It might be easy to come to Lulu & Po, the small plates joint that opened in Fort Greene this past June, and overlook the cocktail menu. After all, it only has four items. But bar manager Gerrett White makes it clear that these chosen few were selected with care. "We just wanted to feature classic cocktails that we particularly love but with a slight twist—you know, not exactly take a cut-and-copy approach to it," he explains.
A 14-year restaurant industry veteran, White made the switch from front-of-house to bartender four years ago while at the now-shuttered East Village spot Belcourt. It's there that he hooked up with Lulu & Po's chef-owner Matthew Hamilton, who was the restaurant's executive chef at the time. It was also there that one Lulu & Po's signature cocktails, on the menu now as The Carlton, first came together. It brings together equal parts gin and dry vermouth, with just a few drops each of orange bitters, absinthe, and simple syrup.
"It's important to me when I make drinks to make sure the spirit stands out," continues White. But at Lulu & Po, the spirits might not be what you'd expect. White favors what he considers to be standout "off-market" brands. For example, he uses Luksusowa vodka in a bracing, ginger-spiced Moscow Mule, and W.L. Weller 12-year bourbon ("it uses a high percentage of wheat, which gives it a sweeter flavor," he says) in his riff on an Old Fashioned. He also plans to have the bar focus on the arguably less-revered Canadian whiskies: "Most are blended, but they're coming out with some good straight whiskies that I'd like to feature," he says.
White suggests that the pared-down menu is really just a jumping off point for imbibers. A fan of that ginger syrup in your Moscow Mule? Ask what other syrups they make in-house and you might discover their cola variety (which apparently makes a "pretty unique" whiskey and coke). Or perhaps you really dig the thick salt rim on your seasonal Blackberry Margarita? White will tell you that it's also an excellent garnish for a Salty Dog.
Lulu & Po
About the author: Maryse Chevriere is a card-carrying cocktail geek on a mission to keep her glass (at least) half full.