Musician Tom Vek Gets Schooled & Sloshed on Champagne

Although the title only applies to one of us, Tom Vek and I are both living like rock stars as we relax at PH-D Rooftop Lounge at the new Dream Downtown hotel in New York, which happens to be where BlackBook will be celebrating its 15th birthday. The sun is setting over the Hudson River, a million city lights are flickering to life, and Miss Cayman Islands 2006 is plying us with an inspired selection of champagne cocktails. Yes, life is good, and Tom seems at ease as we talk about his new album, Leisure Seizure (out September 13), the follow-up to 2005’s We Have Sound, which—along with appearances on The OC and the Grand Theft Auto IV soundtrack—helped him gain a following in his native England as well as in the States.

The 30-year-old multi-instrumentalist has a unique sound, which fuses the DNA of a soulful singer-songwriter with the polish of a modern pop star. Leisure Seizure showcases both his commanding voice and finely honed production skills, with driving beats, stripped-down guitars, and buzzing synthesizers that make you either want to hit the dance floor or kick back with a drink—which brings us back to the other reason for our visit: booze. Tonight’s mixologist is much more than a pretty face. Ambuyah Ebanks, who worked at the Soho Grand Hotel’s Grand Bar before helping open PH-D this summer, has a gift for fusing disparate ingredients into flavorful, well-balanced cocktails that are as beautiful as they are delicious. As the drinks begin arriving—which, with the exception of the Edelweiss, are Ebanks’ own creations—Vek holds forth on school trips, candy floss, and the sheer joy of having too much of a good thing.

COCKTAIL #1: Mello Cello 1 oz. Stoli Citros Vodka ½ oz. Cointreau ¾ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a champagne flute and top with Saint-Hilaire Brut followed by 3 dashes of Angostura bitters. Garnish with a lemon twist. TOM VEK: “The nose reminds me of my mum’s carrot cakes and the flavor makes me think of being on a school trip to France as a pre-teen and drinking Orangina: It’s a youthful cocktail, and it makes me feel young.”

COCKTAIL #2: Elder Agave Dream 1 oz. Cazadores Blanco Tequila ½ oz. St. Germain ¾ oz. grapefruit juice ½ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a rocks glass with fresh ice and top with Saint-Hilaire Brut. Garnish with a lime wheel. TV: “I’m getting the aroma of really good quality wood and leather, and it tastes almost like ginger beer. It’s well-matched between sour and sweet.”

COCKTAIL #3: The Dancing Rose 1 oz. Hendrick’s Gin ¾ oz. Vie Vité Extraordinaire Rosé ¾ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial. Garnish with a cucumber slice. TV: “The smell reminds me of freshly cut grass after the sprinkler has gone over it, or a field of strawberries. It’s like a reconstructed old-fashioned lemonade with watermelon.”

COCKTAIL #4: Sea Blue Star 1 oz. Starr African Rum ½ oz. Bols Triple Sec ½ oz. white cranberry juice ¾ oz. lemon juice ½ oz. simple syrup Pour ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and shake. Strain into a champagne flute rimmed with a mix of Blue Curaçao and sugar and top with Moët & Chandon Ice Imperial. TV: “It’s slightly joyless for how joyful it looks, like an austere drink in party clothes. But it has a nice, clean taste with hints of apple and candy floss. It’s like cybergoth champagne. This is starting to feel like a leisure seizure. The idea that I’m being brought cocktails faster than I can drink them ties into the concept of the album.”

COCKTAIL #5: Edelweiss 4 oz. Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial ½ oz. St. Germain ½ oz. lemon juice Pour all ingredients into a wine glass with ice then top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with a heaping spoonful of pomegranate seeds. TV: “This is very much a summer drink, like a glass of juice into which you put a load of ice. It’s representative of the chilling process, though somewhat diluted by its own identity. It’s very easy to drink, and the elderflower from the St. Germain really comes through.”

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