"This is very much a personal project for us—it tells a story of where we're from," explains Will Horowitz, head chef of East Village newcomer Ducks Eatery.
You might think it a pretty likely sounding story for a restaurant until you learn that the "where" in this case is a decidedly unlikely collection of influences spanning from New Orleans and Southeast Asia to New England and the West Coast. The project is a collaborative effort between Horowitz, bar manager Steve Laycock, Will's sister Julie, and chef de cuisine David Milburn. Horowitz and Laycock met while Laycock (a one-time manager of 169 Bar) was working at SPiN New York, where Horowitz was the founding restaurant partner. "We came from really similar mountain towns out West and both spent a lot of time traveling throughout Asia and abroad so we hit it off pretty instantly," says Horowitz.
But how exactly does this tale of many cities translate to the glass? There's a smoky Mezcal Paloma, for example, made fiery with chipotle simple syrup and accented with fresh sage in a combination that rings "homey" for New Mexico native Laycock. And also a playful Piña Colada/New York egg cream hybrid, on the menu as the Coco 'ti Punch, that channels the flavors of Thailand.
As it turns out, the mixed bag of muses is not as complicated in practice as it might read on paper. Continues Horowitz, "We're really trying to go simple, local—using freshly made juices, and letting ourselves be inspired by the market. We have a formula for what we're doing but the ingredients change."
Which means that as fall approaches, a drink like the summery Watermelon Gimlet will likely get a new star flavor, and ingredients like pumpkins, apples, and assorted root vegetables will find a home on the menu. By way of example, Horowitz mentions the recent purchase of a serious juicer, and imagines the possibility of a future purple potato water and potato vodka cocktail. "We're lucky in that we can really do whatever we want. We have a good team of creative people, so everything is in constant rotation. As long as it's interesting to us and we're passionate about it, hopefully it'll be just as interesting to other people," says Laycock.
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