Drink This Cocktail: The R.I.P. Van Winkle

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Matt from Betto on all-booze cocktails and why you should always see out the end of the date.


138 N. 8th St.
Brooklyn, NY 11211

What are we drinking?
The R.I.P. Van Winkle. It's nothing but booze, so if you're out on a date, you know, and you want to impress your date with your knowledge of craft, boutique-y liquors,this is a good drink for that. But it's got a good amount of water in it from the mixing process, so you don't get drunk too fast.

Nothing says "first date" like an all-booze cocktail. 
It's a little sweet, a little spicy — everyone's happy. It's got a lot of nice winter spices in it as well.

Do you get a lot of couples who come in here on dates?
Yeah, we get a lot of couples at the bar. We've got the little tables, which is nice. It's not a wild restaurant — it's got a nice ambiance. The other bartender and I generally keep mum — you know, speak when spoken to — and when a couple wants to engage us in conversation, we're always willing to talk about the bar and life and things. I had a couple come see me in one of my plays recently. We had a good rapport going, so they came out to see the show.

How can you tell when someone comes in on a date?
We like to place bets sometimes, like whether it's a first date. We play it by ear a little bit. I assume that most of them are dates, and then we try to fill in the story, like, is this the first date? Are they breaking up? I've seen a lot of breakups, actually, which is very awkward at dinner time.

How about blind dates? Can tell if a couple is on a blind date?
Yeah, you can tell. And you can always tell when a blind date's going bad. I don't mean to make it so negative, but there are times when a table will come in, they'll talk for a little while, then they'll just shut down. They'll have nothing to say, and you'll see them sit there for a while, trying to figure out what to do. That's how my parents met, actually, on a blind date.

Really? Did they get set up through a friend?
Yeah. Both of their mutual best friends set them up together. They each said they wanted no commitment, and then a month later they got engaged. 

If a date's going badly, what kind of drink should you order?
[laughs] The strongest drink possible. Whiskey, maybe. Strong alcohol might loosen you up a little bit. But whatever you want, really. If its a miserable date, you might as well drink something you like. 

Is there any point when you should just throw in the towel and say it's time to leave?
No, I say you should always give it a fighting chance. You should at least see it to the end of the date — I think that's courteous. One time I had a girl get up in the middle of dinner and just leave. That hurts, you know? I think you should stay through, and just let them go gently.

Was it a breakup situation? 
Well, we were testing out the waters. She asked me what my dream was. I'd just graduated from college. And I said, "I don't really know what I want to do right now," and she just said, “I've got to go,” and she got up and left. 

Really? That was all she said? "I've got to go?" 
That's how it goes sometimes. You know, it's New York City, and there're more fish in the sea, but I didn't feel too good after that one.

Did you order some whiskey?
I was having a margarita at the time, so I ordered one more, by myself, and finished my meal.

The R.I.P. Van Winkle

1 oz apple brandy
2 oz rye whiskey
1 oz artichoke amaro
Lemon-thyme simple syrup
1-2 dashes of bitters
1-2 tsp absinthe
Juice from one lemon wedge