"I recently spent 3 months in Europe," said David Flaherty, operations manager for Hearth Restaurant and Terroir Wine Bar. (As well as the writer of drinks site Grapes and Grains.) "I came back and looked at our cocktail list and realized—our bar program isn't showcasing local spirits. The ethos of the restaurant is all local, all the time, so why weren't our cocktails? And why isn't anyone else doing a New York-based cocktail list?"
That's why Flaherty (along with bartender team of Jarred Roth, Christine Wright, and Patrick Green) put together Hearth's current cocktail list, 7 drinks that all showcase New York-made spirits. "Every spirit wants to be on the cocktail list," says Flaherty, "but we had, say, Hangar One from California in our cocktails. There's more and more distilling in New York state, and we wanted to give those spirits a voice." Of course, not everything in the drinks is New York-made; mezcal comes from Mexico, Scotch from Scotland. But if the primary spirit isn't from New York, one of the secondaries is.
They tossed around other ideas for a revamped cocktail list, but decided that updating classics wasn't for them ("What am I going to do with a Manhattan that no one else is?"). What's more, they needed a lineup suited to a busy restaurant rather than a cocktail bar. "At PDT, if they make you a cocktail and it takes 10 minutes, you're watching the bartender smash things and flame things and it's part of the show. But at Hearth? You're not watching it. We needed pared-down cocktails that tasted like complex cocktails. I think that's what we have here."
Flaherty, Roth, and team had a good time with these, right down to the names; every cocktail honors a different New York explorer. "They had this total renegade spirit, and I feel like these New York distillers do, too." And nerdy as they get with the cocktails, they get with the history behind it. "We geek out about everything here. But it's fascinating shit. I mean, have you heard the whole story of Henry Hudson?"
We hadn't, but we did, as we met with Flaherty and head bartender Jarred Roth to taste our way through the list.