — fresh grated nutmeg. Now you’re one smooth Pilgrim.

Brandy Alexander 1 ½ oz brandy 1 oz dark crème de cacao 1 oz half-and-half ¼ tsp grated nutmeg

In a shaker, combine the brandy, crème de cacao and half-and-half. Add ice and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with nutmeg. Note: for a delicious spin on this drink, try the Brandy Flip, also in the book.

Drinking Green: Glorious Organic Cocktails from Paul Abercrombie

As someone whose favorite dish is Trainwreck Fries (pickled jalapeño, buttermilk ranch, smoked bacon, and scallions, from Virgil’s Real Barbecue), I try to make up for bad fuel with good, choosing organic and local produce whenever I can. In the green versus conventional debate, for me it comes down to fresh food that doesn’t rack up frequent flier miles or need to wear a hazmat suit. (Supporting local and small agribusiness, the health of growers, and a happier planet notwithstanding.) What started off as a health thing is now just as much about taste. I find that many organic and conventional foods can be as different from each other as a symphony from a one-man band. New nuances of flavor appear in the most ordinary of ingredients. What gastronome wouldn’t want that?

One thing that’s up in these down times is consumption of wine, liquor, spirits, beer — it’s all about the small pleasures. At bars and restaurants like Elixir in San Francisco and Counter here in New York City, a trend that’s going gangbusters is green cocktails. This includes a burgeoning crop of eco-liquors — rum made from organically grown sugarcane, vodka made from organic rye — as well as fresh ingredients like plump blackberries, tart lemons and limes, zesty basil, ripe pomegranate, and even lavender. In his new book Organic, Shaken and Stirred, Florida-based author Paul Abercrombie masterfully mixes the best of nature’s bounty with one hundred mouth-watering drink recipes you could (almost) argue are good for you. Of the handful of cocktail books I own, this is the first one I was truly inspired to mix something out of. In fact, I had a hard time deciding which of his creative concoctions to share. Strawberry and jalapeño margaritas? Purple basil gimlets? Lavender lemon drops? Green tea mojitos, anyone? Come Thanksgiving, I’ll definitely be mixing up that spicy Tahitian coffee, or the hot buttered maple rum.

For now, I opted for the Pom-aniac, a lively crowd-pleaser that’s easy to make with ingredients and liquors you probably already own (preferably organic, but there’s always next time). I think you’ll go crazy for this antioxidant-rich drink that’s sure to give you a boost — in more ways than one. If any of the above drinks pique your interest, stop by Counter on Tuesday night to sample some of these clean green libations, mixed by the author himself. Fresh!

Pom-aniac 2 oz organic pomegranate juice 1 ½ oz organic vodka ½ oz freshly squeezed organic lemon juice ½ oz organic agave nectar Splash of Campari ½ oz maraschino liqueur or Cointreau Club soda or sparkling mineral water 1 or 2 thin rounds organic cucumber Organic lemon twist

Pour the pomegranate juice, vodka, lemon juice, agave nectar, Campari, and maraschino liqueur into an ice cube-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain the mixture into an ice cube-filled glass. Top off with club soda and garnish with the cucumber round and lemon twist.

Unzipping Isaac Mizrahi’s Mushroom Truffle Spaghetti

Dismal weather brings out the cook in me. There’s nothing like cozying in your kitchen and whipping up a warm, satisfying dish on a hot stove. It’s also carb season, and what better way to fuel up than a tangled pile of spaghetti? And I’m not talking your childhood sauce-n-glop. No sir. We found a recipe for designer pasta that’ll knock the stockings off your most well-heeled dinner guests: Isaac Mizrahi’s Mushroom Truffle Spaghetti, published this month in Assouline’s CFDA American Fashion Cookbook. Mizrahi’s dishy dish is just one of dozens of stylish entrée, appetizer, dessert, and drink recipes from a roster of fashion’s finest. Hungry? Try Zac Posen’s great-grandma’s butterscotch wafers, or Diane von Furstenberg’s chicken, or Bill Blass’ prune whip.

The star-studded book also has the kitchen-friendly seal of approval from Martha Stewart, who penned the foreword. Mizrahi guested on Martha’s show this week, creatively costuming critters for her “Halloween Pet-acular.” I’ll admit to secretly wanting to dress my cat (have you seen those cat wigs? why didn’t I think of that?), so I was glad to learn Mizrahi == whose glamorous Fred Astaire-inspired spring line will spark your inner Ginger at his new shop come December — is no fashion snob: he dressed his own pup Harry as a spiky green dinosaur. I wonder if Harry hunts down truffles for his master’s spaghetti? See below for the designer’s earthy dish, to be savored with a plush Pinot Noir.

