In the Back Room bar at New York City’s Double Chicken Please, the menu resembles that of a typical American diner. Waldorf Salad, NY Beet Salad and Key Lime Pie are just a few of the offerings—and that’s just the cocktail menu. Led by co-founders GN Chan and Faye Chen, Double Chicken Please seamlessly transforms these familiar dishes into drinks that challenge the mind as much as they stimulate the palate.
“Our cocktails and food are deconstructed, redefined and rebuilt in the spirit of hacking design,” says Chan. “They’re drink renditions of iconic foods, reassembled as boozy, liquid versions of the dishes.”
While the “salads” play the role of liquid appetizer, and other drinks, like Cold Pizza, act as main course, the French Toast plays the role of dessert. “I really enjoy French toast as a dish, but for me, it’s more of a dessert food than a breakfast food,” says Chan, who felt the dish’s inherent sweetness made it a good candidate to become a cocktail.
On the menu, the French Toast is described as Gray Goose, roasted barley, brioche, coconut, milk, maple syrup and egg—the combination of which yields a rich, flip-style cocktail. To garnish, a bittersweet Espresso Martini–flavored “Oreo” is rested on the rim of the glass. The playful accompanying bite is ostensibly simple, but like every other drink and dish at Double Chicken Please, the devil is truly in the details.
Chan and Chen employ an array of techniques to incorporate each flavor into the drink. First, the Gray Goose vodka—selected for its use of winter wheat, an ingredient often used in pastry—is infused with roasted barley tea to emphasize a robust grain base. Toasted brioche that has been blended and cooked with maple syrup adds to the bready profile, creating a concentrate, which is then combined with whole milk and coconut water. In the final stage, after the brioche liquid mixture is chilled—in keeping with the French toast theme—raw egg is added, blended and strained.
“I wanted to infuse actual brioche and milk flavor in a way that makes sense in a flip cocktail context,” says Chan. Capturing the essence of brioche was a challenge that required some ingenuity. Chan first experimented by infusing a spirit with brioche, but eventually found that blending the bread with maple syrup into a liquid worked best. The sugar amplified the brioche’s character. Still, Chan felt there was one missing component.
“I thought the drink needed another ingredient to marry these flavors together,” says Chan. “That’s where the coconut water came in.” Chan opts for Harmless Harvest—a brand chosen for its distinct coconut flavor—to not only balance the nutty, sweet, toasty flavors of the bread and grain base, but also to cut some of the creamy richness from the dairy. It was the thread that held the drink in perfect harmony.
The French Toast cocktail itself is exquisite and utterly moreish, but the housemade “Oreo” elevates the drink to another level. A friend of Chan’s in Taiwan designed a cookie mold, which Chan and Chen had printed at a studio in Brooklyn. The bar uses the molds to make “negative molds” out of silicone, so that homemade cookies can be pressed into them.
To actually make the cookies, Em Pak, the bar’s events manager and an avid baker, developed a recipe that combines baked black cocoa crumbs and slightly bitter dark chocolate to balance the richness of the flip. The cookies are then made into sandwiches filled with whipped white chocolate–coffee ganache, resembling an Oreo.
“We recommend taking a sip, a bite, then another sip, as the flavors of the bite will change how you taste the cocktail afterwards,” says Chan, whose menu incorporates several other cocktails that come with food pairings, like their Red Eye Gravy and Butter Raisin Biscuit.
As much as the French Toast showcases Double Chicken Please’s technical ability, the drink is also whimsical, subverting established ideas of food and drink. As Chan explains, with the cocktail, “You are effectively drinking your French Toast and eating your Espresso Martini.”