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.
According to Jesse Cason, the beverage director of Saul Bolton's Red Gravy, "Italians have thirsts that match their appetite. They believe wine and spirits are integral to their enjoyment of their native cuisine. We like to think of our libations as enlivening to the palate," says Cason, "but also medicinal. Hopefully they will cure what ails you."
The cocktails at Red Gravy bear in mind the Italian practice of consuming apertivi to stimulate the appetite, and digestivi to aid in digestion. You'll recognize bottles of amari and herb-laced bitters behind the bar and in the cocktails: take, for example, the Whiskey Skiffer, a spin on a Boulevardier that's made with Cynar, an artichoke-laced liqueur, instead of the traditional Campari for an extra-bitter punch.
Based on its description, a drink like The Big Sky, made with tequila, mezcal, Aperol, and blood orange puree, might sound more appropriate for a taqueria than a trattoria. But bartender Gaba Vallone explains that "the smokiness of the mezcal, bitterness of the Aperol, and sweet/sour notes from blood orange pair nicely with the cuisines of southern Italy, rich seafood and tangier fruit."
The seasonal selection of housemade Italian sodas is meant to evoke a certain nostalgia. "We want people to think of that hot summer day when they sat down on the stoop and their grandmother handed them a cool glass of lemonade with mint," said Cason. But the flavors are a bit unexpected: think celery and tart vinegar, or a mix of sour cherry molasses and pomegranate juice.