Isaac Mizrahi’s Mushroom Truffle Spaghetti 3 tbl extra virgin olive oil 2 tbl unsalted butter 1 large onion, chopped into matchsticks 4 fat cloves garlic, minced 8 cups mushrooms, any variety, cleaned, washed and sliced (recommended: a blend of shitake, enoki, porcini, and portobello) 11⁄2 cups chicken stock 1 pound spaghetti 8 cups water 2 tbl fresh sage, minced 2 1⁄2 tbl truffle paste 1⁄3 cup cream Salt to taste Fresh ground pepper Pecorino Romano, grated for garnish

Boil water with plenty of salt for the spaghetti. On medium-high heat, in a large frying pan, heat oil and butter. Sauté onion for 2-3 minutes until opaque. Add minced garlic, and cook for about one minute, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn it. Mix in mushrooms. (It may seem like a lot in the pan, but the mushrooms will reduce eventually. Also, if it seems like the oil and butter are absorbed too quickly by the mushrooms, don’t worry, add another tablespoon or so of olive oil.) Cook for 3-5 minutes, adding 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt in the last stages. Add half of the sage, reserving the other half. Increase to high heat and add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes. At this point, drop the spaghetti into the boiling water and cook for 8 minutes. (Note: do not cook it for the recommended 12 minutes, because it should be undercooked when it goes into the ragù.) After the mushroom mixture has been simmering for 5 minutes add truffle paste, and simmer for another minute. Add cream and simmer for the last 2 minutes. Pull the pasta from the water with tongs, placing the wet pasta directly into ragù. Add remaining sage, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 2 more minutes. If the ragù seems dry, add the reserved starchy water as needed. Serve immediately and garnish each bowl with freshly grated Pecorino Romano.

Last Treat of the Season: Choco-Doodle-Roons

Sunday saw some seriously perfect weather — a fall crispness that had you feeling as bright and bushy as a squirrel, but with this farewell kiss of summer heat that lured you to the corner Mister Softee for a double cone. Turns out I wasn’t the only one screamin’ for the stuff; near Ft. Tryon park, the ice cream lines were clear down the block. The annual Medieval Festival was going strong, and I’d either have to swordfight my way through the crowd to get my fix, or queue up for that high delicacy of the Middle Ages: the deep-fried batter plate. A quick scope of those patronizing the Ye Olde Fried Dough line found two pairs of ill-fitting leather pants, a homemade vulture-feather cape, a samurai, and a wan girl so tightly corseted that her eyes bulged like a goldfish’s. A greasy mound of pockmarked yellow carbohydrate floated by on a sagging paper plate. Was this really worth jousting for? I decided to head home and whip up a batch of my favorite dessert, Choco-Doodle-Roons, instead.

A few years ago, I had the notion that a chocolate-chip cookie would be great crossed with a snickerdoodle and a macaroon. Warm cinnamon, gooey chocolate, toasted coconut — a sugary trifecta of childhood faves, and I have to say, these are truly scrumptious. This time, I added a scoop of vanilla to make an extra-decadent ice-cream sandwich. Mister Who?

Elizabeth’s Choco-Doodle-Roons 1 cup butter, softened 1 cup sugar 1 cup brown sugar 2 large eggs 1 tsp vanilla 2 cups unbleached flour 2 cups oats (measure first, then blend to powder) ½ tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 1 tsp baking powder 12 oz bag chocolate chips

Topping: ¾ cup coconut flakes ¼ cup cinnamon/sugar blend (equal parts, mix by hand)

1. Preheat oven to 375˚. 2. In large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla. 3. In small bowl, mix flour, oat powder, salt, baking soda, baking powder. 4. Combine dry ingredients into wet until blended, stirring in chocolate chips. Tip: for softer cookies, don’t overmix. 5. Shape dough into balls and space 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheets. 6. Sprinkle balls liberally with cinnamon/sugar blend, then top with coconut flakes. 7. Bake for 8-10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Enjoy!

Makes 2 ½ dozen cookies.

Chowderhound: Manhattanite Clams

I have a crush on crustaceans. Their mollusk sea-pals ain’t too bad, either. This time of year, I start getting a craving for the creatures of the deep, particularly those who dwell in the cool, briny waters of the Atlantic. But where I live, the buildings butt up against the sky, not sandbars, so I’ll have to fantasize about that seaside-village getaway — the one where me and the Creature from the Black Lagoon share fried clams and giddily pinch each other with lobster claws, buzzed on local craft ale — while I’m cooking up a pot of creamy clam chowder in my wee NYC kitchen. It all started with a bowl of velvety lobster bisque at Ed’s Lobster Bar in SoHo (not to be confused with the newest seafood stud in town, Ed’s Chowder House), savored with a bucket of salty fries. Upon inquiring as to the ease of making this tasty belly warmer on my own, the waitress promptly quashed the scheme, saying something about needing a monster emulsifier.

