In a dark speakeasy in downtown Chicago, a gangster in a navy, pin-stripped, box-cut suit and shiny black shoes is lounging against the bar sipping a Tom Collins. Now skim past two World Wars, the Cold War, and the end of the 20th century — in that same dingy speakeasy, a writer/director/producer in a flannel shirt and skinny, khaki, Corduroy trousers is sitting on the same bar stool, demurely drinking the same drink. A century has passed, but the Tom Collins is still a Tom Collins. It’s one of those great mysteries of life: the survival of the cocktail.
Cocktails have a long legacy in the United States — as well as the rest of the world, for that matter. With the growing popularity of craft beers, the success of Mad Men and the rise “foodie” culture, cocktails have become a bona fide art form in our generation. A cocktail is not just alcohol, mixer and fruit. It’s Islay gin, a one-of-a kind gin distilled on Islay Island off of the coast of Scotland, with hand-picked ice, slices of homegrown lemons and pure cane sugar. These adjectives are not the difference between the cocktails of the 20th century and our current modernized cocktails. Instead, they represent the care, detail and preparation each mixologist puts on their cocktails.
These cocktails have made their way into Williamsburg. In Merchants Square, there are three great cocktail locations: the Trellis, The Blue Talon and the DoG Street Pub, each of which offers fantastic handcrafted cocktails. For students who want something different from the beer scene of the delis, the classy cocktail hours at these three locations fit the bill.
The Trellis stands out from its competitors because it features a dynamic cocktail menu and offers amazing cocktail deals. Melanie Zeigler, a bartender and mixologist at The Trellis, explained her preparation work for each cocktail.
“We prepare from scratch our syrups, such as jalapeno syrup and mint syrup,” she said. “We even make our own cucumber water for our cocktails.”
A great cocktail is all about the preparation and creativity of the drink. The Trellis’ classic cocktails with a twist are exemplary paradigms of cocktail culture. I tried its “Southern Bell,” a bourbon-based cocktail. It’s a delicious blend of Maker’s Mark, blackberry liqueur, blackberries and lemon water. The staff of the Trellis was kind and engaging. As I chatted with the bartenders, I discovered they offered a dynamic bar menu which changes seasonally. In a few weeks, it will switch from the summer bar menu to the winter selection. The best aspect of the Trellis bar is its “cocktail happy hour” from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. All cocktails, beer, wine and bar snacks are 50 percent off. I must stress that cocktails are expensive, so this is a great deal as the price drops from $10 to $5. So, if anyone needs a mid-week pick-me-up, I highly recommend visiting the Trellis for happy hour. Why not shake up mug night by trying a cocktail night?
The Blue Talon
The Blue Talon, like the Trellis, offers classic cocktails done right. With a menu cataloging the date of each drink, they offer a historical perspective on traditional drinks. The Zinc Bar at the Blue Talon has a wide range of cocktails, from “Meet the Bartender” to “Zinc Bar Classics.” It focuses on the art form of making cocktails, using fantastic ingredients to create amazing drinks. What makes it stand out is its “cocktail passport.”
Adam Steely, the manager and owner of the Blue Talon, explained that the “cocktail passport” has become “an incentive to those who play along by trying the featured cocktail of the week.”
This passport deal runs from the end of January to the middle of March. Think of it as Aromas’ coffee card, but strictly for cocktails. There are various incentives from the “passport,” such as free cocktails and even a free dinner. Additionally, the proceeds from these “passport” cocktails are tied to a local charity. I personally cannot afford more than one cocktail from the Blue Talon and many college students may find themselves in similar circumstances. Therefore, I would recommend having a great Blue Talon cocktail on your birthday.
The DoG Street Pub
Featuring over two pages of bottled beer on their drink menu divided by country and type, the DoG Street Pub is the quintessential craft beer restaurant. With its dedicated personnel, it offers cocktails with a lager spin. Three of the eight cocktails offered at the DoG Street Pub are paired with a lager or cider, rendering these cocktails potentially the most creative combinations in Merchants Square.
Unfortunately, the Pub does not offer any “happy hours” for is cocktails. It does, however, have two great deals for its beers.
Michael Claar, the general manager, said the DoG Street Pub has “slider night” when someone can “order three different burger sliders and a discounted flight of three beers paired with them.”
Additionally, it typically offers “a featured bottle list that is 25 percent off everyday from 2-5 p.m.”
So, if you’re looking for “fancy” cocktails to accompany a girls’ night out, you might want to skip out on the DoG Street Pub in favor of the Blue Talon or The Trellis.