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.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. At the freshly opened Bowery restaurant Pearl & Ash, the need was for a list of cocktails that fit within the constraints of the space's wine and beer license. Their creative solution? A collection of mixed drinks that feature beer and fortified wines like sherry, port, and vermouth as the base ingredient.
"Everything on the list is low ABV—it's been a good challenge, taking these ingredients that are normally just used as modifiers in cocktails and instead making them the star," explains head bartender Dave Powell.
This opening list of aperitif-based drinks was conceived by master mixologist Eben Klemm, who Powell worked with at Ginny's Supper Club. "He really knows how to take these ingredients and manipulate them in a way that makes you forget you're drinking a cocktail that's below 20% ABV," says Powell.
Take, for example, The Alley and The Icewagon, a coffee-infused Punt y Mes-based sipper that Powell calls "a perfect Manhattan, minus the whiskey." Or the Spiritual America, a refreshing Cosmo riff that mimics the classic cocktail's aesthetic but not its flavor. "The blood orange juice and Lillet rosé bring sweet and floral notes, and then you have the lime juice and Dolin dry give it balance."
Although the restaurant plans to apply for a full liquor license, Powell notes that this type of drink is actually a smart fit for the style of food being presented. "Because all of the base ingredients are aperitifs, you can go through a small plate and then go back to sipping your cocktail and it's as if your palate has been cleansed just as the next plate is set to come out. Everything on the list is meant to play with the rhythm of the kitchen."