Summer Thyme (all drinks $11)
A contribution of Calvin Rocchio. "Anything we're doing here, I want to be timely but to have some staying power through the season, too... we don't change up the list that often." It's a mezcal drink lightened up by lemon, blackberries, and St. Germain ("Anything with St. Germain just moves on a cocktail list"), with thyme as an herbal accent. "I think very visually—I want drinks to have what [Five Leaves owner] Jud Mongell calls the 'Instagram Factor.' When a server walks by, people should say 'Hey, what's that one?'"
"We're using Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray soda for this one," says Sabo. "'Jewish Champagne,' people call it. Everyone wants to talk about local ingredients, and hey—this has been in Williamsburg since 1869. What's more local than that?" Fresh muddled fennel starts the drink off, with lime juice, tequila, that Cel-Ray, and a grind of black pepper on top. "I feel like these days, people dump absinthe in everything—it can turn people off of anise flavors. That's why I use the fresh fennel in here, a much less aggressive way of doing anise."
"This is one of those cocktails that took quite a lot of working before we got it right," says Sabo of this cocktail that started from an idea of Bobby Strickland's. They wanted to use chipotle and create some sort of riff on a Michelada; "Honestly, we were thinking about the flavors of a barbecue sauce: sweet, spicy, tangy, it does a lot of the same things." In the final drink: guava puree, honey, and lime, with bourbon, chipotle paste, and a lager float.
Here again, Sabo plays off anise flavors without anything aggressive—"I float star anise on top; you smell it and you think it's going to be an anise drink, but it's just on the nose." The neon yellow-green color comes from Avèze, a French gentian liqueur that Sabo thinks "is going to be the next Cocchi—you know how suddenly Cocchi Americano was in every single cocktail a little while back? That's this guy, soon." It meets creme de cacao, gin. lime, and orange bitters. "With the smell and the color, you think you're getting one kind of drink, something anise-y, and you're getting another. And it keeps changing in the course of a sip. I like it that way... I really like experiential beverages."
"I spent two weeks in Norway recently," says Sabo, "and when you're there, you're drinking basically nothing but aquavit. I didn't love it at first, but you make a turn eventually... on the fifth or sixth one." He likes it in cocktails because of its finish: "You can sweeten a cocktail up, do almost anything to it, and you still have that caraway-rye bread finish." Here, the aquavit is stirred with Combier Pampelmousse and Velvet Falernum and topped with sparkling wine. "There's nothing worse than when you take a sip of a drink, and it's good, and then—that's it. It goes nowhere. I wanted this to end on a different note."
"We've had good luck with variants on an Old Fashioned," says Sabo, "so this is a sort of Southern take: bourbon and peach liqueur." Cynar works as the bitter element. "I found that the liqueur de peche and the Cynar play really well together. You think it's going to end sweet, but then—Cynar saves the day!"