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.
Brandon Duff isn't exaggerating when he says that the cocktails at the newly opened Lounge at Atera in New York's Tribeca neighborhood are intended to match philosophically with the food being served at the restaurant upstairs. In fact, as the bartender explains, much of his prep work is done side by side with the team in the kitchen.
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"A lot of the time I'm in the kitchen prepping ingredients for the drinks—we have access to the same pantry, and I can get input from the chef, have him taste things," says Duff.
The 12-seat, reservations-only Tribeca lounge is located just one floor below chef Matthew Lightner's acclaimed tasting menu spot. The chef and Atera team have collaborated with Duff to create a seasonally driven cocktail list starring unexpected flavor combinations.
"We've tried to hit every different style on the menu—a Manhattan, a sour, a highball, etc.," says Duff, previously of Weather Up, "But we draw on culinary aspects and techniques to create something a little more complex."
For example, he's borrowing the kitchen's Gastrovac machine to create a low-temperature infusion of sorrel juice, elderflower, marigold, and anise to create the base of a Vesper variation called the Eden. In the Sass, a malty-herbaceous rye and Cynar-based concoction, you'll find an infusion made from chips of an 100 year-old piece of foraged sassafras bark.
Duff's training as barista has also carried over onto the menu (he once worked at TriBeCa's RBC coffee). He uses milk steamer on his Slayer machine behind the bar to give an airy, frothy texture to the warm brandy and IPA-based Old Fashioned Ale for an unusual take on the classic flip.