By Camper English
Bars continue to get more niche. You like farm-to-glass locavorism? There’s a joint just for you in Reno, of all places. Prefer low-alcohol cocktails? Several new spots are making sure you don’t get too drunk too soon. Drink only gin? San Francisco will soon have a bar with the world’s largest selection. And on and on. Read below to find out where you’ll be taking your boozier friends later this year.
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Johnny’s Gold Brick
Opened by the nightlife group Treadsack—which operates two other Houston Heights-area venues, Down House and D&T Drive Inn—this bar, named for a former burger joint in the building, will serve both cocktail snobs and shot shooters. They’ve brought on local bartender-hero Leslie Ross to develop the short menu of Texas-style, bargain-priced cocktails, boilermakers, and Old Fashioneds (served in shot glasses rolled with raw sugar).
Just a stone’s throw from the revitalized downtown drinking corridor (near Pastry War, Okra, and Bad News Bar), Izakaya—restaurant and bar—features a drink program designed by Chad Arnholt (Citizen Public House in Boston, Trick Dog in San Francisco) and Claire Sprouse (Rickhouse and ABV in SF). They’re borrowing some Japanese cocktail elements like highballs on tap and drinks with special unprocessed sugars, brought back from a multiweek research trip to the motherland. What to eat? They’re serving small bites in the izakaya style.
Brick & Mortar
Christina Rando, of Philly’s best-known cocktail spot The Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co., will become the lead bartender of this new industrial-chic (cement, corrugated steel) restaurant with a big U-shaped bar located on the ground floor of a Loft District luxury apartment complex. They’re aiming for quality drinks served quickly, and that includes wine on tap, bottled and batched cocktails, and low-alcohol libations to keep locals sitting on barstools long into the night.
South Dartmouth, MA
Beach Plum Café
Manhattan comes to Massachusetts as consultant Jonathan Pogash (Empire Room) is creating the beverage program in the seaside harbor of Padanaram Village (“think: the creek from Dawson’s Creek,” Pogash says). Scandinavian accents inform both the indoor/outdoor beachy design as well as the cocktails (aquavit in the summers, Glogg in the winters). Drink ingredients will be sourced from the many local farms.
The Up & Up
Matthew Piacentini of the sadly-defunct sherry-centric The Beagle will take shifts behind his new bar alongside head bartender Chaim Dauermann of Gin Palace. The Up & Up menu will feature just eight original cocktails like the Foster Avenue (Scotch and honeydew melon) and The Rose Among Thorns (aquavit, gin, Amaro Montenegro); a section for their take on shots called “Halfies;” and some vintage and contemporary classics. Sherry lovers will still have something to look forward to as Piacentini is bringing a bunch of cherished bottles, along with other fortified wines like Madeira and Pineau des Charentes.
A fireplace-festooned casual restaurant and cocktail bar with a tailor-shop theme located behind a leather goods store on the Upper East Side, Seamstress will open this winter with Dead Rabbit's Pamela Wiznitzer at the helm of the drink program. On the big menu: “fifty influential American cocktails” along with low-alcohol, no-alcohol, and large format (that means punch) options.
Herb & Bitter Public House
Opening: March or April
Bar Manager Leroy Thomas, who also holds down the fort at Rocco’s, is building a drink menu for this Capital Hill restaurant emphasizing Amari (bitter aperitifs, digestives and fernets) including a few vintage bottles. The European influence will also be reflected in the café-style seating and the glass-covered patio with retractable roof. The beverage program skews more American with spirits served from the barrels in which they originally aged, and this includes whiskey, gin, and brandy.
A mile south of Downtown Austin in the mixed-use development Lamar Union, VOX Table will have 23-foot ceilings and a back bar fronted by Travis Tober formerly of RM Seafood (Las Vegas) and the Four Seasons (Austin). The restaurant’s drink menu will have a house soda program and an emphasis on low-alcohol cocktails, while the bar spotlights boilermakers, highballs, and what Tober calls “crafted shift shots” AKA things bartenders like to drink. Finally, for fans of retro novelties, the Market Price Old Fashioned Menu sells drinks by weight rather than by the glass.
Chartreuse Kitchen & Cocktails
Opening next to the Detroit Institute of Arts in Midtown, Chartreuse will have rustic farmhouse elements and floral-themed décor including a living moss wall. Expect to see plants (seasonal botanical ingredients) on a short eight-drink menu, plus a big selection of vintage Chartreuse (you knew that was coming) dating back to the 1940s. Kaytee Querro (the same person who runs the Oakland Art Novelty Company) will lead the bar program, which also features a deep list of Amari by the glass.
Stookey’s Club Moderne
Opening: End of January
Opened by and named for lifetime San Francisco bartender Tim Stookey (Presidio Social Club), Lower Nob Hill bar Stookey’s Club Moderne will reflect not the dark speakeasy era, but the forward-looking 1930s, with chrome and linoleum touches in the art deco/modern style—”as if it was 1934 and Prohibition has just ended,” according to Stookey. Sticking close to the theme, Stookey has chosen a menu of about 15 period-specific drinks including the Twentieth Century, Pan American Clipper, and a signature drink called 100 Reasons Rye with rye, Punt e Mes, Cointreau, and orange bitters.
Opening: April Forthcoming Civic Center bar and restaurant Whitechapel will put a major emphasis on gin, which wouldn’t seem so revolutionary were it not co-owned by rum expert Martin Cate of tiki bar Smuggler’s Cove. The beverage director, Alex Smith, however, previously headed the drink programs in bars like Novela and Honor Bar. Here, he’s put together “the most comprehensive gin bar in the world” with “the largest selection of gin in the United States,” along with a 70-cocktail list featuring historic and modern gin cocktails and a house gin brand made by local Distillery 209.
Aatxe and Cafe du Nord
Opening: Winter 2015
Two different concepts are being built into the classic Swedish American Hall space in the Castro district—and in both the drink programs will be run by or consulted on by The Bon Vivants of Trick Dog. Café du Nord has long been a live music venue and that tradition will continue, along with a new restaurant serving items like burgers and salt cod croquettes. Drinks will be “inspired by 100 years of San Francisco nightlife” and include the Red Nicols Cobbler with champagne, cognac, cherry, lemon, and nutmeg, and the Chick’s Sunrise, with Mezcal, chile liqueur, cassis, grapefruit juice, and lime. Aatxe, on the other hand, will be a 50-seat Spanish restaurant upstairs with shared dishes and communal dining.
Bottle and Barlow
Opening: Spring 2015
This combination bar and barbershop will marry Art Deco design with modern technology in a style they call “Gotham City meets Fred Perry.” The bar side will have 10 cocktails on the list (some available by the pitcher) and a host of bartenders that will be able to go off-menu as well. The barbershop will have simple bottled cocktails and beer on tap; just be careful around the straight razors. Jayson Wilde of San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch is both partner and lead bartender for the project.
Paragary’s Midtown Bistro
Midtown Sacramento staple Paragary’s Bar & Oven is getting a full makeover with a “luxe minimalism” look, vintage Gold Country glassware, and a new cocktail program by Beverage Director Brad Peters of Hock Farm Craft & Provisions. The drinks will feature a lot of French influence, including classic cocktails reconfigured with French brandies like a Calvados Mai Tai and Armagnac Manhattan. Certain booze writers are already getting thirsty thinking about their Absinthe & Strawberry Rhubarb Tonic.
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photos: Romulo Yanes; courtesy of bars