Note: First Looks give previews of new drinks and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
"I want people in search of real cocktails, and people who haven't really had real cocktails, to try the same drink here and both be satisfied," says John McCarthy, cocktail director of the just-opened bar and restaurant, the Greenwich Project.
The latest from the folks behind the Mulberry Project and the Vinatta Project, this newly minted Greenwich Village spot is debuting with a cocktail list that aims to strike a balance between the accessible and the geeky. Take, for example, the BKLYN '76, a French 75 variation featuring rosemary-infused honey syrup and housemade lavender bitters. "I think the rosemary syrup and lavender bitters make it cocktail geek-worthy without making it too cocktail-geeky (which I am)," explains McCarthy, a 10-year New York bar vet who was most recently the beverage director at Whitehall and Highlands.
The current season has also had a heavy impact on the direction McCarthy has chosen to take the list. "I needed to come up with drinks that fit the season of, 'it's April, spring is here, but oh yeah, it just snowed last week'." His solution for the season's bi-polar weather antics: focusing on vegetal and herbaceous flavors. You'll find housemade celery bitters and herbal Yellow Chartreuse in the earthy, resposado tequila-based East of Eden. Or ingredients like Kümmel, a cumin, caraway, and fennel liqueur, that stars in the refreshingly bitter Intercontinental.
In addition to the menu's eight signature cocktails, a small box at the bottom of the list indicates the ability to go the route of 'Bartender's Choice.' "We have a "Classics" list too," notes McCarthy, which offers drinks that are "standards in their categories. That helps with Bartender's Choice because it allows people to say something like, I want a variation on a Last Word or a Sazerac."
Ultimately, says McCarthy, "I want to make stuff that people want to drink, not what I want them to drink—I'm just the one hosting the party."
About the author: Maryse Chevriere is a card-carrying cocktail geek on a mission to keep her glass (at least) half full. You can find her behind the bar preaching about peculiar wine at Terroir Park Slope and follow her spirited musings on Twitter @Maryse_Chev1224.