BY Led Black (@Led_Black)
If you know where to go uptown, you can get totally shit-faced for a mere $10. I’m not talking about happy hour at any of the many excellent bars, pubs and lounges of the neighborhood. No, I am talking about the elusive and enigmatic elixir known to the locals as the NUTCRACKER. This is the story of this storied concoction. Many fights have started, many babies have been made and plenty of people have gotten completely and utterly twisted – all because of this mysterious libation. This column will not only reveal the ingredients of the drink but also tell the tale of one the first people to bring this potent potion to the streets of Washington Heights and beyond.
The first time I tried a Nutcracker was back in the year 2000 when my barber, who will be referred to as Fatyul (pronounced fa tuile) to avoid any legal ramifications, offered me one as she cut my hair. Ever the entrepreneur, Fatyul decided to sell the mixed drinks on the side after noticing how well they sold at the Flor de Mayo restaurant on 101st street and Broadway. After obtaining the recipe she began to sell them out of a cooler she kept next to her barber chair. For a paltry 10 bucks you received a heaping 32 ounces of alcohol laced goodness in a large plastic soup container. My haircut that day took longer than usual because almost every other minute someone was stopping in to buy more of her modern day moonshine. I couldn’t care less though as I was mid way through my Nutcracker and I was feeling euphoric. I ended up having 2 more Nutcrackers and needless to say I wound up whispering sweet nothings to the toilet bowl later on that night.
Fatyul’s operation expanded exponentially from that point. Proceeds from the sale of Nutcrackers paid for the deposit on a new apartment as well as the deposit on a basement apartment she used for the sole purpose of selling the mixed drinks. Not to mention providing the seed money to open up her very own barbershop. At its height, the enterprise employed a total of 6 people. Not only was she selling Nutcrackers retail to folks in the street who sometimes purchased 15 of them at a pop but she was also selling Nutcrackers wholesale, charging $400 dollars for a 5 gallon bucket. She opened up another Nutcracker spot in the 170’s and was moving five 5 gallon buckets a day – nearly 10 buckets on Saturdays and Sundays. People came from as far as Providence, Rhode Island to purchase her Nutcrackers.
And then everything started to unravel; others folks started to sell their own version of the drink and some of her workers started scheming and pocketing some of the proceeds. The coup de grace came when the cops raided the basement apartment. Luckily, she did not have her name on the lease and the cops didn’t really pursue the case as it was not hard drugs. Not wanting to jeopardize her immigration status, Fatyul walked away from the industry that she created. She didn’t leave empty handed though, she walked away with a cool 35 grand.
Nowadays, if you know where to look you can still purchase a Nutcracker for 10 bucks almost anywhere in Washington Heights. One dude in the Dyckman area even had them bottled up with a label and sold them out of the back of a van. Another cat I know actually has a store that sells a frozen derivative of the Nutcracker comically named the Nemo. The story of the Nutcracker embodies the never surrender spirit which is an integral part of the character of Dominicans in particular and immigrants in general. So the next time you have a Nutcracker make sure you say a toast to Fatyul and the legacy she left behind. Salud!!!
Check out the story that started it all: The Nutcracker
Read the awesome story by Michael Feeney of the NY Daily News on our film: The modern-day moonshine of upper Manhattan
By the way, check out our short film The Incredibly Spectacular Dyckman Fireworks below.
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Unity CarrieFebruary 7, 2010 at 11:47 am
I’m making one for breakfast right now. I may not make it to church today.
hectorMay 17, 2013 at 11:52 am
wheres the recipe? going to george lopez tonight and wanted to make for all the passengers on the bus ride :
LindaFebruary 10, 2010 at 12:44 am
I have only had a few encounters with this (once mysterious) cocktail and all I can say is that the night was filled with peaks and valleys…and those valley were way low! Thanks for the history lesson.
CaonaboAugust 4, 2010 at 12:40 am
I read your story on the NutCracker and you gotta give credit where it is due.
I know that the 1st person and the only one that has been running that business in the streets – for the last over a decade.
That everyone knows the one who made this phenomenon possible was Freddy Imperial of 186th & Audubon.
Same dude from Dominican USA.
OP-LED – THE NUTCRACKER: AN UPTOWN THING «August 6, 2010 at 11:35 am
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IriAugust 6, 2010 at 7:18 pm
Fatyul is the best person that knows how to do the Nutcraker!! The first one that brought it to the heightz 🙂 and now ppl r coming out with the nemoo. But nothing compared to Nutcraker!!
ethnAugust 13, 2010 at 3:16 am
hell yeah, 186 and audubon is crazy!
JoannyAugust 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm
Who was first? Who was second? The important thing is that Fatyul or Freddy Imperial have both benefited from the fruits of the nutcracker! Drink up!
MissGSeptember 9, 2010 at 6:23 pm
and if anyone wants some free e-books to read while sippin on ya “nutcracker”, check out my blog and see the list of sites provided there.
THE NY TIMES COVERS THE NUTCRACKER «September 22, 2010 at 10:17 am
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Randy S.September 22, 2010 at 11:45 am
I sooo agree with you….Every time someone sees this article makes you want to read it…GOOD JOB!!!
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MathhattanDecember 21, 2010 at 6:21 pm
Cool Story did not know my hood had something to do with it when u mentioned flor de mayo i was like what lol Peace keep the good stories coming
BronxJune 17, 2012 at 5:17 pm
umm…186 & audobon nutcrackers taste like cough medicine…its digusting..Id take a nemo over that garbage any day smh
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frank154February 3, 2013 at 4:12 am
I HEAR ALOT OF PEOPLE TALK ABOUT NUTCRACKERS STARTED AT FLOR DE MAYO BUT THE THRUTH IS FREDDY IMPERIAL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EPIDEMIC FOR CREATING THAT HUSTLE. DOMINICANS,NYC AND ESPECIALLY WASHINGTON HEIGHTS OWE THAT DUDE.
adminFebruary 3, 2013 at 7:19 am
Frank – you are right in that there is no one that did more for spreading Nutcrackers Uptown and beyond than Freddy Imperial but still Flor De Mayo made the original Nutcracker.
frank154March 2, 2013 at 5:41 am
HONESTLY FLOR DE MAYO DOESNT COUNT BECAUSE THE ONLY REASON PEOPLE LIKE THIS STORY IS BECAUSE OF WHAT FREDDY IMPERIAL DID HE’S THE MODERN DAY “AL CAPONE” AND IM NOT EVEN DOMINICAN BUT WHEN FLOR DE MAYO OR WHO EVER YOU PEOPLE CHOOSE TO GIVE CREDIT TO HAVE ATLEAST A MILLION PEOPLE LIKE HE HAS IN WASHINGTON HEIGHTS IN 186st & AUDUBON ON DOMINICAN DAY PARADE THEN YOU CAN IGNORE FREDDY
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StephMay 17, 2014 at 10:52 am
every time you repost you make me want one!! its 2014 not 2010 – where do we go now a days??
LaFreeAugust 11, 2014 at 3:30 pm
Cheap booze, cough syrup and juice….it ain’t rocket science or the reinvention of the wheel….