Doughnut Lounge pairs fried dough with craft cocktails

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“We’re out of doughnuts,” Jake Randall cheerfully told me last Thursday, December 17, when I popped into the Doughnut Lounge, his new Westport shop, just after 2 p.m. “We ran out of everything by 11 a.m.”

That’s fine, I told him: I’m here for the cocktails. 

The full bar at the Doughnut Lounge, which opened Thursday, doesn’t open until 4 p.m. (when the doughnut cases are scheduled to be refilled with the day’s second batch of fried pastries), but Dominic Petrucci, a full-time bartender at Julep who consulted on Doughnut Lounge’s initial cocktail menu and bar program, walked me through a few drinks. The list isn’t long: just two classic cocktails — an Old Fashioned and a Last Word — and seven house creations. 

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First, Petrucci served the Slow Jamz, which is essentially an espresso martini, he admitted with a slightly embarrassed smile.

“I think people look down on espresso martinis, you know?” he said. “But I think everything has a place, and it makes sense here. We use good ingredients. We pull a fresh shot of espresso — right now, we’re using something from Guatemala — and we have a milk simple syrup, which is milk, water and sugar. We use a citric acid solution in there, which gives the syrup a kind of citrus quality to it, which is great with espresso. And, of course, there’s vodka.”

The Slow Jamz is served in a coupe glass, with a mixture of espresso powder and chili powder sprinkled over the top. The absence of thick, syrupy liqueurs and cream gives this drink a light, silky profile. The bitterness of the espresso isn’t diluted, which cuts the sweetness. I could also taste hints of chocolate, though no chocolate ingredients were added. This is a sophisticated drink — not the espresso martini your Auntie Bev orders at Chili’s.

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Next up was the Eagle Street, a twist on a cobbler — a classic cocktail involving sherry, sugar and citrus. Petrucci’s recipe uses Alvear Pedro Ximénez Solera 1927, orange juice, pineapple juice and Fernet Branca Menta that the bar has infused with cucumber. This combination is served over ice in a double rocks glass and garnished (as at Julep) with a generous sprig of mint.

“It’s supposed to be a sweet cocktail,” Petrucci said. “It’s almost like dessert, like eating a pie, but it’s not supposed to overwhelm. Plus, this cucumber fernet is delicious and really bright.”

The Eagle Street is one of those drinks that has layers of flavor. I could smell the cucumber and mint before I tasted them, and they balanced the super-sweetness of the Alvear sherry. The profile of the cocktail reminded me a bit of a Pimm’s Cup: summer flavors, heavy taste.

Petrucci’s final cocktail for me — and the one he was most excited about, he said — was a winter warmer called the Against Method, featuring orange bitters, maraschino liqueur, sweet vermouth and Old Tom Gin. It has the same ingredients as the classic Martinez cocktail, Petrucci said, except he makes it hot, with a rather elaborate prep.

“To serve this drink hot, you could put it in a hot pot to keep the temperature, but over time, it’ll destroy the botanicals in the liquors,” Petrucci said. “You could add hot water, but that’s going to dilute it and make the drink too hot, because the stuff we have here is attached to industrial coffee machines. So instead, what we’re doing is using a double-boiler method.”

Petrucci showed me a large copper container about the size of a wine chiller, which he said was filled with hot water. The cocktail ingredients were combined in a metal mixer, which bobbed around as he stirred until the drink reached a toasty 140 degrees.

He pushed the golden-hued drink toward me. It tasted like a classy version of a hot toddy — molten liquid sunshine.

“It’s only going to get colder,” Petrucci said, “and people are only going to want something that makes them feel better, and this drink is it.”

I agreed. But, Petrucci added, folks shouldn’t get too attached to this menu.

“This first cocktail menu will be in place for a month, maybe,” he said. “The classics will rotate out quarterly, with the seasons, but the signature will rotate out on a whim. There’s a lot of people in here that have different voices and have a lot of experience behind the bar, so to have a menu that reflects what they want to say will be really interesting.”

As Petrucci returned to grilling his bar staff about garnishes, I found Randall. He was still buoyant, despite navigating through a new headache surrounding his server terminals and ticket printouts. I asked him about the bar time, and Randall told me that it was set largely as a precaution.

“For now, we want to do all things well,” he said. “The reason for 4 p.m. bar opening is really to just give us a break [in the day]. We want to figure this out” — Randall gestured to the coffee-and-doughnut-case side. “And then we’ll figure this out tonight” — he waved a hand at the shelves of booze — “and see how it goes.”

He continued: “Soon, I think you’ll see an earlier bar opening. But then again, we had 273 people walk through that door today, and only one of them asked us for a drink. It’s not like we told people the bar is closed, but right now we’re just figuring it out.” He paused and grinned. “Right now, it looks to us like we make a certain amount in the morning. We sell out of those, but we’re open for tea and coffee during the day. And then at 4, the bar opens, and fresh doughnuts come out and everyone is happy.”

Doughnut Lounge is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. and closed on Wednesdays. Booze is served from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. For hours and location, go here

Categories: Dining, Food & Drink