With entertaining in mind, I’ve colluded with St. John Frizell to honor his party batch cocktail made with various lemon and tea notes highlighting a vodka- Benedictine base. See this party-pleasing recipe from a Brooklyn Red Hook enclave.

St. John Frizell was in the business of covering food and drink as a writer long before serving it. He’s since picked up the cocktail shaker himself, and become a restauranteur.  Fort Defiance (named for a Revolutionary-era stronghold), is a bastion of coziness and class in Red Hook, Brooklyn. I can really tell that he knows his stuff. Frizell’s cocktail menu is liquid, changing with the seasons and their ingredients. Hobnob interviewed him to see what lies behind his restaurant’s cocktail strategy.

How would you describe the style behind Fort Defiance’s cocktail menu?

Our menu always includes some original drinks, but it’s very important to us to include drinks on the menu that everyone recognizes, like a Tom Collins or an Irish Coffee. Those are not only great drinks, they’re also lifelines to any guest who might still be a little bewildered by the whole fancy-cocktail thing.

Do you have a personal favorite ingredient or liquor when it comes to cocktails?

So difficult to answer, but I’ll say apple brandy. It’s so misunderstood—when I put it on a menu, people automatically think green apple Pucker. But it’s a locally made spirit with a long, distinguished tradition in America, especially in the Northeast, and it works great in both stirred and shaken cocktails.

Tell us more about the King Bee cocktail.

We make this drink with Comb Vodka, made in Port Chester, NY, from pure honey—hence the name. Benedictine is expensive—look for a liquor store that sells smaller bottles (unless you really like to drink Benedictine). You can make this recipe without it, but it’s the ingredient that really makes this drink great. fortdefiancebrooklyn.com

Photos by JP Bonin