"I was in Newport, maybe 15 or 16 years old, working as a busboy when the movie Cocktail came out," says Greg Seider, partner and head bartender at The Summit Bar in New York's Alphabet City. "I was just obsessed with it. I memorized it. The bartenders would ask me how to make certain drinks, and after I got off my shift, they'd let me go behind the bar and do...you know." He mimes flipping a bottle, and laughs. "They probably just thought it was cute."
Seider has since ditched the acrobatics, but the sense of play he honed as a teenager (and later, as a bartender in NY's celeb-soaked club scene), shows up in The Summit's cocktail program. After stints at Asia de Cuba and Mercer Kitchen, along with one long winter in Rhode Island spent watching Ming Tsai's cooking shows, Seider emerged with a love of Asian ingredients and a flair for culinary-style flavor combos.
"I started doing a lot of Asian cooking, and it had an impact. If I'm in the kitchen, and my brain is doing a dish, it's also translating the flavors into how they'd work at the bar: bourbon, rum, cardamom, shiso, yuzu, whatever," Seider says. "My cocktail lab is in the kitchen." Not to mention the garden: back when The Summit was just an idea, it was designed to be rooted in fresh produce.
"We have this garden around the corner, and when we opened, we wanted to grow everything over there," he says. "There just wasn't ever enough sun. But the 'garden to glass' concept stuck, regardless." Today, whether it's in the citrus-infused agave, shiso leaf garnishes, or red bell pepper puree, each drink reps for the local, seasonal bounty.
The best way to see that ethos in action? The Ground to Glass, the Summit Bar's best-loved cocktail, and an icon of Seider's love of experimenting with with vegetables, smoked salts, and spicy (in this case, cinnamon) bitters. Check it out now, along with five of Seider's other favorites, in the slideshow.
The Summit Bar
About the Author: Carly Wray is a Brooklyn-based wine & spirits writer. She loves good Bonarda, cheap bourbon, and publishing uninformed opinions on her blog, Confessions of a Wine Fraud.