YouTube comedy stars The Try Guys—Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene Lee Yang—are famous for giving just about anything a shot, from getting hypnotized to playing a blindfolded chess master. Their latest experiment, the Food Network show No-Recipe Road Trip, finds them in some of America’s best restaurant kitchens, attempting to recreate signature menu items without the recipes. This month, though, their focus is on drinks, as they head to the New York City Wine & Food Festival (October 13–16) to judge the Battle of the Boroughs cocktail showdown. While traveling the country, they’ve certainly developed strong opinions about what makes for a great bar. “I judge a cocktail bar on whether or not they can do a good Moscow Mule,” says Kornfeld. “If you have a specialized cup for only one drink, that means you’re not messing around.” Ahead of the cocktail competition, he recommends three of the most memorable watering holes he’s visited in America.
Charleston, South Carolina
At the bar of her Charleston bistro, chef Vivian Howard repurposes her blueberry barbecue sauce in the Spittin’ Image, a cocktail made with bourbon, blueberry barbecue shrub, and lemon. “Her whole philosophy of Southern cooking is not letting anything go to waste,” Kornfeld explains. Howard created the aforementioned sauce after she found herself with a surplus of blueberries that were about to go bad, and she uses it in her smoked blueberry barbecue wings. “The way she takes that same sauce and makes cocktails out of it really blew our minds,” Kornfeld says.
Kornfeld says cocktails are “all about the showmanship.” That’s why he’s so taken with Chaatable’s Bubble or Nothing, a rum-based drink with vanilla, blood orange, and cinnamon, finished with a ginger smoke bubble. “They have a smoke bubble gun that creates a giant bubble of smoke over your drink,” he says, “which then pops and dissipates over the glass.”
While in Atlanta, The Try Guys stayed within walking distance of the Ponce City Market, where they often found themselves sidling up to the pink-and-green bar at Atrium. “It just gave us the feeling of being a little classy, where we could then stumble back home,” Kornfeld says. One of their favorite cocktails was the Dragon Painter, made with gin, shochu, Japanese citrus, lime, and something called umami paint. “What made it fun is I don’t even know what all of the ingredients are,” he says. “If I don’t know what something is, I’m more likely to get it.”
To buy tickets for the Battle of the Boroughs: A Cocktail Showdown hosted by The Try Guys, as well as other events at this year’s New York City Wine & Food Festival, visit nycwff.org.