Sons of Essex. Immigrant Inspired, Pepper Fueled.
The Buzzed Assassin continues his stalking adventures through New York's finest (and not so finest) drinking establishments. My recent brunch-time travels brought me back to the Lower East Side, which, for decades at the beginning of the 20th century, was the destination of immigrant European and Jewish workers and their families, bound for the tenements in the area. For decades after that, it was the home of a large number of Latinos, mainly Puerto Ricans. This historical background is important as it influences and informs the varied selections at Sons of Essex, found in the heart of the LES on Essex Street between Rivington and Stanton. Having opened in the fall of 2011, Sons of Essex is a mix of many different things: a combination bar, lounge, deli, restaurant, townhall, etc. As mentioned above, both its food and cocktail menus contain items that reflect the melting pot nature of the LES. The dinner menu features Manischewitz braised short ribs alongside Loisaida Skirt Steak. The brunch menu includes items such as Loisaida Steak Huevos, as well as Eggs Benedictowitz, and features brunch cocktails such as the Loisaida (a malt liquor based cocktail), a surprisingly loaded Sangria, and, of course, a Bloody Mary. Looking at the cocktail menu, I was initially quite shocked by the description of the Bloody Mary's ingredients. To wit, this cocktail seemed to be laden with peppery ingredients: Absolut Peppar, Sriracha, fresh ground pepper and horseradish are all listed in addition to the usual tomato juice, fresh lemon juice, fresh lime juice, celery salt, and Worcestershire sauce. I thought that this might result in an extremely spicy cocktail, and I was worried. Could it be that this version was so bad that, to cover its failings, it needed to burn the surface of my precious tongue? However, this concern did not stop me from ordering the Bloody; do you see the things I do for you, our lovely readers? When it arrived, I noticed that my cocktail definitely showed off the horseradish, with small pieces floating throughout the glass. My concern heightened, but with some trepidation, I took a sip....
And, damn, was I pleasantly surprised. The drink did have some kick to it, but nowhere near what one would expect considering the list of ingredients. A little saltiness was also detectable, no doubt a result of the celery salt and Worcestershire. The saltiness and spiciness was very well complimented by the fresh lemon and lime juices, and the combination even made the canned tomato juice taste as fresh as if they had purchased the tomatoes that morning (possibly from the nearby Essex Street Market). The vodka was detectable, being a fairly good pour. Unfortunately, it was easy to tell that this was an Absolut vodka, a brand that I have always felt was barely above well quality (though the Drunken Tomato herself disagrees). Despite this, the cocktail was very well balanced overall, a good addition to my history of liver destruction, and a great companion to the excellently seasoned steak and eggs I chose as my entree. Overall, the Bloody Mary at Sons of Essex earns itself Celery Stalks.
Sons of Essex 133 Essex Street, New York, New York 10002. T: (212) 674-7100.