Looks can be deceiving in the dim glow of Manhattan’s nightlife. Located on a slip street in Chinatown, in what appears to be “Gold Flower Restaurant,” sits the cocktail chem lab Apotheke. Here, mixologist Nicolas O’connor, one of the four conjurers behind the bar, pays tribute to Parisien absenthe lounges of the 19th century along with a Clint Eastwood classic. The High Plains Drifter, named after Eastwood’s 1973 film about a mysterious gunslinger defending a small town, is a western cocktail, with a slight hint of the supernatural.
“Since I was a child, I’ve loved Western movies and all Old West paraphernalia. With a cowboy hat, fake gun belt, and bottle of sarsaparilla pop, I’d set up a pretend saloon in the backyard. Fittingly I became a saloon bartender or “mixologist,” and have designed a cocktail that draws from my love of the western. The High Plains Drifter is a variation on a classic Sazerac, which is a very old American cocktail created in the 1800s and has quite a kick. In my western inspired version, the American rye whiskey is infused with barley and sarsaparilla, which hints of the country and the open plains. Include the bitters, then absinthe rinse and you have a strong and earthy cocktail reminding us of Manifest Destiny.”
High Plains Drifter
Barley and Sarsaparilla infused American Rye Whiskey
House Made Bitters
Photography by Jacob Evan Smith