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.
"We could have gone really progressive here with the cocktail program, but we don't know what the neighborhood wants yet," explains Eamon Rockey, general manager of the just-opened Midtown spot, Betony. "The idea was to go back to the basics, focus on simplicity and quality—good, tasty drinks, good ice, good glassware—and evolve from there based on what people want from us."
While the general theme here is "classics with a delicate twist," that's not to say there aren't some progressive (read: geeky) touches on the menu. Oleo saccharum, a super-concentrated sugared oil and recent obsession of Rockey's, features in a couple drinks. In the Orange Julep, for example, it lends a subtle sweetness and a not-so-subtle punch of citrus to balance the drink's dose of bracing rye whiskey. "It's about taking a lot of time to make the few things that are integral to the drink really well," Rockey notes.
In the case of the Nostromo, their riff on a classic highball, that means taking the time to layer the soda and the spirits in order to create a more integrated, bubbly cocktail. "A lot of times when you get highballs they're not executed well—the spirit's on the bottom, the soda's on the top, so no matter how you drink it it's not good," explains Rockey. But you won't find any soda at all in their Kaffir Lime Mojito. "Technically, the Mojito is a swizzle. A lot of people do the soda thing and I've never really understood why—all the dilution should come from the ice, they're better that way in my opinion, you get more punch from the spirit and the juice."
Having spent the last few years of his professional career in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn—his resume includes Eleven Madison Park, Atera, and most recently, Aska—Midtown is more or less uncharted waters for Rockey. "We wanted to offer the neighborhood a quality cocktail program—to be adaptable, relevant, conscientious, with good service and good value. We want people to be able to call this their clubhouse."