Plenty of cocktail menus around town are the obvious work of a single person, with through-lines in spirits, themes, or philosophy. But Dan Sabo of Five Leaves in Brooklyn, who switched out almost his entire cocktail menu just last week, decided he'd prefer a collaboration.
"There are four other bartenders here," Sabo told us, "and I got them all into it. They go and come up with ideas, we do tastings, we refine them. It makes for a much more varied and interesting list than I could've come up with myself."
Dan Sabo started as the bar director of Five Leaves when they opened in Greenpoint in September of 2008 and has been there, with a few months working elsewhere, ever since.
"It's been amazing to watch the neighborhood change," he told us. "When we opened, we were pretty much the only place around, and people expected us to have good cocktails. It grew out of necessity." Now, he says, "we sell more house cocktails than beer, wine, soda, anything."
For the most part, they're fresh, ingredient-driven drinks, rather than ones based around showcasing a single brand of spirit. Novel fruit and even soda mixers, lots of spices, and herbal accents all appear in a menu that varies wildly in terms of spirits used and the aesthetics of each drink. It's clear that there are a lot of ideas contained in this cocktail list. "Some bartenders say, I'd never serve a drink I didn't like," Sabo told us—"but I think that's insane. I don't love ginger in drinks, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. We all have different tastes."
At Five Leaves right now, they're still accommodating neighborhood regulars with a few standbys: a grapefruit margarita, the sweet tea vodka–based Southern Belle, the self-explanatory "whiskey in a jar." But the rest of the list has flipped, with eight more drinks just added to the menu.