Bitter flavors mix with tequila in a comfort cocktail especially nice for snuggling up and basking in herbal  splendor. Serve this cocktail as a late-night nightcap to sip, relax, and review.

For this party’s theme of comfort and coziness, we asked a guy to design something for us that would fit the bill. As a lover of all things bitter and intense, Daniel Rutkowski delivered with an intense mix of tequila, Punt e Mes vermouth—a sweet/bitter combo from the 1800s, and Cynar, an herbal liqueur which also includes artichoke. That last ingredient is a tough one to incorporate, but in this drink it works perfectly.

Although Daniel has but few years mixing under his belt, he has solid plans to make a career out of his trade. He’s already off to a good start, after convincing the managing partner of Middle Branch, Lucinda Sterling, to train him in Sasha Petraske methodology and style. Daniel is overjoyed to call Middle Branch his home. We got the inside scoop on his line of thinking.

Do you have a comfort go-to?
An amaro adds bitterness and sweetness, but beyond that provides a warmth and a vast herbal complexity that no one other spirit offers.

Middle Branch offers bespoke cocktails that cater to guests’ mood. What’s been your most unusual request?
One is ingrained in my memory forever: gin, lemon juice, cucumber, egg white, no sugar. After a few misfires of sneaking a bar spoon of simple syrup in just to make the drink palatable, we learned to accept that this particular guest simply loves frothy and unbelievably tart concoctions.

Describe the scene at Middle Branch
At times, the downstairs can be a tad overwhelming with a sea of thirsty millenials. Monday through Wednesday, we have live jazz trios and a bluegrass band downstairs, so it’s rare to see the room not filled. We try to keep the upstairs a serene and romantic safe haven, but even that becomes impossible on the weekends.

Any new spirits catch your eye?
I’ve been obsessed with Cynar since I tasted it, so I’m always playing around with it, and lately I’ve been fascinated with Black Strap Rum. It is an aged, molasses-driven, extremely rich spirit that pairs with anything bitter and anything in the cacao family—the perfect bottle for the frigid months ahead.

Middle Branch, 154 e 33 St (btw Third/Lexington) NYC

See more ideas for throwing a laid-back affair in 11 Comfort Pasta