We had a chat with Peter Vasconcellos of Penrose in New York to find out what he thought made a great bar and more...
What is your favourite cocktail from your menu and why?
My favorite drink on our menu is one that has been on the menu since we opened three years ago. It's called the Old Pal Spencer. It's a riff on an 'Old Pal' cocktail. The Old Pal Spencer has four ingredients: Templeton Rye, Dolin Rouge Vermouth, Aperol and Angostura Bitters, garnished with an orange twist. I am a huge fan of simplicity in cocktails and I like a drink that lets the ingredients present themselves. We like to make drinks that feature homemade syrups, complicated infusions, barrel aging and other sorts of modern cocktail-making tools. But this drink is just a great marriage of three great products that needed no alteration on our end. From a customer perspective, it's challenging enough that it can start a conversation over ingredients between guests and employees, but it's not so process-laden that it needs a long table-side explanation. The Old Pal Spencer feels like a classic like a Manhattan or a Negroni.
What Makes a World Beating Bar?
At every position and with every item we serve we are trying to exceed our guests' expectations. I don't know if that makes a 'world beating bar'. We are not in any formal competitions. For example, when 'best bars' get rated, I don't usually see paragraphs devoted to how guests come every week just to talk to the really friendly bar backs and security guards. But we try to exceed expectations in those positions just as much as we're committed to providing high quality food and drink.
We couldn't be successful in maintaining high quality without our proud
and energetic staff. I like to think that beyond selling food and drink, the
thing we offer is a staff who have 'social super-powers'. Like some people are
mechanical wizards and other people are great at any sport, our staff are
superhumanly skilled at making people feel good.
And which, other than your own, are your favourite bars in the world?
Favorite bars in the world Dutch Kills in Long Island City, NY is where I sat and drank incredible cocktails and studied the moves of their incredible trailblazing bartenders. That was the first 'craft' cocktail bar in New York City that really grabbed me. I loved the decor. The bar construction is so bartender friendly. They offer great booze, and they make classics and riffs on classics that showcase the ingredients as they come out of the bottle. I feel like Dutch Kills was the first 'fancy' cocktail bar that I went to during the craft cocktail resurgence that didn't feel gimmicky or high-falutin. I still learn a ton sitting at those bar stools.
Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago absolutely blew my mind. It's a fully committed tiki bar that spared no expense with decor. From the furniture, to the lighting, to the throwback Polynesian restaurant menus to the custom tiki mugs, everything about this place reminded me of the myriad Polynesian restaurants of the 80s, except with super high quality. The drinks and food are outstanding. Presentation is unbeatable. Three dots and a Dash is the tiki dream of a brilliant restauranteur fully realized.
Mamacitas Culebra, PR - I don't want the secret to get out though. This bar has the perfect setting and a perfect mix of people any night you go there. A waterfront bar in my favorite vacation spot.
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