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're trying to tell a story of distillation in our drinks and on our menu," says Benjamin Wood, bartender at the newly opened Tribeca spot, Distilled NY. The story, Wood says, is about "that process of starting out with one thing and transforming it into something new."
Wood and his partner behind the bar, Sheldon Wiley, have created a list focused on reimagined classics and nods to the history of the cocktail. There's a play on a Ramos Gin Fizz, for example, that replaces gin with tequila and recalls the drink's colonial-era identity as a hangover cure. One original creation, Dram Betty, features a housemade 3-herb vodka named after Elizabeth "Betty" Flanagan, thought to be an inventor of the first cocktail.
"I like to say our concept across the board—cocktails, wine, beer, food—is mostly American with a global influence and regional bias," explains Wood. "American because we are an American public house, global because we don't want to limit ourselves, and a regional bias based on the historical context of how a public house would have used the products locally available to them."
You'll see this focus applied in the Mead Americano, a carbonated Negroni riff that features a lightly sweet mead from Washingtonville, New York. (Fans of mead should know also that Distilled will offer four different locally-made options by the glass.)
"For us, it's all about intentionality," says Wood, a Ward III and Goldbar vet. (Sheldon Wiley's resume includes Riff Raff and Hudson Hotel, not to mention the title of World's Fastest Bartender). In their take on the Mint Julep, this means dry shaking the mint instead of muddling it and burying it under a mountain of pebble ice to hold the mint at the bottom. "It forces you to drink from the straw so you get the added aromatics from the mint garnish as you sip," Wood explains.
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