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.
"The thing I didn't realize about brunch cocktails is that a lot of them are like food," Christine Wright said about creating the brunch cocktails at Hearth. Wright is the Spirits and Service Director there, and she has been for three years. But she wasn't aware of the nuances in brunch cocktails because she never had to make them. In the decade Hearth has been open in the East Village, the restaurant has been dinner-only. Hearth opened their doors to a brunch crowd last weekend for the first time in ten years. "The whole idea with brunch," she said, "is that we want to open up to the neighborhood."
Marco Canora's locavore approach permeates all facets of the restaurant, and Wright's bar program is no exception. "Each of our cocktails, whether they are for brunch or dinner," Wright says, "has a New York spirit. We get as much of our food from the Greenmarket and local farms as possible, so we figured we should do the same with cocktails."
Wright has taken full advantage of the recent spike in local, artisanal New York spirits available on the market. Averell Damson Plum Liquor stars in the Evander Berry Wall show, Finger Lakes Distilling "Seneca Drums" Gin joins candied grapefruit and club soda in a drink called the Zelda Kaplan, and Wright mixes Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey with Dutch's Peach Brandy for a drink called Barbara Hutton. Each of these cocktails (named after New York socialites), and most others currently on the menu, are finished with some form of bubbles. Wright explains: "When I go out to brunch, I just want bubbly, fun things that work well when you're mildly hungover."
The cocktails are around $10. "We wanted to make the cocktails accessible to people in the neighborhood," she explained. "A lot of people who live around here might not be able to afford us for dinner. So with brunch, we wanted to keep the prices low so more people in the neighborhood would be able to eat here."
About the Author: Craig Cavallo is a Serious Eats intern with an addiction to New York City's food and drink. Learn more about his problem at digestny.com.