A Toast to the Season

The Polo Bar’s cocktail guru shares the secrets of his latest creations
Ralph Lauren has always said that when it comes to designing a collection, he’s inspired by tradition, but not bound by it. The same could be said for the drinks menu at The Polo Bar, which is updated several times a year with new twists on the cocktail classics. At Ralph Lauren’s celebrated restaurant in midtown Manhattan (not to mention Ralph’s, in Paris, or RL Restaurant, in Chicago), you can always find a perfectly rendered martini or the ultimate old-fashioned, alongside a seasonal menu of new concoctions. The man behind the menu is beverage director Darnell Dodson, who uses a handpicked selection of some of the world’s most unique spirits to update—and improve upon—the standards. Here, he shares the secret to his favorites from fall 2016, both classic and new.

The Polo Bar Autumn Punch

A seasonally appropriate punch has become a Polo Bar signature, and the fall 2016 edition—which is grounded in cachaça that’s been aged in amburana wood—is not to be missed. The aging darkens the color of the traditionally clear Brazilian liquor and the native wood “adds these nutty, nutmeg, savory notes—like aromatic baking spices,” Dodson says.

Royal Combier (a spiced orange liqueur from just outside the Cognac region) and a drizzle of house-made cinnamon syrup punctuate the cocktail’s autumnal flavors, which are brightened by the citrus in the drink.

“It has a very juicy quality to it,” Dodson says, and like any good punch, “you can hardly taste the booze.” Translation: Sip responsibly!

2 oz. aged cachaça
½ oz. Royal Combier
1 oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. cinnamon syrup

Combine the ingredients, with ice, in a cocktail shaker. Shake until well chilled. Pour over ice. Garnish with an orange twist and serve in the Brenna Double-Old-Fashioned Glass.


The Pink Pony

To mark the 15th anniversary of Ralph Lauren’s signature global philanthropic initiative, Dodson gave the recipe for the original Pink Pony cocktail, which was built on tequila, cranberry juice, and apple juice, a serious upgrade. “We found a way to elevate the original,” Dodson says, with muddled fresh apple and a small helping of vintage Armagnac, which “adds a bit of richness” and balances the drink’s bright apple and citrus flavors. Another layer: freshly grated cinnamon. “Because we are in fall, we had to warm it up a bit.”

The result is worthy of a champagne saucer and is available at The Polo Bar (as well as RL Restaurant in Chicago and Ralph’s in Paris) only in October, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying one at home all year round.

½ apple
1 ½ oz. Maestro Dobel Diamante Tequila
½ oz. Château de Pellehaut 1989 Armagnac
¾ oz. cranberry juice
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. honey
3 dashes apple bitters

Cube half an apple and muddle. Combine the ingredients, with ice, in a cocktail shaker. Shake until well chilled. Top with freshly grated cinnamon and serve in the Dagny Champagne Saucer.



“An amazing drink, and one of my favorites,” Dodson says of James Bond’s cocktail of choice, first described by Ian Fleming in Casino Royale. A few liberties were taken for the Polo Bar edition, including a ratio of two parts vodka to one part gin—the inverse of Bond’s original specification.

“We switched proportions a little bit because that’s what works with the ingredients that we use,” he says. Despite the lower quantity, the Monkey 47 gin is “really the star of the drink,” Dodson says. “It’s a very small-production gin with 47 different herbs and botanicals that are literally hand-foraged in the Black Forest. The perfume on it is unlike any other gin.”

Dodson is quick to point out that, modifications aside, the Polo Bar Vesper is true to the 007 original in one important way: “It’s shaken, not stirred.”

2 oz. Elit Vodka
1 oz. Monkey 47 Gin
¼ oz. Lillet Blanc
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine the ingredients, with ice, in a cocktail shaker. Shake until well chilled. Garnish with fresh lemon zest and serve in the Broughton Martini Glass.

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The interim editor of RL Mag, ANDREW PAINE BRADBURY is a New York–based writer and musician.
  • All photographs courtesy of Ralph Lauren Corporation