There are many reasons to linger at Canal Street Bistro - silky plantains, Wednesday night wine specials, and a rolling cart hauling a dozen premium tequilas among them. And now there's Samuel Shanks behind the stick, and he's playing with a sizable collection of bottles and potions. There's fresh, lush fruit and vegetable juices at the ready, and the tequila, of course.
One of his most compelling concoctions is simple and based on a spirit I've wanted to get my hands on - Wild Turkey's American Honey, which offers a soft, rich and honeyed way to enjoy your bourbon (though purists will miss the burn).
Sam gave it to me neat, a gentle rounding off the angles of the day, like polishing a stone. On its own, it makes a fine after-dinner drink, which is how it also lends itself so well to Sam's own Bistro Coffee cocktail.
He starts with hot, bracing espresso, which melts under one-ounce pours each from the bourbon-based honey liqueur and Irish cream.
Then, taking a cue from the classic pairing of chocolate and citrus, Sam adds a long splash of Solerno, which draws out the bourbon's low-lying orange notes. He may have been inspired by Irish coffees, but Sam's variation better balances that unrelenting roasted blackness.
In his other life, Sam's in school and learning to design video games, a fun distraction for fans who play well into the night; at this other gig, Sam's list of specialty cocktails is likewise extending evenings all around the bistro.
Canal Street Bistro, 3903 Canal Street, 482.1225
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