Note: First Looks give previews of new drinks and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with bars and restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
You won't find 'bar chefs' at the recently-opened Alphabet City spot, The Third Man, but rather a bar run by chefs. The project is the latest from partners Eduard Frauneder and Wolfgang Ban of the neighboring restaurant Edi & the Wolf and midtown's Seasonal.
"There's a great sense of cross-pollination from Edi & the Wolf, with house-made cordials, smoked components, etc.," explains Frauneder. "Some of the pickling juices we use over at Edi & the Wolf will make appearances in the cocktails, along with savory ingredients like celery juice and beet juice to create unexpected flavors."
"It's a very heterodox approach," says head bartender J. Rosser Lomax, formerly of Brooklyn's Huckleberry Bar. "The bar team has a strong background and technique, but we're also led by a chef who doesn't necessarily immediately know what it means when you say 'it's an American Trilogy variation'. We have the input of all these different schools of thought and so we're not bound by a given tradition or perspective." This leads to cocktails like the Archduke, the aforementioned American Trilogy variation featuring fresh fennel juice and apple brandy—a flavor pairing suggested by Frauneder.
The bar's name alludes to 1949 cult-classic British film noir starring Orson Welles, and you cou can find the film referenced everywhere from the décor (towering bunches of cotton plants nod to one of the movie's main characters, Joseph Cotten) to the cocktail menu (the mezcal-based Harry Lime is named after Welles' character). The film is also set in Vienna, home to one of Frauneder and Ban's favorite spots, The Loos Bar. Explains Fraundeder, "It's a café by day and bar by night where people can spend hours amongst friends enjoying a single cocktail—we wanted to capture that same sense of escape and enjoyment."
Less obvious is the reference to what Frauneder calls the "legend of the 'third man'." "There's tons of hiking and mountain climbing in Austria, and if you're scaling the mountain with one other person, you always believe that there's a 'third man' in tow, a good spirit following behind you. Good spirits: good cocktails," he adds, winkingly.
While cocktails are certainly the focus here, Frauneder notes that the bar will soon be offering a small menu of seasonal cheeses and light bites, like house-cured speck and chicken liver terrine, that are "slightly more elegant than what we offer at Edi & the Wolf. People can stop by while they're waiting for a table at Edi, or make a meal out of it if they'd prefer to stay a while," he explains.
Want a peek at some of The Third Man's "good spirits"? Check out the slideshow above.