It’s 6:40 on a damp evening in New York when Mark Foster, Mark Pontius, and Cubbie Fink arrive at LexBar, a posh lounge in the St. Giles – The Court hotel frequented by a certain gaggle of raven haired sisters whose names all start with K. The three young men are known collectively as Foster the People, an LA-based indie rock band that rose to prominence last summer with “Pumped Up Kicks,” an addictive party anthem about a guy looking to blast away at some fancily-shod kids with his dad’s six-shooter.
Tonight is an evening to relax and sample rum cocktails by the venue’s head bartender, Drew Maloney, who boasts 25 years of experience and a master’s grasp of flavor, balance, and presentation. As we settle into the black banquette and chat about the new record, the cocktails start arriving, one after the other. What follows is an inspired, scientific, and somewhat poetic take on a decidedly tropical evening in Manhattan.
Cocktail #1, Rum-Two Punch: 1 ½ oz. Don Q Cristal rum, 1 ½ oz. Bacardi 8 rum, 1 oz. fresh guava juice, 1 oz. fresh pineapple juice, 1 oz. fresh cranberry juice, ¼ oz. fresh lime juice, ¼ oz. agave nectar. Garnish with orange slice and cherries. Mark Pontius: I like it because it’s kind of bitter, like grapefruit, which reminds me of my grandmother, who ate grapefruit every morning. It’s good in that way, but I could go sweeter. Cubbie Fink: The initial blast on the palate is tropical, like sitting on a beach, but there’s a tart aftertaste. A tropical drink should be smoother. Mark Foster: When I drink this I think about naked female pirates holding me captive and pouring it down my throat.
Cocktail #2, Strawberry Mojito: Muddle in rocks glass: 2 medium strawberries, 3 lime wedges, 1 tsp sugar, 5 mint leaves. Add ice and 2 oz. Bacardi Limon rum, splash of soda water, splash of fresh sour mix. Garnish with strawberry. MP: The strawberry is awesome, except I just tried to sip it and a mint leaf got stuck in the straw. CF: I can’t get any drink, my straw’s clogged. Okay, I’ll sip it. I’m definitely not a sweet-drink drinker, but this is really tasty. MF: It makes me think of Aunt Jemima jumping up and down on a huge stack of pancakes and tossing strawberries into the air.
Cocktail #3, Mandarin Delight: Muddle in rocks glass: 3 sections of mandarin orange, 3 lime wedges, ¼ oz. agave nectar. Add ice and 1 oz. Mount Gay Eclipse rum, 1 oz. Cointreau. Shake vigorously and top with 2 oz. Piper-Heidsieck Champagne. MP: My least favorite because it’s too sour, and I’m not a sour drink person. Good for one sip. CF: It’s kind of a shock to the senses, which I like. It has bite and good flavor. My favorite of the three so far. MF: It’s something I think Mark Twain would have loved. Even though it has mandarin in it, it still feels like a man’s drink.
Cocktail #4, Lexcolada: 2 oz. Bacardi Light rum, 1 oz. pineapple puree, 1 ½ oz. pineapple juice, 1 ½ oz. coconut milk. Garnish with pineapple slice. MP: This hits my heart. Before I was 21, I used to order virgin Piña Coladas, the kind from the machine. This is better than that, and boozier. CF: It’s as if I bored to the center of a coconut and somehow found alcohol and other ingredients in there. It’s like chewing on coconut milk. Definitely the best Piña Colada I’ve ever had. MF: I could wake up and have this with cereal.
Cocktail #5, Mai Tai: 1 ½ oz. Mount Gay Eclipse rum, ¼ oz. orgeat syrup, ½ oz. pineapple juice, ½ oz. lime juice, ¼ oz. grenadine. Garnish with lime. MP: This is actually the first Mai Tai I’ve ever had, and it’s great. My first thought was of a chocolate bar. CF: It’s a Mai Tai that’s been brought to the city. It has some edge that a Mai Tai on the beach lacks. There’s a creamy aftertaste that’s really interesting. MF: The first thing I thought of when I sipped it was Freddy Mercury, because he was so tough on the outside and tender on the inside. Actually, my first thought was leather, and that brought me to Freddy Mercury. It’s an S&M drink. It’s a muscular man that likes other muscular men.