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NYC Beverage Leo Robitschek Concocts Modern Classics With Cherry Heering

From a go-to ingredient to a bartender's staple, this Danish liqueur stands out.
Four people moving quickly behind a bar.
For Leo Robitschek, bar director of NYC's The NoMad, churning out drinks quickly but without sacrificing quality is paramount. Photo courtesy of Leo Robitschek.

Cherry Heering Liqueur has been a go-to ingredient for Leo Robitschek for years. The beverage director for New York City-based Make It Nice restaurant group’s Made Nice, Eleven Madison Park, and The NoMad Hotel had been using it to make classic cocktails like the Singapore Sling and Blood & Sand, but it wasn’t until 2008 that he started experimenting with the ruby-red liqueur and creating cocktails he could call his own.

One of his first concoctions was the Eclipse, a mix of Cherry Heering Liqueur, tequila, Aperol, and lemon juice. Impressed with the way that the Cherry Heering and Aperol worked in tandem by balancing each other out, he later paired the two again along with rye whiskey, chiles, and lime juice to create what would soon become one of The Nomad Hotel’s best-selling cocktails: the Satan’s Circus (pictured below). Named after the property’s location in the city’s entertainment and red-light district in midtown, which in the 1800s was nicknamed “Satan’s Circus” by reformers thanks to its preponderance of gambling dens, brothels, and saloons, the result is a drink that mixes bitterness with a hint of heat.

“The Cherry Heering and Aperol have complementary flavors — one of them has cherry while the other has rhubarb and strawberry — so you have a blend of red fruits,” Robitschek says. “The Aperol brings in a bitter quality that balances out the Cherry Heering’s citrus notes and nuttiness. Together they make a really delicious and balanced flavor.”

More recently, this spring Robitschek introduced members of the global bartending industry to the wonders of pairing Cherry Heering with Aperol, along with a dozen other spirits during the two master classes he led in Madrid and Barcelona (taught entirely in Spanish!) as part of the iconic brand’s 200th anniversary celebration. Robitschek is one of a handful of bartenders that the brand cherry-picked (pun intended) to lead a series of workshops and master classes in more than 75 cities over the course of 100 days. Called “Modern Classics,” the three-month event serves as a way to get bartenders thinking of ways to use the cherry liqueur to make new cocktail classics back home at their bars.

Satan's Circus cocktailFor his master classes, one of the first things Robitschek did was have his students sample Cherry Heering along with a dozen base spirits, such as rye, sake, tequila, and, of course, Aperol, as well as bitters, produce, and other modifiers.

“We did a blind tasting with the Cherry Heering blended together with the other spirits to see how they changed and what attributes the Cherry Heering brought out in each spirit,” he says. “Once everyone decided which flavor combination they liked the best, we split everyone into groups and had a mini competition where they built cocktails using that combination of flavors to create a modern-day classic. Cherry Heering is an ingredient that most bars have on hand if they’re trying to create some form of the classics like the Blood & Sand or the Singapore Sling, so most bartenders have used it before and are comfortable with it.”

Two combinations that surprised Robitschek included Cherry Heering with sake and again with Green Chartreuse.

“Leading classes like this, you always hope that you learn something new and gain something from it,” he says. “There were a few flavor combinations that I had never tasted before on their own without mixing in other ingredients, so it was interesting to see how they did work

We can only hope that one day in the near future one of these combinations will wind up on Robitschek’s drink list.

Satan's Circus

  • 2 oz Old Overholt Rye
  • ¾ oz Thai-Bird Chili Infused Aperol
  • ¾ oz Cherry Heering
  • ¾ oz Lemon Juice

Directions: Shake and strain into a cocktail coupe

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