I decided to stick to clam chowder, a foolproof fall favorite. Or so I thought. I ordered up a dozen wild littleneck clams from FreshDirect and began thinking about what makes a great chowder. Chunky potato, salty bacon, sweet onions, chives … and ah, the clams. A confession: I’ve never cooked live clams before. Squeamishness notwithstanding (I’m not quite as brave as the intrepid Mr. Feldman), I’m wary of my ability to avoid shellfish poisoning. These clams had been in the fridge overnight, still wrapped in the plastic they were delivered in, which I later read was a big no-no (they’ll suffocate). Try to cook clams the same day you buy; if you must store, you can keep them up to two days in the fridge, on a tray and covered with a wet cloth. Mine seemed okay — no foul odor, firmly closed (an open clam that does not close when prodded is a definite goner) — but I worried about the little guys and desperately tried to “revive” them by submerging them in sea-salt-infused water. Wouldn’t you know — a minute later, a tiny bubble of air surfaced. Encouraged, I began the chowder. This dish can be enjoyed with friends at a picnic, served hot from a thermos with oyster crackers and a hearty ale. We may not have endless horizons and roaring surf, but give me a steaming bowl of homemade chowder and I’ll be just as happy as a clam.

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Elizabeth’s Manhattanite Clam Chowder ● 1 dozen fresh littleneck clams (can substitute 1 10 oz can/jar minced clams, liquid reserved) ● 3 slabs thick-sliced, salty bacon ● 1 lb fingerling or creamer potatoes, roughly chunked ● 2 pats of butter ● ½ bulb garlic, minced ● 2 bulbs shallots, chopped ● 3 cipollini or sweet onions, chopped ● 2 tsp Herbes de Provence ● 1/3 cup white wine (I used Astica Torrontes from Union Square Wines & Spirits) ● 1 pint heavy cream ● 1/3 cup bottled clam juice (optional) ● Fresh ground pepper and chives for garnish

Using live clams: Melt two generous pats of butter in large saucepan. Sauté half of the minced garlic, add white wine, and simmer. Prepare clams by scrubbing shells clean; pat dry. Arrange flat in pan and cover. Using medium heat, steam in wine/garlic sauce until clams open, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat as soon as shells open; discard any that do not. Tip clams’ juices into wine/garlic sauce; simmer 2 minutes and strain entire mixture through fine mesh sieve and reserve. Using butter knife, shuck clams. Slice meat in halves or quarters with a kitchen knife. Cover to keep moist and set aside.

Using canned/jar clams: Make wine/garlic sauce as above, adding juice from canned minced clams instead. Simmer 3 minutes, strain mixture, and reserve.

To finish: Boil potatoes about 6 minutes, drain and set aside. Fry bacon, blot with paper towels, and cut into bite-size pieces. Sauté shallots, onions, remaining garlic, and Herbes de Provence in bacon fat or butter until softened. Toss in potatoes and sauté all 2 more minutes. Add the wine/garlic/clam sauce and heavy cream. (If you prefer a clammier base, add optional bottled clam juice.) Stir and simmer on medium heat 5 minutes. Add bacon bits and fresh clam meat or minced clams. Stir and simmer another 10-15 minutes, then remove from heat and ladle into bowls. Garnish with fresh ground pepper and chives and serve with crusty bread or crackers. Serves 4.

An Adulterated Affogato Cribbed from Caffe Reggio

Walk up from the Blue Note, turn the corner at MacDougal, and there under bright green awnings Caffe Reggio beckons: my refuge in this ever-changing twitter-totter world. The haunt hasn’t evolved much since my fresh-faced college days, with its ornate antique clocks, chipped busts (“Horatio,” I call the winsome boy-man perched above the coveted corner window seat), and moody 16th-century canvases “from the school of Caravaggio,” as the back of the menu boasts. I know the history by heart. Louisa May Alcott once lived across the street. More importantly, Reggio claims to be the first place to bring cappuccino to America.

The café was established in 1927 by one Dominic Parisi, an Italian barber with failing eyesight. He spent his life savings — $1,000 — on the enormous chrome and bronze, multi-spigoted espresso machine that’s now in grand repose on a pedestal, topped by its valiant angel and surrounding demons. The sight of this relic, along with the pregnant tin ceiling (I always imagine there’s an overflowing bathtub on the floor above, ready to crash through any second), and the rococo velvet and carved wood chairs, fills me with a comfort I can’t explain. This is just about my favorite place on earth — it feels like home.

My long-time Reggio order is the Caffe Moka, a stout mug of chocolaty sweetness simmering under the most voluminous cloud of fresh-whipped cream you’ve ever seen. It never fails to enchant. I mean, what’s not to like? But sometimes it pays to break a habit. After more than a decade of recommending the Moka, this summer I tried the Affogato, an after-dinner delight with very simple ingredients: a few scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream, drowned in a shot or two of hot espresso, and crowned with that glorious cloud. The frosty Affogato is perfect in summer, but I’m thinking a shot of coffee liqueur would warm up the ol’ insides quite nicely this fall and winter. Why not whip up a round this Labor Day weekend, and treat your guests to a little old-world hospitality? I promise you’ll make them feel right at home.

Affogato ● 3 scoops premium vanilla (or chocolate, if you dare) ice cream ● 1-3 espresso shots, to taste ● Whipped cream (fresh is best) ● Sprinkle of cocoa for garnish ● Shot of rum, brandy, crème de cacao, Kahlua, Bailey’s, Tia Maria, or other coffee/chocolate liqueurs (optional) Scoop ice cream into large glass goblet. Drown with espresso shots and top with whipped cream and garnish. Liquor up to your liking.