Hi-Lo Diner looks like something from another galaxy—a gleaming silver craft that landed in the Cooper neighborhood after an interspace voyage—or at very least from a different time. In fact, the 1957 Fodero diner only traveled from Pennsylvania to East Lake Street, but their cocktails are still out of this world.
Simeon Priest is our man behind the bar. “We strive first and foremost to make really balanced, delicious cocktails,” he says. “But we put an emphasis on reimagining cocktails from the era of this diner, the ‘50s and ‘60s, when the cocktail in America was a little below our standards from pre-Prohibition times.”
To wit: a Harvey Wallbanger updated with Tattersall Aquavit, a grasshopper that’s only green thanks to pureed avocado, and a neo-rusty nail that trades smoky Scotch for mezcal and Drambuie for honey and Licor 43.
But since I’m excited for both autumn weather and Hi-Lo’s breakfast, I’m ordering the Fender Bender, an updated Manhattan with a tinge of maple. The Cynar adds the bitterness and the Carpano Antica brings all the flavors together—remember, a good sweet vermouth is paramount for making a great Manhattan (see: this month’s Spirits Close-Up).
And this cocktail, alongside a Gary Coop’er Hi-Top piled with fried chicken and gravy, well, that’s my breakfast of champions. Hey, I’m not training for a marathon or anything.
- 2 ounces bourbon (Rebel Yell)
- ¾ ounce Cynar
- ½ ounce good sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica)
- ¼ ounce simple maple syrup (To make, bring equal parts pure maple syrup and water to a simmer until combined.)
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Photos by Kevin Kramer, The Growler
Stir well with ice and strain into a lowball glass with one large ice cube. Garnish with a black cherry (Hi-Lo uses Filthy Food’s cocktail cherries).